(A Treatise on the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel


Dissertation submitted to the University of Kerala In partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Post Graduation in philosophy

Presented by


Department of Philosophy University College, Thiruvananthapuram 2006



CHAPTER ONE: THE BROKEN BRIDGE 1.1. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. The Broken World De-humanization Alienation Despair, Anxiety and Uneasiness

CHAPTER TWO: THE BRIDGE 2.1. 2.2. 2.3. 2.4. 2.5. Mystery and Problem Incarnation Being and Having I-Thou Intersubjectivity

CHAPTER THREE: PILLARS OF THE BRIDGE 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Disponability Freedom and Fraternity Absolute Thou and Fidelity Faith, Hope and Love



“Love means presence, i.e., „to be available‟ to others”. This is how Gabriel Marcel defines love. The definition is surprisingly extraordinary, right? Frankly speaking, it was this definition of love, which stimulated my curiosity to inquire more about leading French philosopher and Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel. When I started to look deeply into his thoughts, the mere curiosity turned out to be a research, dedicating my complete attention to understand the significance of Gabriel Marcel‟s philosophy in this contemporary world. I am glad to tell you now that I did find an answer, which I was searching for, capable of healing the wounds in our relationships in this irreplaceably broken world. To put in a single work, the answer was „Intersubjectivity‟. This dissertation is an exposition of Gabriel Marcel‟s reflections on Intersubjectivity, deeply rooted in an aesthetic „I-Thou‟ relationship. I am extremely happy that besides my personal readings, this dissertation on an academic level could also give a good impact on my understandings on the centuries-old human quest: “Who am I, in relation to others and God?” I thank the Absolute Thou for giving such an astounding opportunity. At this moment, I gratefully remember and thank all those who helped me to make this dissertation a reality. First and foremost, my heartfelt gratitude goes to Mr. Y. Saji, the guest lecture of our department of Philosophy, for his constant guidance, loving encouragement and efforts set aside for me during the entire course of the work. I express my sincere thanks to Mrs. Sulekha, Head of the department of Philosophy, and my teachers for helping me to fulfill all my academic requirements successfully. And finally, I am thankful to my dear friends especially to Mr. Lijo John, for making them „available‟ in making this study an unforgettable event in my life.




Being and Having -Gabriel Marcel Being, Person and Community -V.J. Manimala Existentialism- With or Without God -Francis J. Lescoe Man against Humanity -Gabriel Marcel Mystery of Being -Gabriel Marcel The Philosophy of Existentialism -Gabriel Marcel The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel -Paul Arthur Schilpp and Lewis Edwin Hahn Self Realization and Intersubjectivity in Gabriel Marcel -Dominic Anton Joseph-


Today, we are living in a crucial period of human history! It is a glorious age marked by the stupendous scientific and technological achievements of man. The world is undergoing fast and tremendous changes in all areas of its existence ever before. Man has been replaced by machines and his technology has taken him to moon, mars and almost to the boundaries of the universe, overturning the entire story of man on earth. But is it the whole story? Nope. It is only one side and there remains another side, mostly unsaid and dark in all sense. It is also “the terrible time”, we happen to live, tainted with unheard of cruelties of man against man and devastating wars of nation against nation. Though man glories his achievements, he is threatened by the products of his own ingenuity. It is an age of material progress and moral regress. The value of culture, religion, tradition, family, relationships and morality is at shake. So, the result is in the midst of progress and affluence, human life is filled with anxiety and threatened by meaninglessness. Just look at the daily newspapers and you would see how this world is going around. Divorce cases increase day by day. The security of women, children and poor has no guarantee. They are exploited and used. The value of life is at the edge of disaster. Family has almost lost its stability. Crimes, terrorism, wars, poverty and exploitation crush man. Today‟s man has every thing, but is nothing. Man has built walls around him, limiting himself and creating a different world for his own, where he lives like a king of his selfishness and pride. Is he concerned about others? Does he have time to maintain relationship with others? Sadly, the other is a „hell‟ or object to be thrown or used. This capitalistic mentality has changed the man‟s vision on life and his dignity has value at all. These facts indicate a sort of dangerous point of reference of human consciousness and modern civilisation. Gabriel Marcel, one of the well-known existentialist philosophers, has a sensitive mind about all these issues. He presents the significance of love and intersubjectivity that can change the existing world. He says that the last word about life is not absurdity or nausea, but love and joy. Love can rebuild the broken world of relations, he emphasises. Love means presence, i.e., to be available to the other. There is no doubt that Gabriel Marcel‟s treatise on intersubjectivity can make a qualitative difference in human relations. A few words about Gabriel Marcel are contextual. A brief life sketch of Gabriel Marcel will be a good introduction to start with his treatise on Intersubjectivity. Gabriel Marcel was born in Paris on December 7, 1889. His father was a French ambassador in Sweden. He faced hard realities of life from the very beginning of his childhood. He lost his mother at his age of four and was

