Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida, and the Limits of Phenomenology

Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida, and the Limits of Phenomenology

Robyn Horner
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x02dr
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  • Book Info
    Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida, and the Limits of Phenomenology
    Book Description:

    Rethinking God as Gift is situated at the intersection of philosophy, critical theory and theology. The first sustained study of the work of Jean-Luc Marion in English, it offers a unique perspective on contemporary questions and their theological relevance. Taking its point of departure from the problem of the gift as articulated by Jacques Derrida, who argues that the conditions of possibility of the gift are also its conditions of impossibility, Horner pursues a series of questions concerning the nature of thought, the viability of phenomenology, and, most urgently, the possibility of grace. For Marion, phenomenology, as the thought of the given, offers a path for philosophy to proceed without being implicated in metaphysics. His retrieval of several important insights of Edmund Husserl, along with his reading of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Lvinas, enables him to work out a phenomenology where even impossiblephenomena such as revelation and the gift might be examined. In this important confrontation between Marion and Derrida issues vital to the negotiation of postmodern concerns in philosophy and theology emerge with vigour. The careful elucidation of those issues in an interdisciplinary context, and the snapshot it provides of the state of contemporary debate, make Rethinking God as Gift an important contribution to theological and philosophical discussion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4701-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    In Christian theology, the way in which the relationship between God and human beings is accomplished is frequently described as gift. It is God’s self-gift that initiates this relationship, facilitates it, and enables it to be sustained. This is the meaning of grace: that God is for the world giver, gift, and giving, a trinity of self-emptying love who is beyond all imagining, and that in this gift what seems like an impossible relationship is made possible. So it is suggested in the letter to the Ephesians, that relationship with God—which is the very meaning of salvation—is made...

  5. 1 The Problem of the Gift
    (pp. 1-18)

    A gift is any object given by one person to another, gratuitously (in theOEDwe read that it is the “voluntary transference of property without consideration,” where “consideration” is taken to mean “reward” or “compensation”). This gratuitousness is emphasized as an essential part of the gift: a gift has to be given in a certain spirit if it is to be a gift at all, and that spirit is sheer generosity. The purest of gifts is the one that is given without motive, without reason, without any foundation other than the desire to give. A gift is, in the...

  6. 2 Husserl and Heidegger
    (pp. 19-44)

    A concise way of defining phenomenology is to say that it is characterized by two questions: What is given (to consciousness)? and How (or according to what horizon) is it given? While what is given may not necessarily be a gift, it is already evident from the framing of this definition that the question of the gift will not be irrelevant in this context. Just how that is so will become clearer in later chapters. For the moment, however, it is sufficient to note that the reading of the gift that Marion propounds aims to be a strictly phenomenological one,...

  7. 3 Levinas
    (pp. 45-80)

    The work of Emmanuel Levinas is important in this context for three reasons: first, because it is a dialogue with and a departure from the thinking of both Husserl and Heidegger; second, because it marks a further application and development of the phenomenological method; and third, because in each of the aforementioned respects it has had enormous influence on Jean-Luc Marion.¹ In my examination of Levinas I will order my comments according to these aspects of his relevance.

    In 1930, Levinas producedThe Theory of Intuition in Husserl’s Phenomenology,in which he gives a largely favorable account of Husserl’s development...

  8. 4 Refiguring Givenness
    (pp. 81-114)

    Phenomenology has been broadly characterized as the study of phenomena as they give themselves to consciousness, but clearly there are many interpretations of what such a study might entail. For Husserl, it seems phenomenology aims to observe what is given in presence to consciousness; for Heidegger, phenomenology has as its object the uncovering of what gives itself in “presencing”; for Levinas, phenomenology, in its failure, alerts us to what gives by exceeding conscious thematization. Paying heed to each of these three styles as well as others, Marion develops his phenomenological approach. In doing so, he maintains that what he achieves...

  9. 5 Being Given
    (pp. 115-152)

    Étant donné, published in 1997, represents the fullest account of Marion’s phenomenology to date. Divided into five books, this monumental work repeats but also clarifies and extends the achievements ofRéduction et donation, responding to many of the criticisms leveled at the project. At the moment we are concerned largely with the first book, which focuses on the formula reached in the final pages ofRéduction et donationand developed in the article “L’autre philosophie première et la question de la donation”: “as much reduction, as much givenness.”¹ It is the same formula that Henry affirms in his article in...

  10. 6 The Limits of Phenomenology
    (pp. 153-183)

    Étant donnérepresents an extraordinary achievement, situating Marion among the foremost thinkers of his generation. Its massive scope, high degree of coherent systematization, and striking and often singular readings of important players in the history of phenomenology mean that it has a significant place in contemporary philosophy. Because of that place, however, we are obliged to enter into debate with Marion concerning the legitimacy of those readings, particularly bearing in mind the questions about God, the gift, and phenomenology that motivate this inquiry.

    It would be unusual, given the tone ofLe tournant théologique, if Dominique Janicaud were not to...

  11. 7 Rethinking the Gift I
    (pp. 184-197)

    In accordance with both Christian tradition and his vision of phenomenology, Marion answers the question of how God might enter into human thought in terms of the gift. For Marion there is an essential coherence, if not a correlation, between what takes place at the outer limits of thought and what theology identifies as the inbreaking of God in human life. Derrida, on the other hand, is less convinced of the capacity of phenomenology to work at these outer limits, and is suspicious of what a theological hermeneutics promises to deliver. Nevertheless, as we find Marion more and more insistent...

  12. 8 Rethinking the Gift II
    (pp. 198-240)

    We turn now to the second way in which Derrida addresses the gift—as that which is given, rather than the condition for the given, although as it has already been pointed out, such a clear distinction is not always to be found in Derrida’s writing. Both readings of gift stem from a “moment’s madness,” from “an effraction of the circle,” or from “the instant all circulation will have been interrupted.”¹ Similarly, the conditions of possibility and impossibility for the gift will here remain the same, although they will he applied in their abbreviated form and will take into account...

  13. EPILOGUE: NAMING THE GIFT, GIVING A NAME, RETHINKING GOD AS GIFT
    (pp. 241-248)

    The question with which I have been occupied throughout this study is a theological one: how is it possible to speak of God as gift? And the path that has been traveled in response to that question perhaps seems to have had little to do with theology as such. Yet if Anselm’s famous definition of theology as “faith seeking understanding” is in any way valid, then this book has not been far from theology at all, at least in the sense that it is an attempt to understand what it might mean for God to give Godself. That the resources...

  14. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 249-264)
  15. INDEX OF NAMES
    (pp. 265-266)
  16. INDEX OF SUBJECTS
    (pp. 267-272)