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The second possibility is based on a decision, a decision to remain constant whatever may come. However, upon reflection such a decision seems as over-confidant as the claim to have anticipated the future. By what right can I affirm that my inner conviction will not change in any circumstance? To do so is to imply that, in the future, I will cease to reflect on my conviction.

It seems that all I am able to say is that my conviction is such that, at the present moment, I cannot imagine an alteration in it. Belief is akin to conviction; it is, however, distinguished by its object. I lend myself to X. This is what distinguishes conviction from belief. Conviction refers to the X , takes a position with regard to X , but does not bind itself to X.

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While I have an opinion, I am a belief—for belief changes the way I am in the world, changes my being. It always involves a thou to whom I extend credit—a credit that puts myself at the disposal of the thou—and thus arises the problem of fidelity. However, fidelity—a belief in someone—requires presence in addition to constancy over time, and presence implies an affective element.

Thus, the question is posed as follows. How are we able to remain disponible over time? Perhaps the best way to address this complex idea is to address its constituent parts: the problem posed by fidelity and the answer given by creativity. The extension of credit to another is a commitment, an act whereby I commit myself and place myself at the disposal of the other. In extending credit to the other I am also placing my trust in her, implicitly hoping that she proves worthy of the credit I extend to her.

However, we sometimes misjudge others in thinking too highly of them and at other times misjudge by underestimation.

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Like the question of conviction over time, my present fidelity to another can be questioned in terms of its durability. Though I presently feel inclined to credit the other, to put myself at her disposal, how can I assure that this feeling will not change tomorrow, next month, or next year?

Furthermore, because I have given myself to this other person, placed myself at her disposal, when she falls short of my hopes for her—hopes implicit in my extension of credit to her—I am wounded. My disappointment or injury is frequently the result of my having assigned some definite, determinate quality to the other person or defined her in terms of characteristics that, it turns out, she does not possess.

However, by what right do I assign this characteristic to her, and by what right do I judge her to be wanting? In doing so, it demonstrates clearly that I, from the outset, was engaged in a relationship to my idea of the other —which has proved to be wrong—rather than with the other herself. That is to say that this encounter was not with the other, but with myself.

If I am injured by the failure of the other to conform to an idea that I had of her, this is not indicative of a defect in the other; it is the result of my inappropriate attempt to determine her by insisting that she conform to my idea. Such situations invariably tempt me to reevaluate the credit I have put at the disposal of the other and to reassert the question of durability concerning the affective element of my availability to the other.

Thus, again, the mystery of fidelity is also the question of commitment, of commitment over time. However, what appears to be a vicious circle from an external point of view is experienced from within, by the person who is disponible , as a growth and an ascending.

Reflection qua primary reflection attempts to make the experience of commitment understandable in general terms that would be applicable to anyone, but this can only subvert and destroy the reality of commitment, which is essentially personal and therefore, accessible only to secondary reflection. The truest fidelity is creative, that is, a fidelity that creates the self in order to meet the demands of fidelity. However, this merely puts off the question of durability over time. Where does one find the strength to continue to create oneself and meet the demands of fidelity?

The fact is that, on the hither side of the ontological affirmation—and the attendant appeal of Hope—fidelity is always open to doubt. I can always call into question the reality of the bond that links me to another person, always begin to doubt the presence of the person to whom I am faithful, substituting for her presence an idea of my own making. On the other hand, the more disposed I am toward the ontological affirmation, to the affirmation of Being, the more I am inclined to see the failure of fidelity as my failure, resulting from my insufficiency rather than that of the other.

Thus, creative fidelity invariably touches upon hope. The only way in which an unbounded commitment on the part of the subject is conceivable is if it draws strength from something more than itself, from an appeal to something greater, something transcendent—and this appeal is hope. Can hope provide us with a foundation that allows humans—who are radically contingent, frequently fickle, and generally weak—to make a commitment that is unconditional?

Hope is the final guarantor of fidelity; it is that which allows me not to despair, that which gives me the strength to continue to create myself in availability to the other. But this might appear to be nothing more than optimism—frequently misplaced, as events too often reveal—that things will turn out for the best. Marcel insists that this is not the case. Following now familiar distinctions, he makes a differentiation between the realm of fear and desire on one hand and the realm of despair and hope on the other. Fear and desire are anticipatory and focused respectively on the object of fear or desire.