brought up by his step mother. Both his father and step mother were agnostics. After his education, he volunteered for military service during the First World War, but was unable to continue in the service due to his ill health. Then he joined Red Cross and the experiences there helped him to have a good exposure to the tragic realities of human life. His philosophy was an authentic outcome of his own life experience. His major works are Being and Having, The Mystery of Being, Broken World (Drama), Metaphysical Journal, Man against Humanity, Problematic Man, Homo Viator and The Philosophy of Existence. Towards the end of his life, Gabriel became very closer to Roman Catholic faith. His philosophy was an addition to Christianity philosophically and theologically. He died in 1973. This work is divided into three chapters. The first chapter explains the current situation of man in the world. According to Gabriel Marcel, the modern world is conceived as a Broken World, where man struggles to find meaning for his existence. The second chapter is the nucleus of this dissertation, presenting the concept of Intersubjectivity along with his other fundamental concepts. The third chapter deals with the pillars of relationship. The point discussed there is the values which support the relationship to be more authentic and stable. Finally, we meet a general conclusion at the end. It is an open house discussion to which anyone can contribute more and more in accordance with one‟s conviction and knowledge. I am aware that it is practically impossible to explain Marcel‟s philosophy in a very limited number of pages. For me, it is only an attempt. I have tried to use all the main works of Gabriel Marcel to prepare this thesis. I hope, my humble effort could reflect Marcel‟s mind in the same way it is supposed to be!


Man is basically a being in a situation. Every man is to be understood along with his surroundings and circumstances. According to Marcel, today‟s world is a Broken World and it causes lots stress and tensions in man, giving rise to the feeling of alienation, despair, anxiety and uneasiness. This chapter is an attempt to bring forth the specialties of the broken world in which we live.

1.1. The Broken World
Marcel defines modern world as Broken World, which is something like a broken watch.1 Marcel‟s play „The Broken World‟ presents a heroine called Christiane who makes a striking statement about this modern world.
Don‟t you feel sometimes that we are living…if you can call it living…in a broken world? Yes, broken like a broken watch. The main string has stopped working. Just look at it, nothing has changed. Every thing is in place. But put the watch to your ear and you don‟t hear any ticking. You know what I am talking about, the world what we call the world, the world of human creatures…it seems to me it must have ad a heart at one time, but today you would say that heart had „stopped beating‟. 2

The modern world‟s heart stopped beating. It requires to be repaired. Why does Marcel describe the modern world as a Broken World? It is because the structure of society based on true and authentic relations collapses due to several reasons. Marcel says that the world loses its real unity. The idea of community becomes more and more impossible. 3 “We are living in a world in which the preposition „with‟ and White head‟s noun „togetherness‟ seems more and more to be losing its meaning.” 4 Modern technology brings only a superficial unity. Technology does not help men to be united, but often makes them enemies. Even in the midst of material sufficiency, man is still against man. The twenty first centaury man has become a stranger to himself. 5


. Francis J. Lescoe, Existentialism-With or Without God, Alba House, New York, 1974. p. 116 2 . Gabriel Marcel, Mystery of Being, (Vol-I, Reflections and Mystery), Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1950. p. 21, 22. 3 . Ibid., p. 27. 4 . Ibid., p. 28. 5 . EWG, p.116.


Marcel is not against technical progress. He says that the technical progress in the strict sense is good. 6 But the technical progress in the modern world has a destructive function and to some extend is criminal. The technology makes man a little „less human‟ and it brings man to alienation and leads to de-humanization. De-humanization caused by the technology is a serious one, where the human beings are considered as mere objects and as mere Its. Every thing is an It to be used and utilized. Man started to understand him and others by referring to technology.7 Each man becomes an island in this world of artificiality. This isolation can be seen everywhere in the society. Man likes to build boundaries and keep an extra mile in between him and others. He is a stranger to others. He limits everything within himself. This isolation of modern man had become a theme of reflection for many philosophers and writers. The Heidegerian DASSAIN is a best example for a solitary and isolated individual of this world of throwness, homelessness and angst.8 Today man has become titled with his functions. He spends hours with his functions and everything comes under his function even his sleeping. “Time tablea horrible expression- describes the life of the modern man.” 9 Man has become mere machine in this world of machines. The companionship with the machines made him a machine. He works like computer and remains like a computer. He is unable to express his feelings and emotions, and he suppresses them within himself. Heidegger mourns by saying that the tragedy of modern man is that he is not even reflecting. “The technical man has lost awareness of himself. Modern man appears himself and to others as an agglomeration of function.” 10 Marcel says that suicide will be the price that one has to pay for the amazing progress of technology.11
We live today in a world at war with itself…war is being pushed so far that it runs the risk of ending something that could properly be described as a world of suicide…suicide until our own times is an individual possibility. It seemed to apply to the individual case. It seems now to apply to the case of the whole human world.12

Technology will lead to self-destruction. An important fact of our present world is that life is no longer being loved. The modern world provides an
6 7

. Gabriel Marcel, Man Against Humanity, Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1952. p. 22. . Gabriel Marcel, Searchings, Newman Press, New York, 1967. p. 43. 8 . EWG, p. 13. 9 . Gabriel Marcel, The Philosophy Of Existence, Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1948. p. 2. 10 . Ibid., p. 1. 11 . Ibid., p. 23. 12 . MB-I, p. 23.


