Gabriel Marcel

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Gabriel Marcel
Gabriel Marcel (c. 1951).jpg
Born
Gabriel Honoré Marcel

(1889-12-07)7 December 1889
Died8 October 1973(1973-10-08) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Alma mater University of Paris
Notable work
The Mystery of Being (1951)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School
Main interests
Notable ideas
"The Other" (autrui), concrete philosophy (philosophie concrète), being vs. having as opposing ways of defining the human person

Gabriel Honoré Marcel [lower-alpha 1] (1889–1973) was a French philosopher, playwright, music critic and leading Christian existentialist. The author of over a dozen books and at least thirty plays, Marcel's work focused on the modern individual's struggle in a technologically dehumanizing society. Though often regarded as the first French existentialist, he dissociated himself from figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre, preferring the term philosophy of existence or neo-Socrateanism to define his own thought. The Mystery of Being is a well-known two-volume work authored by Marcel.

A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays. One such person is William Shakespeare, who lived during both the Tudor and Stuart eras of British history.

Christian existentialism An existentialist approach to Christian theology

Christian existentialism is a theo-philosophical movement which takes an existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).

Jean-Paul Sartre French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

Contents

Early life and education

Marcel was born on 7 December 1889 in Paris, France. His mother Laure Meyer, who was Jewish, died when he was young and he was brought up by his aunt and father, Henry Marcel. When he was eight he moved for a year where his father was minister plenipotentiary. [5]

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

Henri-Camille Marcel called Henry Marcel, was a 19th–20th-century French senior official, general administrator of the Bibliothèque nationale de France from 1905 to 1913.

An envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, usually known as a minister, was a diplomatic head of mission who was ranked below ambassador. A diplomatic mission headed by an envoy was known as a legation rather than an embassy. Under the system of diplomatic ranks established by the Congress of Vienna (1815), an envoy was a diplomat of the second class who had plenipotentiary powers, i.e., full authority to represent the government. However, envoys did not serve as the personal representative of their country's head of state. Until the 20th century, most diplomatic missions were legations headed by diplomats of the envoy rank. Ambassadors were only exchanged between great powers, close allies, and related monarchies.

Marcel completed his DES thesis [lower-alpha 2] ( diplôme d'études supérieures  [ fr ], roughly equivalent to an MA thesis) and obtained the agrégation in philosophy from the Sorbonne in 1910, at the unusually young age of 20. During the First World War he worked as head of the Information Service, organized by the Red Cross to convey news of injured soldiers to their families. [5] He taught in secondary schools, was a drama critic for various literary journals, and worked as an editor for Plon, the major French Catholic publisher. [6]

A Master of Arts is a person who was admitted to a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and the degree is also named Master of Arts in colloquial speech. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

In France, the agrégation is a competitive examination for civil service in the French public education system. Candidates for the examination, or agrégatifs, become agrégés once they are admitted to the position of professeur agrégé. In France, professeurs agrégés are distinguished from professeurs certifiés recruited through the CAPES training. The agrégés are usually expected to teach at high schools (lycées) and universities, while the certifiés usually teach in junior high schools (collèges), although there is a significant overlap.

University of Paris former university in Paris, France from 1896 to 1968

The University of Paris, metonymically known as the Sorbonne, was a university in Paris, France, active 1150–1793, and 1806–1970.

Marcel was the son of an agnostic, [5] and was himself an atheist until his conversion to Catholicism in 1929. Marcel was opposed to anti-Semitism and supported reaching out to non-Catholics.

He died 8 October 1973 in Paris.

Existential themes

He is often classified as one of the earliest existentialists, although he dreaded being placed in the same category as Jean-Paul Sartre; Marcel came to prefer the label neo-Socratic (possibly because of Søren Kierkegaard, the father of Christian existentialism, who was a neo-Socratic thinker himself). While Marcel recognized that human interaction often involved objective characterisation of "the other", he still asserted the possibility of "communion" – a state where both individuals can perceive each other's subjectivity.

Existentialism Philosophical study that begins with the acting, feeling, living human individual

Existentialism is the philosophical study that begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. It is associated mainly with certain 19th and 20th-century European philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief in that beginning of philosophical thinking.

Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the main contemporary author to have written plays mentioning Socrates during Socrates' lifetime, though a fragment of Ion of Chios' Travel Journal provides important information about Socrates' youth.

Søren Kierkegaard Danish philosopher and theologian, precursor of Existentialism

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".

