• Edmund V. Sullivan
Part of the Path in Psychology book series (PATH)


Ricoeur (1971) has suggested that the model of a text could be most useful in our understanding of human action. In fact, he specifically suggests that meaningful action be considered a text. The understanding of personal human expression that I have developed thus far makes Ricoeur’s suggestion quite plausible. Like a text, human action or expression exists to be “interpreted.” As I have suggested in Chapter 1, the paradigm of the personal world is communication itself. Consider the possible implications of this in the context of an interpretation of a text. A reader comes to a text to decipher the meaning of the written expressions of an author. Here, the author’s expressions are one form of human action: written expression. The text poses a problem to the reader in that she or he must render the author’s words meaningful and significant. To consider human actions in the broader sense (written and spoken language, gestures, bodily actions, etc.) as a text to be interpreted means that like a text, human actions are an open work, the meaning of which is in suspense (Ricoeur, 1971). For reasons I have already given in Chapter 1, the shift to a personal metaphor offers certain advantages over mechanical and organic metaphors in the interpretation of human action. However, it is now important to introduce some of the peculiar problems presented to the social inquirer when she or he considers human action as a text to be interpreted. We have already developed the idea of the personal world as a “cultural form” or “form of life.”


Cultural Form Systematic Interpretation Human Expression Psychological Interpretation Dialectical Relation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edmund V. Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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