immediate taste of enjoyment. Fundamentally nothing can resemble the love of life. Marcel says that the marriage tie between man and life had been broken.13

1.2. De-humanization
De-humanization is the result of modern technology where man becomes less human. It is the effect of the Broken World. “Technological method can deal with human in only one way; it must treat him as an object- a de-humanized and de-personalized entity.”14 Man loses his „existential weight‟ and his life has been functionalized. “There are sectors of human life in the present world, where the process of automatization applies not only to certain techniques but also to what one would have formally called the inner life, a life which today, on the contrary, is becoming an outer as possible. As a result of this condition we are witnessing „devolution of life‟.”15 Today man‟s worth is calculated in terms of functions and he is titled by his functions. “The intrinsic dignity and sacredness of human being have now been replaced by his functional values.” 16 Technology enjoys the absolute primacy. The value of human beings is determined by human ability and man loses his real personality. His life has become a journey without any purpose and goal. In his essay „On the Ontological Mystery‟, Marcel complains that “man appears more and more, both to himself and to others as an „agglomeration of functions‟.”17 Anyway, Marcel is not against technology, but he is against technocracy, technolotry and techno mania, which are the attitude of worshipping technical progress.18 In a technocratic world, man‟s life is according to the rhythm of machines. He does not feel at home. He is crashed under the machines. The profit and the loss of a company are compared with the human beings. Value of products and men are equally considered, and procreation and fabrication are considered to be equal things.19 This is the reason for the unlimited encouragement of abortion, mercy killing and all other kinds of crimes in the contemporary world. Marcel says,
Life is no longer considered as a divine gift, but rather as a „dirty joke‟. The existence of a widely diffused pessimism seems to me a fundamental given fact about contemporary humanity and it seems to that it is in the perspective of this widely diffused pessimism as a sort of physical nausea at
13 14

. MAH, p. 41. . EWG, p. 17. 15 . Ibid., p. 117. 16 . Ibid., p. 118. 17 . Ibid., p. 119. 18 . Ibid., p. 120. 19 . Gabriel Marcel, searching, Op.Cit., p. 45.


life that we ought to consider such a serious and significant contemporary fact as the prevalence for instance of abortion.20

Man is considered only as an instrument among many other instruments. “He is no longer is a person but a commodity to be used and exploited by some mass movements whether social, industrial or political.” 21 De-humanization creates two inevitable consequences. The first one is that it makes an easy part for the tyrant, the dictator and totalitarian state. And the second consequence is that it makes man a brute for the history. 22

1.3. Alienation
The Broken World leads man to alienation which is one of the tragic experiences of modern man. There are mainly three levels of alienation. In the first level, one is alienated from God and in the second level he is alienated from the society, and finally he is alienated even from himself. Alienation from God happens because of man‟s over-dependence on technology. Man blindly depends on technology and his own abilities and he loses faith in God. Man does not need God, but God needs man for His survival. The material sufficiency of man makes him the king of the world where God has no part to play. Man is alienated from the society in which he lives. The fast moving world does not give time to man to think about others. Parents have no time to be real parents and children are so engaged that they have no time to look after their old parents. The result is the disintegration of relations and social setup. Man is terribly scheduled. The concept of good family, good parent, good children, good wife, and good friends remains only in the mind but not in reality, because man is alienated from the rest. Finally man alienates from himself. He looses the meaning of life. He is unsatisfied. Man is internally unhappy and lazy because he has lost the taste of life. He does not have any memories to remember, goal to achieve. He is no more living, but „simply there‟. Man becomes mere machine or a robot, perhaps because of his companionship with machines and computer. This alienation is due to the fact that “…in a world increasingly under the hegemony of technology… in such a world we lose our „existential weight‟.”23
20 21

. MAH, p. 42. . EWG, p. 17. 22 . Ibid., p. 18. 23 . Ibid., p. 117.


1.4. Despair, Anxiety and Uneasiness
Marcel says that despair, anxiety and uneasiness are one and same phenomenon which are the outcome of alienation. Despair means total betrayal. He says that the root cause of despair is indisponability. 24 Despair is the feeling of the total insecurity. A person in despair thinks that there is nothing in this world on which we can depend. This despair may lead one to suicide. Anxiety is a psychological phenomenon. According to Briessaud, anxiety is a psychological disorder which is translated by a feeling of indefinable insecurity.25 There is an essential difference between anxiety and anguish. An anxious person has much more violent reaction than an anguished person. Anxious person does something to get rid off from anxiety, but anguish person does nothing but freezes in his anguish. 26 Uneasiness is a physical phenomenon. It is a physical sensation dominant in an unhappy situation. Anxiety and uneasiness cannot be separated. In a technologically progressed world man is happened to be surrendering himself to uneasiness and justify it. Despair, anxiety and uneasiness are always beyond human limit and highly destructive in nature. The painful outcome of this Broken World is the utter despair and alienation from every thing. It may cause one to lead an unethical life. In this state of life, man treats man as object and means for his personal end. It is the dark nature of technology and material progress. It always creates broken worlds. It does not mean that Marcel is totally against technology. He encourages technology but stands against worshipping technology the result of which is the broken bridge of interpersonal relations. The aim of this chapter is not to underestimate everything including technology and developments. Some may argue that a good thing may have a bad side too; therefore we need not blame technology. We are only trying to understand the problems of the world today in order to avoid them and to make our situations better. We ought to build a bridge between human relations. The next chapter discusses about the bridge.