In The Existential Background of Human Dignity, Marcel refers to a play he had written in 1913 entitled Le Palais de Sable, in order to provide an example of a person who was unable to treat others as subjects.

Roger Moirans, the central character of the play, is a politician, a conservative who is dedicated to defending the rights of Catholicism against free thought. He has set himself up as the champion of traditional monarchy and has just achieved a great success in the city council where he has attacked the secularism of public schools. It is natural enough that he should be opposed to the divorce of his daughter Therese, who wants to leave her unfaithful husband and start her life afresh. In this instance he proves himself virtually heartless; all his tenderness goes out to his second daughter, Clarisse, whom he takes to be spiritually very much like himself. But now Clarisse tells him that she has decided to take the veil and become a Carmelite. Moirans is horrified by the idea that this creature, so lovely, intelligent, and full of life, might go and bury herself in a convent and he decides to do his utmost to make her give up her intention... Clarisse is deeply shocked; her father now appears to her as an impostor, virtually as a deliberate fraud... [7]

In this case, Moirans is unable to treat either of his daughters as a subject, instead rejecting both because each does not conform to her objectified image in his mind. Marcel notes that such objectification "does no less than denude its object of the one thing which he has which is of value, and so it degrades him effectively." [8]

Another related major thread in Marcel was the struggle to protect one's subjectivity from annihilation by modern materialism and a technologically driven society. Marcel argued that scientific egoism replaces the "mystery" of being with a false scenario of human life composed of technical "problems" and "solutions". For Marcel, the human subject cannot exist in the technological world, instead being replaced by a human object. As he points out in Man Against Mass Society and other works, technology has a privileged authority with which it persuades the subject to accept his place as "he" in the internal dialogue of science; and as a result, man is convinced by science to rejoice in his own annihilation. [9]

Influence

For many years, Marcel hosted a weekly philosophy discussion group through which he met and influenced important younger French philosophers like Jean Wahl, Paul Ricœur, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Marcel was puzzled and disappointed that his reputation was almost entirely based on his philosophical treatises and not on his plays, which he wrote in the hope of appealing to a wider lay audience. He also influenced phenomenologist and Thomistic philosopher Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II), who drew on Marcel's distinction between "being" and "having" in his critique of technological change. [10]

Main works

His major books are the Metaphysical Journal (1927), Being and Having (1933), Homo Viator (1945), Mystery of Being (1951), and Man Against Mass Society (1955). He gave the William James Lectures at Harvard in 1961–1962, which were subsequently published as The Existential Background of Human Dignity.

Works in English translation

See also

Notes

  1. Pronounced /mɑːrˈsɛl/ ; French: [ɡa.bʁi.jɛl ɔ.nɔ.ʁe maʁ.sɛl] .
  2. The title of his 1910 thesis was Coleridge et Schelling ( Coleridge and Schelling ). It was published in 1971 (see Jeanne Parain-Vial, Gabriel Marcel: un veilleur et un éveilleur, L'Âge d'Homme, 1989, p. 12).

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References

  1. Paul T. Brockelman, Existential Phenomenology and the World of Ordinary Experience: An Introduction, University Press of America, 1980, p. 3.
  2. Spiegelberg, Herbert and Schuhmann, Karl (1982). The Phenomenological Movement. Springer. pp. 438–439, 448–449.
  3. Jon Bartley Stewart, Kierkegaard and Existentialism, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2011, p. 204.
  4. A. Wadge, The Influence of Royce on the philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, Master's thesis, Durham University, 1972.
  5. 1 2 3 Marcel, Gabriel (1947). The Philosophy of Existentialism. Manya Harari. Paris: Citadel Press. ISBN   0-8065-0901-5.
  6. Gabriel (-Honoré) Marcel, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'
  7. The Existential Background of Human Dignity, pp. 31–32.
  8. Homo Viator, p. 23.
  9. Ballard, Edward G. (1967). "Gabriel Marcel: The Mystery of Being". In Schrader, George Alfred, Jr. (ed.). Existential Philosophers: Kierkegaard to Merleau-Ponty. Toronto: McGraw-Hill. p. 227
  10. Jeffreys, Derek S. (2007), "'A Deep Amazement at Man's Worth and Dignity': Technology and the Person in Redemptor hominis", in Perry, Tim (ed.), The Legacy of John Paul II: An Evangelical Assessment, InterVarsity Press, pp. 37–56

Further reading