The more hope transcends any anticipation of the form that deliverance would take, the less it is open to the objection that, in many cases, the hoped-for deliverance does not take place. If I desire that my disease be cured by a given surgical procedure, it is very possible that my desire might be thwarted. However, if I simply maintain myself in hope, no specific event or absence of event need shake me from this hope. This does not mean, however, that hope is inert or passive. Hope is not stoicism. Stoicism is merely the resignation of a solitary consciousness.

Hope is neither resigned, nor solitary. The same arrogance that keeps the proud person from communion with her fellows keeps her from hope. This example points to the dialectical engagement of despair and hope—where there is hope there is always the possibility of despair, and only where there is the possibility of despair can we respond with hope. Despair, says Marcel, is equivalent to saying that there is nothing in the whole of reality to which I can extend credit, nothing worthwhile. Hope is the affirmation that is the response to this denial.

Where despair denies that anything in reality is worthy of credit, hope affirms that reality will ultimately prove worthy of an infinite credit, the complete engagement and disposal of myself.


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Throughout the course of his work, Marcel arrived at an essentially theistic, specifically Christian, worldview, leading many to describe him as a Christian or theistic existentialist especially in opposition to Sartre. Mauriac wrote to Marcel and explicitly asked him whether he ought not to join the Catholic Church, a call to which, after a period of reflection, Marcel assented. It is noteworthy that his conversion did not significantly change his philosophy, although it did lead to an increased focus on how various experiences, especially moral experiences, may point to the presence of the transcendent in human life.

Marcel, as one would expect, does not engage in philosophy of religion in the traditional sense. He regards such attempts as belonging to the realm of primary reflection, and as such, they leave out the personal experience of God, which is necessarily lost in the move to abstraction. Another reason for the lack of efficacy of formal arguments is that many in the contemporary world are not open to the religious worldview. Whereas an atheist is somebody who does not believe in God, an anti-theist is somebody who does not want to believe in God. It is possible, Marcel observes, to close oneself off from the experience of the religious in human life, not for rational reasons, but for reasons of self-interest, or from a desire to avoid religious morality, or to avoid submission to an outside authority.

However, Marcel develops another approach to the question of God, and many themes in his work are concerned in one way or another with this topic. He belongs to the line of thinkers, which includes Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Buber in philosophy, and Karl Barth and Paul Tillich in theology, who draw attention to the non-theoretical dimension of religious belief, and moral experience. His approach is phenomenological in character, involving a description of various human experiences and the attempt to reveal their underlying meaning and justification.

These experiences are present in the lives of most human beings, even though a particular individual might not necessarily connect them with a religious worldview, or come to an affirmation of God based on them. The experiences mentioned above of fidelity, hope, presence and intersubjectivity, which all involve profound commitments that cannot be captured and analyzed in objective terms, but that are nonetheless real and can at least be partly described conceptually in philosophy, but especially in literature, drama and art [Marcel, ] , are best explained if they are understood as being pledged to an absolute, transcendent reality.

As noted, the experience of fidelity is one of his favorite examples. Fidelity involves a certain way of being with another person. Fidelity is an experience that the other will not fail me, and that I will not fail them, and so, as we have seen, it is deeper than constancy in many relationships, fidelity is reduced to constancy. Marcel suggests that such experiences have religious significance, because the individual often appeals to an ultimate strength which from within enables him to make the pledge which he knows he could not make from himself alone Pax, , p.

Marcel holds that unconditional commitments such as these are best explained if understood as being pledged to an absolute transcendence. Indeed, given that life is full of temptations and challenges, the recognition of an absolute Thou also helps the individual to keep his or her commitments. In general, his position is that the affirmation of God can only be attained by an individual at the level of a being-in-a-situation, or secondary reflection.

At the level of primary reflection, the existence of God cannot be demonstrated, because the individual must be personally involved in the various experiences that can lead to an affirmation, but such genuine involvement is precluded at the level of abstraction. Four decades after his death, Marcel's philosophy continues to generate a steady stream of creative scholarship that, if modest in volume, nevertheless attests to his continued relevance for the contemporary philosophical landscape.

Marcel's influence on contemporary philosophy is apparent, for example, in the work of Paul Ricoeur, his most famous student. Through Ricoeur, Marcel has influenced contemporary philosophy in and around the hermeneutic tradition. Caputo, and a valuable resource for philosophers with a chiastic understanding of otherness, including Ricoeur and Richard Kearney.