. Dominic Anton Joseph, Self Realization and Intersubjectivity in Gabriel Marcel, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, 1988. p. 150. 25 . Gabriel Marcel, Problematic Man, Herder and Herder, New York, 1967. p. 68. 26 . Ibid., p. 68.


We have seen the characteristics of the Broken World in the previous chapter. Marcel gives a remedy to heal this Broken World. He says that an authentic inter personal relationship can change the world. Man needs to be open to his fellow men. Intersubjectivity is the best way of interpersonal relationship, the bridge between person to person. An authentic relationship can bring meaning to human existence in this material world. In this chapter, Marcel‟s fundamental notions like Mystery and Problem, Incarnation, Being and Having and Intersubjectivity are discussed in detail. All these notions add to highlight the dignity of man as subject and as a person.

2.1. Mystery and Problem
As many other philosophers in the history of philosophy, Gabriel Marcel also takes a conscious effort to explicit the unique position of man in the order of existence. His prime concern is the dignity of human being with all his possibilities and potentialities. Being aware of the issues against human race in the modern world, Marcel tries to give a spiritual status to man. He identifies man as a mystery rather than a problem. The notion of mystery and problem is one of the most fundamental concepts of Gabriel Marcel. He brings out the essential difference between mystery and problem in his famous work, Being and Having. According to him mystery and problem are entirely opposite to each other.
In fact, it seems very likely that there is this essential difference between a problem and a mystery. A problem is something which I meet, which I find complete 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 its initial validity‟. A genuine problem is subject to an appropriate technique by the exercise of which it is defined: whereas a mystery by definition, transcends every conceivable technique.27

By mystery, Marcel neither means revelation nor something unknown, in the sense that we do not have the means at our disposal of dealing with the


. Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having, The Fontana Library, London, 1965. p. 127.


particular object of our study. 28 Mystery is that in which I am engaged. It is a „problem‟ which cannot be put before me objectively. It is not apart of myself, but the „total me‟ is engaged in a mystery. Therefore, we cannot speak „about‟ a mystery. “A mystery is a metaproblematical state of affairs which encroaches on its own data.”29 We cannot find solution to a mystery. We can only know something about it by analyzing it. At the same time, a problem is something out side of me, for which I can find solutions. Marcel says, “I said that there can only be a problem for me where I have to deal with facts which are, or which I am at least cause to be, exterior to myself; facts presenting themselves to me in a certain disorder for which I struggle to substitute an orderliness capable of satisfying the requirements of my thought. When this substitution has been effected the problem is solved.” 30 A problem is nothing outside me, objectively. Science always deals with problems. According to Marcel, „What am I?‟ is a question related to mystery, and not to problem. Man is a mystery. He is beyond all sciences and technologies. Man cannot be considered as a mere object or a problem. But people are always confused with mystery and problem in day today life. Marcel says that by knowing the distinction between these two, we can avoid a lot of misunderstandings.

2.2. Incarnation
Treating his/her body as an object or an instrument to be used is one of the major problems of the modern world. Marcel rejects the view that treats body as secondary or a useless appendage, a constant embarrassment to the pure mind. He wants to retain the position of body. Therefore, he proposes the theory of „incarnation‟ in the place against the dualistic view of mind and body, which splits man into two separate entities. According to Marcel, “Incarnation is the situation of a being that appears to him to be, as it were, bound to a body.” 31 It is through the body that a person exists in the world. Body is the undeniable fact of man‟s existence on earth. He experiences the world through his body. Marcel often says that „I am my body‟, because the body is an essential reality for a person.

28 29

. EWG, p. 93. . V.J. Manimala, Being, Person and Community, Intercultural Publication, New Delhi, 1991. p. 147. 30 . Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator, Hasper and Brother, New York, 1962. p. 68. 31 . BH, p. 16.


Man is not a self-enclosed ego. He is open to the world and to others. This openness is possible only through body. Marcel says, “When I affirm that something exists, I always mean that I consider this something as connected with my body, as able to be put in contact with it, however, this contact may be.” 32 „Presence‟ and „participation‟ are possible only through incarnation. (Presence and participation are discussed later). Incarnation brings about a special feature, the uniqueness of person. “Each of us is unique expression of the being, we partially realize. No one can take our place.” 33 Every man is unique in his very nature. Every man has a special role to play in the order of existence. This is how Marcel specifies the dignity of man.

