Philosophy as Participation Blessildo Dagasen Gabriel Marcel’s philosophy has been grounded, guided, and goaded by the question

of being.1 From the form of his philosophy to its substance, one would notice a philosophy that aims not to research on being but rather attempts to find and participate in being. This chapter discusses the ontology of Marcel which is fundamental for the understanding of his concepts of intersubjectivity and absolute Thou. Philosophy, to Gabriel Marcel, is more of “an aid discovery,” a quest, rather than a way of strict demonstration of sets of doctrine.2 To him philosophy is not a


system of purely logical propositions bound for verification and exposition, but rather it is an open inquiry.3 It is for this reason that Marcel’s method of philosophizing has been non-systematic and non-objective.4 Philosophy for Marcel is the opposite of scientific method. Science aims to systematize, universalize things that are empirically verifiable and explainable to everyone. Systematic approach deals with                                                                                                                
Thomas Anderson, “Gabriel Marcel’s Notions of Being,” Philosophy Today 19 (Spring 1975): 30. See also, Clyde Pax, An Existential Approach to God: A Study of Gabriel Marcel (The Hague: Martinus Nijohoff, 1972), 1. See further Donald McCarthy, “Marcel’s Absolute Thou,” Philosophy Today 10 (Fall 1966): 180. Jeanne Parain-Vial describes Marcel as “awake to being, attentive to being, is faithful to being.” See Jeanne Parain-Vial, “Notes on the Ontology of Gabriel Marcel,” Philosophy Today 4 (Winter 1960): 281. Gabriel Marcel, Mystery of Being, vol 1, Reflection and Mystery, trans. G.S. Fraser (London: The Harvill Press, 1951), 2. Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity, trans. Robert Rosthal (New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1964), 61. Often Marcel’s thoughts are overlapped with each other and diffused in his entire works thus it is very difficult to position and its elusiveness makes hard for one categorize. Kenneth Gallagher describes him as, “relentlessly unsystematic thinker.” See Kenneth T. Gallagher, The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel (New York: Fordham University Press, 1962), ix; Seymour Cain comments that he “does not fit the usual picture of the philosopher.” See Seymour Cain, Gabriel Marcel (New York: Hillary House, 1963), 12. Teresa Reed remarks: “Marcel shares with us a philosophy that is nonsystematic but profoundly synthetic, a philosophy well served by the essay form.” See Teresa Reed, “Aspects of Marcel’s Essays,” Renascence 55 (Spring 2003): 225. Also, Brendan Sweetman comments that Marcel construes that a systematization is a misguided philosophical system. See Brendan Sweetman, The Vision of Marcel: Epistemology, Human Person, The Transcendent (New York: Rodopi, 2008).
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“our experience of reality exceeded in significant ways the limits of any systematic explanation. 333-334. it is absurd if not arrogant for one to think that reality as a whole could be captured in logical proposition and to claim it to be one’s original philosophical system. Titus. above all to indicate its general direction.7 Clyde Pax puts it rightly. The level of abstraction is the domain of conceptualization 2   wherein it does not require a concrete or embodied situation of a particular inquirer or questioner. Living Issues in Philosophy.   Blessildo  Dagasen  2013   . Mystery of Being I. systems imply a completion. “thinking has arrived at some stopping place.”8 Although Marcel’s philosophy is without a distinct system. In his Gifford lectures at the University of Aberdeen. Smith and Richard T.”6 Thus. vol 1. 7 8 Marcel. To Marcel. The Vision of Gabriel Marcel.   and ends up to abstraction.”9                                                                                                                 5 6 Sweetman. and that therefore the attempt to construct a system of total meaning of reality would be a betrayal of our experience. which means. 60-61. to Marcel. Harold H. its articulation. See Clyde Pax. Mystery of Being. Marcel. 9 Marcel. 1979). He renounces any “ism” attached to his philosophy like Marcelianism or existentialism. for reality itself cannot be reduced or summed up. 213. to “recapitulate the body of my work under a fresh light to seize on its joints. (New York: D. Marilyn S. Creative Fidelity. Marcel remarks that he is not to explain or expound a system. systematization is detrimental to one’s understanding and engagement to reality. An Existentail Approach to God. wherein thinking is the essence of life and concept is detached from reality. Rather. when he says that to Marcel. 71. its hinges.Van Nostrand Company. his aim is to remain honest to himself. 3. 2.5 However. it is not without order. that is. 7th ed. Nolan.

