Time in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel

Time in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel

Helen Tattam
Volume: 89
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Time in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel
    Book Description:

    Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973) stands outside the traditional canon of twentieth-century French philosophers. Where he is not simply forgotten or overlooked, he is dismissed as a ‘relentlessly unsystematic’ thinker, or, following Jean-Paul Sartre’s lead, labelled a ‘Christian existentialist’ — a label that avoids consideration of Marcel’s work on its own terms. How is one to appreciate Marcel’s contribution, especially when his oeuvre appears to be at odds with philosophical convention? Helen Tattam proposes a range of readings, as opposed to one single interpretation: a series of departures or explorations that bring Marcel’s work into contact with critical partners such as Henri Bergson, Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Lévinas and other insights into a host of twentieth-century philosophical shifts concerning time, the subject, the other, ethics, and religion.

    eISBN: 978-1-78188-046-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    H. T.
    (pp. viii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION: An Unplaced French Philosopher
    (pp. 1-12)

    The aim of this book is to shed light on the philosophy of a twentieth-century French thinker who is notoriously difficult to situate, namely Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973). Marcel stands somewhat outside the canon of twentieth-century French philosophers. As J. J. Benefield rightly notes: ‘Among the names of thinkers who are commonly listed as belonging to the French school of existentialism[,] that of Gabriel Marcel is often relegated to one side and promptly overlooked[,] if not forgotten’ (1973: 6). Furthermore, virtually every scholar who has attempted to engage with Marcel’s thought has commented on how difficult his work is to...

    • CHAPTER 1 Being and Time
      (pp. 14-46)

      It is in reaction to Bergson, perhaps more than any other philosopher, that Marcel came to establish his own philosophical position: ‘sans l’aventure bergsonienne et l’admirable courage dont elle témoigne, il est probable que je n’aurais jamais eu ni la vaillance, ni même simplement le pouvoir de m’engager dans ma propre recherche’ (EM: 79), he confesses in the 1952 article ‘Méditation sur la musique’. Marcel’s encounter with Bergson’s thought can therefore be understood as the catalyst behind his entire philosophical project.¹ ‘[Bergson] a joué pour moi un rôle de libérateur même s’il n’est pas extrêmement facile de dire ce que...

    • CHAPTER 2 Phenomenological Time
      (pp. 47-78)

      Chapter 1 introduced Marcel’s and Bergson’s shared desire to engage with the time of lived experience as opposed to thinking in abstraction. However, Marcel’s philosophy emerged as very different from that of Bergson and, as such, was suggested to be problematic: it appeared to subordinate time to an eternal present, and this seemed at odds with his assertions concerning (temporal) existence’s dynamic, dialectical nature. This potentially problematic relation between time and eternity was identified in the first part of Marcel’sJournal(January–May 1914), before his thought evolved in reaction against his idealist leanings; but strangely, in spite of his...

    • CONCLUSION TO PART I Metaphysics and Presence
      (pp. 79-84)

      If, as a result of his attempt to draw ontological conclusions from phenomenology, one is tempted to accuse Marcel of philosophical inconsistency, it should be noted that this is not in fact so unusual; phenomenology in general has been criticized for this. Wood explains: ‘Phenomenology could never have had any interest unless its descriptions of the structures of consciousness had a value that went beyond their being an accurate account of subjective phenomena. That value lay in what was always assumed to be the epistemological and ultimately ontological significance of consciousness’ (1989: 324–25).¹ Indeed, in theory, phenomenology was to...

    • CHAPTER 3 Narrative Time
      (pp. 86-118)

      Part I suggested the theory of time which underwrites Marcel’s philosophy to be problematic, for although he plainly declares his lack of interest in its ontology, he nevertheless is concerned with human Being. Owing to the temporal character of human existence, time is thus necessarily bound up with Marcel’s ontological investigations. The conclusions he draws from his phenomenologicalapproches concrètes, which make reference to both an experience of finitude and of eternity, therefore (indirectly) reify what Marcel only intended to be a phenomenological distinction between time and eternity. As such, Marcel’s philosophy of time emerges as paradoxically concerned, and unconcerned,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Marcel’s Theatre: An-Other Time
      (pp. 119-153)

      As with Marcel and Ricœur, in Lévinas’s philosophy the Self’s (le Moi) relation to time equally serves as a model for its relation to the Other (l’Autre/Autrui);¹ subjectivity and intersubjectivity are inextricably linked. Unlike Marcel and Ricœur, however, (authentic) Lévinassian time is not conceived in terms of presence, but is absolutely Other. Rather than justifying a totalizing return to the Self, Lévinas believes that the paradoxes of (temporal) identity bear witness to a time that simply cannot — and therefore should not — be resolved. Only if suchrupturesare accepted for what they are, he contends, can any relation with the...

    • CONCLUSION TO PART II Between Ricœur and Lévinas
      (pp. 154-158)

      According to Richard Cohen, ‘what Levinas wants to account for [...] is not the relationbetweenself and other, but the encounter with alterity as transcendence [itself], as the outside, the other’ (2000: 141). While Marcel’s theatre — and indeed some of his philosophical writings — have been shown to engage with this aspect of alterity, his philosophical project cannot simply be confined to this because, as Marcel’s narrations of his plays reinforce, he is also concerned with the self in action — that is, with the basis on which the self might make decisions, and in what light (‘authentic’ or otherwise) these...

    • CHAPTER 5 Time and God
      (pp. 160-192)

      If Chapter 3 suggested that a Ricœurian reading of Marcel might be possible, this was also inspired by similarities identified between Marcel and Augustine, whose philosophy of time Ricœur drew upon to support his argument that phenomenological and cosmological time are incommensurable. If Augustine’s concern with time is philosophical,¹ however, it is also linked to his religious outlook — just as, this chapter will suggest, might be argued for Marcel. However, this theological aspect is rather neglected in Ricœur’s interpretation of Augustine. For Ricœur, God’s eternity in Book XI of theConfessionsmerely functions as time’s Other, intensifying and deepening our...

  10. GENERAL CONCLUSION: Toward what Metaphysics?
    (pp. 193-196)

    In order to assess the success or even just the specificity of a philosophical position, one must first have an understanding of what philosophy is, of its status and role. However, this is precisely what Marcel questioned, challenging, in particular, Western philosophy’s inbuilt assumption that to philosophize always entails building a system: ‘le propre d’une expérience en cours n’est-il pas [plutôt] de présenter une inconsistance fondamentale?’ (RA: 291), he asks in ‘Regard en arrière’ (1947). The problem of consistency that Chapter 1 points to, it therefore emerged, subscribed to the very tradition that Marcel was contesting. His metaphysical discussions of...

    (pp. 197-211)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 212-222)