2.3. Being and Having
The foundation of Marcel‟s doctrine of intersubjectivity is based on his view of „Being and Having‟. Marcel understands, “…being as the „common foundation‟ and „unity‟ of all beings.” 34 Being is existential and „to be‟ is the very nature of being. Being is interior to the person and „emanates‟ from the self. 35 Having is that which is exterior to a person who possesses it. Having objectifies things. It is a possession. Marcel says, “„I have the power to‟…means „the power to numbered among my attributes and endowments‟. But that is not at all. „To have‟ is „to have power to‟, since it is clearly in a sense „to have the disposal of‟. Here we touch on one of the most obscure and fundamental aspect of having.” 36 A being is a subject and the havings are the attributes of the subject. Marcel says that we cannot express ourselves in terms of having, because the question, „What am I?‟ cannot be considered in having. The question concerned with having is „What do I have?‟. Being unites all beings. The authentic relation is possible only by participating in being. The experience of being arises in communion but egoistic desire transforms the state of being into the state of having. Today‟s man is more concerned with his havings rather than his being. Modern man is assessed by what he possesses, rather than what he is, therefore he is running to gather more and more havings. The result is remarkably happened to guide man against man. Man can transform, meanwhile, his having into being. When one escapes from his ego-centricity and enters into the realm of self-giving, then the person becomes capable of transforming his having into being.
32 33

. Ibid., p. 14. . Paul Arthur Schilpp and Lewis Edwin Hahh, The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, VolXVII, The Library of Living Philosophers, America, 1991. p. 127. 34 . SIG, p. 84. 35 . BPC, p. 143. 36 . BH, p. 163.


To transform the relationship of „having‟ into „being‟, it is necessary to escape from the rigid attitude, which centers everything exclusively either on the self or the object. Egoistic desire is destructive of personal being, because desire merely wishes „to have‟ its object. In the realm of being desire gives way to love, for love „gravitates‟ round a certain position which is neither that of oneself nor of the other but of the „thou‟. 37

2.4. I-Thou
I-Thou relation is the transformation of „having‟ into „being‟. Man can live in this world as he likes either authentically or inauthentically. An inauthentic person is self-enclosed, while an authentic person is open to all others and considers other persons as thous, more than a he or she or it.38 When man considers others as objects or things to be used, then he goes back to having from being. In I-Thou relationship, man becomes present to the other in a mutual openness and self-giving. He becomes aware of his existence in the most unqualified manner only when he meets the other as thou, as another subject. The relationship is a loving encounter, a genuine meeting in love, a friendship and spiritual availability. In an I-Thou relation, person respects and loves the other as he loves and respects himself. Here one sacrifices himself for the best of others. He is governed not by any egoistic desire, but by a self-giving desire. An I-Thou relation is rooted in a communion. “…I can begin to exist as an authentic „poursoi‟ only by being with others. The I-Thou is an inescapable dimension of the „We‟, but the „We‟ is ontological ground of the I-Thou.”39 Absolute Thou brings validity for the I-Thou relationship, because the being finds depth and dynamism of this relation in the Absolute Thou.40 Marcel points out that to love a creature is to love him in God. The I-Thou relationship discovers my freedom, because my freedom is actualized when I am available to my neighbor. In this relation one is present to the other, in the same way as he participates in the other‟s being. I-Thou relationship is a pure relation between two subjects, which is an intersubjective relation.

37 38

. BPC, p. 144. . EWG, p. 98. 39 . PGM, p. 140. 40 . Ibid., p. 139.


2.5. Intersubjectivity
I-Thou relationship prepares room for the presence, participation and intersubjectivity among human beings. Presence, participation and intersubjectivity are mutually inclusive. Presence according to Marcel is not being there but much more than that. Presence is a mystery. It is always dependent on the experience of being in the world. “It should be noted at once that the distinction between the presence and the absence is not at all the same as that between attention and destruction. The most attentive and conscious listener may give me the impression of not being present.” 41 All men are not capable of being present. A person who makes room for others in him is present for himself. Presence reveals itself immediately and unmistakably in a look, a smile, an attention or a hand shake.42 Presence brings participation. Participation is the involvement of one person in the being of the other. One participates in the being of the other who is present to him. According to Marcel, participation has three levels. First level is the incarnation which is actualized through the experience of the body as „mine‟. In this level, one participates with himself by being present to his own being. One realizes himself as a subject. Second level is the level of communion, which is actualized through love, hope and fidelity. In communion, a subject relates with the being of other subjects with whom he confronts in his daily life. Here one considers others as subjects and treats them as persons. The third level is the level of transcendental, actualized through ontological exigency. In this level, a person participates with the Other. 43 Basically participation implies the participation of one‟s being in the being of others. Intersubjectivity means the relation between two subjects. It is the „subject to subject‟ relation, which is opposed to ego-centricity, but founded on love and harmony with the other. Presence belongs only to the being capable of giving himself to others. Therefore presence is intersubjective. 44 Friendship, marriage, paternity and fraternity are the various modalities of intersubjectivity. It is through creative fidelity, hope and love that one can attain the stage of intersubjectivity. The growth of the society and its every member is based on the intersubjective relation of the members. We should be open to others and must be able to meet them without allowing oneself to be dominated or utilized.

41 42

. BPC, p. 150. . Ibid. 43 . Ibid. 44 . EWG, p. 102.


