Association Présence de Gabriel Marcel

 
Un volume, 493 p.
Parution: 1997.
ISBN:2-95121139-0-6.
23 euros

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LE MYSTERE DE L'ÊTRE (1951)

If it is important today to go back to Gabriel Marcel's thought, it is no less important to grasp it at its highest level of philosophical demand. But many events have taken place in the world of ideas since the day The Mystery of Being was first published. We must not forget the development of human sciences, then, in the Sixties, the vogue of Structuralism. Passing fads were pushing Gabriel Marcel's existential style into a seemingly gone past.
 
Moreover, French philosophers have gotten better acquainted with Heidegger's thought, and this thought has taken so much space in the philosophical area that anyone who talks today about being seems to move in the Heideggerian orbit. That, of course, isn't true of Marcel, whose ontological approaches are very different from Heidegger's. Marcel's reflection can be situated within the French intellectual tradition, together with Maurice Blondel and Lucien Laberthonnire. The latter wrote about a metaphysics of charity to which Marcel is very close when he identifies, in the Journal mtaphysique (Metaphysical Diary), the problem of being and the problem of salvation.
 
The relevance of Marcel today is particularly evident when he considers connections between ontology and ethics. When he blames Heidegger for not acknowledging intersubjectivity, Marcel in fact underlines the great weakness of that philosophy: its lack of ethics.
 
In his constant and polemic dialogue with Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas doesn't think we can assert ethics's preeminence without a radical contestation of ontology. Marcel's originality, on the other side, is to maintain a substantial bond between ontology and ethics. Let us come back to the seminal text : Position et approches concrtes du mystre ontologique, that was first published along with a play, Le Monde cass. What Marcel calls a broken world is a world where our demand of being is so frustrated taht we're not even conscious of this demand anymore. Through dissociation of the individuality, reduced to functions vital, social, psychological , Marcel shows the triumph of the instrumental reason. But his description of a world given up to technocracy also aims to put into light the stifling of what he calls exigence ontologique (ontological demand). What will become of man, bereaved of this demand of being, which ought to be the life and soul of his relation with the world, with other human beings, with God ?
 
In his own way, Marcel also defies contemporary nihilism. To say : Nothing is, is to say : Nothing has any value. Ontological demand is the process through which we bring to trial everything that claims to give meaning to human life. Is there, in our experience, something able to withstand critical dissociation, is there a ground upon which we can build our hope ?
 
For Marcel, love is the most concrete approach of ontological mystery. The wonder of love reveals human beings to themselves. And this encounter, which is grace itself, turns the demand of being into a call : I call forth, but I am also given this call, and I must respond to it.
 
In their fragility and distress, other people call to me in order to be. But I am also giving the same call. As the philosopher of the we, Marcel thinks that the demand of reciprocity is essential : tre, c'est tre avec (being is being with). And if Marcel gives to God the name of Toi absolu, it is to make us understand that we can trust Him without the fear of being betrayed.

Pierre Colin

Présence de Gabriel Marcel
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