As such, his philosophy should be of interest to scholars interested in the work of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Luc Marion, Merold Westphal and others philosophizing at the intersection of philosophy and theology. The resources of Marcel's philosophy have only begun to be tapped, and one may hope that the recent republication of what are arguably Marcel's two most important works, The Mystery of Being by St.

Augustine's Press and Creative Fidelity by Fordham University Press , will help to fuel a renaissance in scholarship concerning this remarkable thinker.

Gabriel Marcel Mystery of Being Part I

Marcel remains one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, and his major themes continue to be relevant for the plight of humanity in the twentieth first century. Many find Marcel's thought attractive because he emphasizes a number of significant ideas that have been influential in twentieth century thinking in both philosophy and theology: the attempt to preserve the dignity and integrity of the human person by emphasizing the inadequacy of the materialistic life and the unavoidable human need for transcendence; the inability of philosophy to capture the profundity and depth of key human experiences, and so the need to find a deeper kind of reflection; the emphasis on the human experience of intersubjectivity, which Marcel believes is at the root of human fulfillment; and a seeking after the transcendent dimension of human experience, a dimension that he believes cannot be denied without loss, and that often gives meaning to many of our most profound experiences.

Marcel is also regarded as important by a range of thinkers in different disciplines because he presents an alternative vision to challenge the moral relativism and spiritual nihilism of his French rival, Jean Paul Sartre, and other representative existentialist philosophers Marcel, , pp. For this important reason, his work continues to speak to many of our concerns today in ethics, politics, and religion. Marcel was a very prolific writer, whose work ranges over philosophy, drama, criticism, and musical compositions.

The following bibliography merely scratches the surface of his extensive oeuvre. More complete bibliographies can be found in: 1 Francois H. Hanley ed. The websites of the Gabriel Marcel Society , and of the new journal, Marcel Studies , are also valuable resources see the Other Internet Resources section below. Biographical Sketch 2. The Broken World and the Functional Person 3. Ontological Exigence 4. Transcendence 5. Being and Having 6. Problem and Mystery 7. Primary and Secondary Reflection 8.

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The Spirit of Abstraction 9. Opinion, Conviction, Belief Creative Fidelity Hope Religious Belief Biographical Sketch Marcel was born in Marcel was consistently critical of Cartesianism, especially the epistemological problems with which Cartesianism is mainly concerned such as the problem of skepticism. Marcel agreed with other thinkers in the existentialist tradition, such as Heidegger, that the Cartesian view of the self is not ontologically basic for the human subject because it is not a presentation of how the self actually is.

However, on the issue of the true nature of the subject, Marcel differs from both Heidegger and Sartre; indeed, his views are closer to those of Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, than they are to many of the existentialists. The Broken World and the Functional Person In line with his preference for concrete philosophy that speaks in ordinary language, Marcel begins many of his philosophical essays with an observation about life.

In the face of this potential despair, Marcel claims that: Being is—or should be—necessary. Marcel , p. There is an order where the subject finds himself in the presence of something entirely beyond his grasp.

Gabriel (-Honoré) Marcel (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Being and Having Marcel discusses being in a variety of contexts; however, one of the more illustrative points of entry into this issue is the distinction between being and having. Problem and Mystery The notion that we live in a broken world is used—along with the person who is characteristic of the broken world, the functionalized person—to segue into one of Marcel's central thematic distinctions: the distinction between problem and mystery.

A problem is something which I meet, which I find completely before me, but which I can therefore lay siege to and reduce. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity. When I am dealing with a problem, I am trying to discover a solution that can become common property, that consequently can, at least in theory, be rediscovered by anybody at all.

Marcel notes in a journal entry dated December 18 th , that: The metaproblematic is a participation on which my reality as a subject is built… and reflection will show that such a participation, if it is genuine, cannot be a solution. If it were it would cease to be a participation in a transcendent reality, and would become, instead, an interpolation into transcendent reality, and would be degraded in the process… Marcel , p. Primary and Secondary Reflection The distinction between two kinds of questions—problem and mystery—brings to light two different kinds of thinking or reflection.

Marcel argues that secondary reflection helps us to recover the experiences of the mysterious in human life. Here secondary reflection involves ordinary reflection, but unlike ordinary reflection, it is a critical reflection directed at the nature of thought itself. The act of secondary reflection then culminates in a discovery or in an assurance of the realm of mystery, and motivates human actions appropriate to this realm. This discovery is a kind of intuitive grasp or experiential insight into various experiences that are non conceptual, and that conceptual knowledge can never fully express Sweetman, , pp.