Intersubjectivity is essential for the development of the persons because “…intersubjectivity or the relation to the other, on which the community is based, provides us with a means of discovering ourselves and of finding bearings in the world.”45 Marcel calls intersubjectivity as „corner stone of ontology‟. 46 A good illustration of intersubjectivity can be found in the relationship between a musician playing an opus of chamber music, where each musician plays a role and makes a contribution in collaboration with others. Society, for its smooth running, necessarily needs the presence and participation of all members in the society. Nobody is an exception here. Moreover, man is a transcendental being. Intersubjectivity helps man to the realization of „vertical‟ and „horizontal‟ transcendence of his own being.47 The whole philosophy of Gabriel Marcel is reflected in his notion of intersubjectivity. The term „intersubjectivity‟ was first coined and used by Marcel and it became well-known in ethics and philosophy. It is undoubtedly affirmed that intersubjectivity is an ideal message which can construct a bridge of authentic relations in between persons and nations. The bridge is made up of certain values that can be considered as the pillars of this bridge. The next chapter will explain the pillars of authentic relation in detail.

45 46

. PGM, p. 343. . Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being, Vol-I, Op.Cit., p. 255. 47 . PGM, p. 350-51


The authentic relationship capable of constructing the world of love is made up of some values. Availability, faith, hope, love, freedom, fidelity and fraternity are those values which are called the pillars of the bridge. These values are not what „we have‟ but what „we are‟. They help us to realise our own self and strengthen our relationship. Let us analyse them one by one.

3.1. Disponability
Disponability is one of the original contributions of Gabriel Marcel, found in his work Metaphysical Journal. Disponibilite is a French word extremely difficult to convey in English. „Availability‟ would be a better word to mean disponability literally. Disponability implies openness, welcoming, surrender, readiness to respond, loving attitude, sympathy, admiration and commitment. Marcel says that disponability and commitment go hand in hand.48 Marcel does not agree with the utilitarian concept of availability. “Availability as a human virtue does not involve being passively and instrumentally used by another person; rather it involves responding in a complete freedom to a direct appeal. It involves, for example, my being respective to an appeal addressed directly to me as a person not as an object.”49 Availability presupposes sacrifice. One should be ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of others. “I say that 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,”50 Marcel says. Disponability refers unqualified and unreserved availability. It is just like the availability of the mother for her child. One becomes totally available for the other without foreseeing any egoistic profit. There is not place for „having‟ in disponability. “To be a disponable person, one has to shrug off pride or selfsufficiency in all that one needs, and remove all self defects and be in a state of readiness for interaction with the others.” 51 In such a disponability, we can find the presence of faith, hope, love, openness and mutual co-operation. On the contrary to availability, unavailability is not a simple contrast between a single virtue and corresponding vice, but it is a basic and fundamental contrast between two fundamental styles of human life. 52 Being indisponable, a self-enclosed person

48 49

. PGM, p. 179. . Ibid., p. 183. 50 . PE, p. 26. 51 . SIG, p. 160. 52 . PGM, p. 182.


will go after his havings. Indisponability is not an opposite term, but an opposite life-style.

3.2. Freedom and Fraternity
Marcel gives a vital place for freedom in his philosophy. He prefers to call his own philosophy as the philosophy of being and freedom. 53 Freedom has a great role in a society, because freedom used by each member in the society can change the entire life in the society. Freedom is not choice but response. It is the response to choose the freedom of others and acceptance of others‟ freedom. Man discovers his freedom by becoming available to each other. He finds his own responsibility to others. “Freedom does not exist for its own sake but it is way of achieving our participation in the being.” 54 It is possible only in the level of inter personal relationship of two free subjects. Marcel gives equal place to freedom and fraternity. “The freest man is also the most fraternal…. The fraternal man is linked to his neighbour in such a way that this tie of fraternity not only does not fitter him but frees him from himself.” 55 The unfree man is the most self-enclosed within himself. Freedom grabs the uniqueness of individuality. Fraternity enhances the individuals to exercise their freedom. Freedom strengthens our relationship. Marcel says, “Each of us has a duty to multiply as much as possible around him the bonds between being and being… these bonds with being and being that I am speaking of cannot be anything else that what has traditionally been called „fraternity‟.” 56 Therefore fraternity is the expression of the I-Thou relationship. He says that a fraternal man is enriched by his brother and the society becomes strong in its nature. But the concept of fraternity disappears now from the modern society. Only an interpersonal relationship which is the higher expression of fraternity and love can change the society in its all levels.

