"The word is critical and makes every position critical. The end of 'naivete' begins. Naivete is of the order of the 'there is': there are things, there is nature, there is history, there is the law of work, there is the power of those who command. The thing, the act of making and inciting to action is virtually brought into question by the dubitative word: world, work, and tyrants are globally contested by the corrosive power of the word. The great philosophers of the question--and of the 'calling into question'--Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Husserl have elucidated and carried to its extreme point this dubitative genius of the word. In this they are the soul of every culture which rebels against the always premature syntheses proposed and imposed by the civilizations of collective belief, whether the unifying theme of these civilizations be the robe, the sword, or the tool.
It is in the world of the dubitative word that there are contestations. It is in the world of contestation that there are affirmations.
[T]he imperative word does not only work with respect to others, but also with regard to man who, through the word becomes a signifying being. Whoever speaks pronounces also upon himself, decides himself; he thus passes judgment upon himself and this elucidates him and brakes up the previous affective confusion. The interior word, which every decision involves, is a striking manifestation of the promotion of mankind represented by the word: if I say nothing to myself, I do not emerge from the inhuman confusion of the beast. Without the word I am no more ordered than my work.
In opening the field of the possible, the word opens also that of the better. Henceforth the question is posed: what does my work mean, that is to say, what is its value? Work is human work beginning with this question concerning the personal and communal value of work; and this question is a matter for the word.
[T]he word develops self-awareness and self-expression in multiple directions. . . . [T]he imperative word by which I come to a decision, bringing judgment upon my affective confusion; the dubitative word by which I question myself and bring myself into question; the indicative word by which I consider, deem, and declare myself to be such; but also the lyrical word by which I chant the fundamental feelings of mankind and of solitude." [Paul Ricoeur, "Work and the Word," in Hwa Yol Jung (ed.), Existential Phenomenology and Political Theory: A Reader 36-64, at 48, 49, 44-45, 51, 52 (Chicago: Regency, 1972)]