Marcel therefore develops the view that human beings are fundamentally beings-in-situations first, and then thinking or reflective beings second. In presenting these themes, Marcel wishes to do justice to, and to maintain the priority of, human subjectivity and individuality while at the same time avoiding the relativism and skepticism that has tended to accompany such notions.

In this way, many of his admirers believe that he avoids the relativistic and skeptical excesses that have plagued recent European thought since Heidegger and Sartre. The Spirit of Abstraction Although secondary reflection is able to recoup the unity of experience that primary reflection dissects, it is possible that secondary reflection can be frustrated.

I apprehend him qua freedom because he is also freedom and not only nature. Marcel , pp. But I am only open to him in so far as I cease to form a circle with myself, inside which I somehow place the other, or rather his idea; for inside this circle, the other becomes the idea of the other, and the idea of the other is no longer the other qua other, but the other qua related to me… Marcel , p.

It will perhaps be made clearer if I say the person who is at my disposal is the one who is capable of being with me with the whole of himself when I am in need; while the one who is not at my disposal seems merely to offer me a temporary loan raised on his resources. For the one I am a presence; for the other I am an object. When I put the table beside the chair I do not make any difference to the table or the chair, and I can take one or the other away without making any difference; but my relationship with you makes a difference to both of us, and so does any interruption of the relationship make a difference.

Marcel a, p. Opinion, Conviction, Belief Marcel draws a sharp distinction between opinion and belief. The fact is that when I commit myself, I grant in principle that the commitment will not again be put into question. And it is clear that this active volition not to question something again, intervenes as an essential element in the determination of what in fact will be the case…it bids me to invent a certain modus vivendi …it is a rudimentary form of creative fidelity. Hence the ground of fidelity that necessarily seems precarious to us as soon as we commit ourselves to another who is unknown, seems on the other hand unshakable when it is based not, to be sure, on a distinct apprehension of God as someone other, but on a certain appeal delivered for the depths of my own insufficiency ad summam altitudinem … This appeal presupposes a radical humility in the subject.

Hope Hope is the final guarantor of fidelity; it is that which allows me not to despair, that which gives me the strength to continue to create myself in availability to the other. No doubt the solitary consciousness can achieve resignation [stoicism], but it may well be here that this word actually means nothing but spiritual fatigue. For hope, which is just the opposite of resignation, something more is required.

There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral. Religious Belief Throughout the course of his work, Marcel arrived at an essentially theistic, specifically Christian, worldview, leading many to describe him as a Christian or theistic existentialist especially in opposition to Sartre. Marcel in Dialogue Four decades after his death, Marcel's philosophy continues to generate a steady stream of creative scholarship that, if modest in volume, nevertheless attests to his continued relevance for the contemporary philosophical landscape.

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Bibliography Marcel was a very prolific writer, whose work ranges over philosophy, drama, criticism, and musical compositions. Fraser, London: The Harvill Press. Fraser, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company. Hill and Wang. Machado, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. Schilpp and L. Hahn eds. Hanley, Milwaukee, WI. Secondary Literature Applebaum, David, Anderson, Thomas C. Bertocci, P. Blackham, H. Bourgeois, Patrick L. Busch, Thomas, Cain, Seymour, Engelland, Chad, Flynn, Thomas R, Franke, William, Gallagher, Kenneth T.


  1. WikiZero - Gabriel Marcel.
  2. Gracias a la Vida (Spanish Edition).
  3. PAS TOI ! (French Edition).
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  5. Gilson, E. Godfrey J. Gabriel Marcel Gabriel Marcel. The Phenomenological Movement. The Philosophy of Existentialism. Manya Harari. Paris: Citadel Press. In Schrader, George Alfred, Jr. Existential Philosophers: Kierkegaard to Merleau-Ponty. Toronto: McGraw-Hill. Continental philosophy. Theodor W. Kantianism Phenomenology Hermeneutics Deconstruction. Category Index. History of Catholic theology.

    Constantine to Pope Gregory I. Protestant Reformation Counter-Reformation. Baroque Period to French Revolution. Catholicism portal Pope portal. Western Philosophy. Existentialism Existential phenomenology [1].