3.3. Absolute Thou and Fidelity
Man is naturally oriented towards God, the Unlimited, and the All Perfect Being. Man existentially tends to go beyond his restrictions as a limited being in the material world. When we can break the shells of self-enclosed ego, pride and possessiveness of havings, we can find God. According to Marcel, God is not a he, she or it, but a Thou, the Absolute Thou. When we enter into an authentic relationship, we will begin to participate in the Unconditioned Being. Marcel says, “I would be prepared to say dogmatically that very relation of being to being
53 54

. James Collins, The Existentialists, A Gate Way Edition, Chicago, 1963. p. 163. . Ibid., p. 162. 55 . BPC, p. 160. 56 . MAH, p. 155.


is personal and that the relation between me and God is nothing if it is not a realm of being with being.”57 The Absolute Thou is present to me through faith. Faith is the highest expression of fidelity. Faith and fidelity are mutually interconnected. Fidelity implies an unconditional vow to anther person. 58 But it is possible only through faith. In fidelity, we make commitment and promise in order to which we need faithfulness, a „creative fidelity‟. Fidelity, according to Marcel, is a risk and a leap to darkness in the sense that “…in swearing fidelity to a person, I do not know what future awaits us or even, in a sense, what person he will be tomorrow; the very fact of my not-knowing is what gives worth and weight to my promise.” 59 Fidelity is not fidelity to oneself but to others. It is through fidelity a believer enters into the faithfulness to the Absolute Thou. All other relations in man‟s life are grounded in the Absolute Thou and the fidelity to others is grounded in the faith to the Thou. The Thou makes eternal fidelity possible. Marcel says, “…as a matter of fact the code of ethics, which is beginning to shape in many places- above all, of course, is necessarily based on fidelity.”60

3.4. Faith, Hope and Love
Faith is the highest expression of fidelity. Faith can be understood in two ways, i.e., as conviction and as commitment. 61 In a genuine commitment one engages in a mystical encounter with the other. This is an unconditional vow to the other person. This commitment to the other is unrewarded and unreserved and it goes on the level of being. Marcel explains faith as conviction, “…when I believe in God and when one asks me questions about this faith or I question myself about it, I would, of necessity, have to declare that I am convinced of the existence of God.”62 For a believer, all his faith is based on eternal fidelity. “Faith, understood as commitment, is far more enriching and productive because it carries with it the richness of a binding obligation.” 63 In a commitment we involve in the totality of our being. The commitment is grounded upon the faith which collects all the forces of our being and makes us disponable to the Absolute Thou that is the absolute commitment. According to Marcel, faith is also remains in the level of mystery and being.

57 58

. EWG, p. 106. BPC, p.164. 59 . BH, p. 53. 60 . Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator, Op.Cit., p. 125. 61 . EWG, p. 109. 62 . BPC, p. 164. 63 . Ibid.


Faith in the Absolute Thou always brings hope. Marcel says, “…it is permanently through hope that I discover my relation to the Absolute Thou. Because I realise my complete dependence on this Infinite Being, I am forever protected from despair. I am not tortured by a Heidegerian dread and homelessness; neither am I overwhelmed by Sarter‟s absurdity or nausea. I am, in truth, a homo viator, a pilgrim, a wayfarer but not a wanderer of endless and confusing „forest trails‟.”64 Marcel says that hope is fundamental presupposition of fulfilled human life. Hope gives meaning to man‟s existence. Hope is born from humility and not from pride, because a proud man is cut off from certain form of communion from his fellow men. Hope is always liberative and is not a way to escape from realities. A genuine hope is not at all escapism. Hope is not only a personal appeal to the self but an appeal to the selves of all of us. “The subject of hope is not „I‟ or „You‟, but „We‟ born out of love.” 65 Marcel illustrates his point with the example of an ill person.
So long as he „Clings to the idea that he will be well by a certain time‟, he can be disappointed if things do not work out as he has imagined them. What is necessary is a „purification and transformation‟ of his inner attitude, which comes about when he realises that is „everything is by no means lost even if he is not restored to help‟. He thus comes firmly to believe that he is not failing into a bottomless void but rather remains somehow sustained securely by an all-encompassing presence. This fundamentally unspecifiable „somehow‟ is part of the inner most nature of genuine hope.66

Whenever there is faith, it will carry love. Genuine love brings a binding force around the person who loves. There are different categories of love, like “…the „the love of God by man‟, „the love of man by God‟ and „the love of man by his fellowmen‟.”67 Marcel says, “Anxiety, in my view cannot be the end. It is my deepest conviction that only love and joy can have the last word.” 68 The problem with Sartre is that he thought that anxiety and absurdity are the last word about man‟s existence. Unfortunately he could not find the place of love in one‟s life. Love gives meaning to human existence. All forms of authentic relationship find its climax in love. Therefore, love cannot be objectified and categorised with having. He says, “Love is substantial, love is rooted in being, love is not commensurate with anything on which a value can be set or with anything „marketable‟.”69 All our expressions of love are ultimately based on love of God. “It is this love which gives value to man‟s actions. And so, really to love a creature
64 65

. EWG, p. 112. . BPC, p. 168. 66 . PGM, p. 189, 190. 67 . EWG, p. 110. 68 . PGM, p. 181. 69 . MAH, p. 142.


…is to love him in God.”70 To love a person means to participate in his being. Love is capable of reuniting everything. There is not doubt that the pillars of Gabriel Marcel namely disponability, freedom, faith, hope and love can rebuild the broken world into a heaven like. These virtues are as strong as pillars of the bridge and systematically set up for better firmness. The concept of intersubjectivity has to be analysed more and more in its depth. Let us do it in our conclusion.


. EWG, p. 110.


An assessment on the concept of intersubjectivity of Gabriel Marcel is worthwhile reaching at a point of conclusion. A reader can, by the time, easily realize the relevance of Marcel‟s philosophy in this post modern world. The Broken World is still broken into small pieces day by day. The bridge of relations is in serious danger that it can collapse at any time. Man is born island. Love and moral values are buried under the huge machines and jailed in religious books. Man is treated as an instrument of production and product to make profit. The world is pregnant with despair, anxiety, uneasiness and alienation, and finally it gives birth to a Broken World. We can not let the world to be broken again and again. It is here we find the immeasurable relevance of Marcel‟s philosophy. Man is essentially a being-in-world. He is in the world not like the animals or other creatures, which are conditioned by their needs and natural impulses. There is no authentic relationship between an animal to the world. Man exists in the world in a different way. Being a conscious rational creature on earth, he can not be conditioned or directed according to the power of his needs and impulses. Man is free and therefore responsible to a great extent. Man makes relations and his existence on earth fundamentally co-exists with everything in this world including plants, animals, other fellowmen and nature. He can not live isolated from them at any point of his life. The relationship towards others and the world is determined by two essential attitudes; I-Thou and I-It. As examined in the previous chapters, I-Thou expresses the authentic characteristics of presence, reciprocity, involvement between individuals as persons and subjects. In this relationship, we find sharing, participation, respect, dialogue and communion. I-It attitude expresses the non-authentic, impersonal, person to thing, subject to object relation, that is dominated by the attitude of use, dominion, control, self-centeredness and monologue. Marcel advocates, I-Thou attitude is the only gateway to the better future of the mankind. Every man is an „individual‟ and a „person‟. The individuality refers to a man‟s relation to himself, to his specific identity, as something distinct from the world. It is a feeling of „I‟ that assumes the attitude of I-It. Person refers to one whose whole being is an open sharing and participation. Here is in the person, where we assume the attitude of I-Thou. By entering into relation to another as thou, addressing him as a person, by sharing with him what I am and what I have, I become a person. According to Martin Buber, we are born as individuals, not persons; we become persons. When we try to become persons, it will be a new horizon.


Unlike other existentialist philosophers, Marcel is optimistic in his view of the world, even though he describes it as a Broken World. He extends man‟s life from despair and nausea to love and joy. He is no upset with the situations of modern man, unlike Sartre and Camus. He is not worried about the meaninglessness of life, but brings forth the meaning of life in meaninglessness. Marcel could contribute many original notions to philosophy like Mystery and Problem, Being and Having and Incarnation. His philosophical ideas could open a new perspective in the world of philosophy and religion. The contemporary Christian philosophy and theology have a good source from his all original treatises. They could become germs to many schools of philosophy especially in the West. The ideas he presents before us are, in my opinion, nuclear ideas. They contain the germ of a whole philosophy. His concept of intersubjectivity, disponability, and I-Thou could find new space in the mind of each of us. There is no doubt that they can influence generations living and yet to come. In this fast moving world, Gabriel Marcel is well aware of the dangers of material developments and technology. As we have seen, he is not fully against technology and material developments. In spite of accumulating material sufficiency, he gives special attention to the over all development of man as an individual and more over as a social being. Material sufficiency alone does not sense to the well-being of man. Here Marcel makes a lot of difference in between man and technology. Man needs technology, but it should not alienate him from his life. Man‟s life is fulfilled not with havings, but with beings. It is not what we have, but what we are that leads to greater self-realization. Man is essentially a being open to the world outside and his existence is a co-existence. The meaning of this world does not arise from him alone. It is not „my world‟, or „your world‟, but „our world‟.


MARCEL, Gabriel, Being and Having, The Fontana Library, London, 1965. MARCEL, Gabriel, Homo Viator, Hasper and Brother, New York, 1962. MARCEL, Gabriel, Man against Humanity, Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1952. MARCEL, Gabriel, Mystery of Being, (Vol-I, Reflections and Mystery), Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1950. MARCEL, Gabriel, Problematic Man, Herder and Herder, New York, 1967. MARCEL, Gabriel, Royce’s Metaphysics, trans. by Virginia and Gordon Ringer, Henry Regnery Company, Chicago, 1956. MARCEL, Gabriel, Searchings, Newman Press, New York, 1967. MARCEL, Gabriel, The Philosophy Of Existence, Harvill Press Ltd., London, 1948.

BUBER, Martin, I and Though, trans. by Ronald Gregor Smith, T&T Clark Ltd., Edinburgh, 1994. COLLINS, James, The Existentialists- A Critical Study, A Gate Way Edition, Chicago, 1963. EDWARDS, Paul, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol-V, MacMillian Inc., USA, 1967. GORDON, Psychology for You, Oxford Book Company, New York, 1974. JOSEPH, Anton Dominic, Self Realization and Intersubjectivity in Gabriel Marcel, Pontifical Urban University, Rome, 1988. LESCOE , Francis J., Existentialism-With or Without God, Alba House, New York, 1974. MANIMALA, V.J., Being, Person and Community, Intercultural Publication, New Delhi, 1991. SCHILPP , Arthur , Paul and Lewis Edwin Hahh (ed.), The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, The Library of Living Philosophers, USA, 1991.


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