it is not necessary to even know that I have a body.                                                                                                                 Marcel was first influenced by the idealist philosophers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). which he maintains in his further philosophizing. “the mind is simply encased in a body apprehending the world through clear and distinct ideas. Marcel’s phenomenology avoids the Husserlian school which leads to subjectivism and idealism. The Existentialists (Chicago : Henry Regnery Co. Fraser (Chicago: Regnery.11 Not only that his philosophy is existential but also phenomenological in holding that thinking must start with an act of attention to certain phenomena and allowing them to appear as fresh as they are without manipulating them. starts with concrete experience. University Press of America]). which is the basis of the Cartesian Cogito.” See Sweetman.. “In order to know the human mind. Marcel affirms that human persons exist in the immediate concrete situation. But he subsequently became disillusioned with their approach to reality because of its possibility of all-inclusiveness system of philosophy and for its inability to give justice to the individual human person. For him. his style of writing evident even in his first book.   Philosophy. F. and William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966). Their being-in-the-world is undeniable. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854). The Vision of Gabriel Marcel. 137. Marcel prefers to employ ordinary language and avoid philosophical jargons in order to reveal the basic structure of human experiences. Man Against Mass Society. 110. trans. Marcel made a comment that his philosophy is a battle against the spirit of abstraction.” See Sweetman. the “I” becomes alienated from the “body” and subsequently turns the latter to a mere entity. The Vision of Gabriel Marcel. for Marcel. but on existential certainty. See Stanley J. “Philosophy of Religion: Marcel. 1952). 2-3. and its operations. Descartes treats the self as detached. His philosophizing is a reflection on the concrete lived experience itself with a goal to re-establish the primacy of the existential which is indubitable and not based on logical certainty like that of Rene Descartes. our concepts and beliefs. See Clyde Pax. 15-16. See James Collins. 12 11 10   Blessildo  Dagasen  2013   . including our own bodies. See also Gabriel Marcel. 1962 [Reprinted in 1985. Eerdmans Publishing Company.12 In this way.10 He prefers to call 3   his philosophy concrete philosophy or philosophy of existence. 15-16. Descartes holds that thinking is the essence of human existence and asserts that the mind and the body are separable. ” in Routledge. 171.13 Thus. Bradley (1846-1924). 1. Jaspers. 1952). That is to say. William Desmond. is a diary format. Grenz. The thinking self is not essentially related to a body and a world. An Existential Approach to God. See Gabriel Marcel. This dichotomy of mind and body where the latter becomes disinterested inevitably developed to subject-object distinction. and so it is possible to divorce our mental states. History of Philosophy. Existence in the concrete is based on certitude not based on logical or rational demonstration. and universal ego. disinterested. Metaphysical Journal. A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: William B. Levinas. H. 1996). Metaphysical Journal (Chicago: Henry Regnelli Company. G. from the existence of everything else. Josiah Royce (1855-1916). 316.

The Mystery of Being. our preaching. See also “Marcel. should not be seen as more theologically “persuasive” than the Gospel of Mark. Reflection and We assume that. if we can force someone to follow the logic of redemption.stanford. He explains: “This bias colors our personal evangelism. so that [one] may try to throw more light upon life. T. see also Marcel. an Old Testament scholar.” New World Encyclopedia. which is systematic or logical in nature. 4   Leeuwen in his book The Surplus of Meaning puts it. As T. by G. according to Kinlaw.” See Dennis Rational arguments have their place. That’s the evangelism of power—and it’s not the way most people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Gabriel. vol. Dennis Kinlaw. See also Marcel. Philosophy as participation presupposes a vocation. Fraser (London: The Harvill Press. of course.   Blessildo  Dagasen  2013   . life and reflection are complimentary and inseparable.   For Marcel. 3. which primarily demands a personal involvement.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.16 Philosophy as participation signifies an unceasing openness to reality.M.1. trans. 1998). Available from: http://www. S. 18. Tragic Wisdom and Beyond. accessed: 12 July 2010. 18. “What Can One Expect of Philosophy. but the stories have a logical power that we dismiss too lightly. Gabriel Marcel. 16 15 14 13 Gabriel Marcel. Unlike science that does not require personal involvement in its endeavor. The Surplus of Meaning: Ontology and Eschatology in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Amsterdam: Rodopi. philosophy is likened to an art or poetry. Thus. Thus.” Philosophy Today 3 (Winter 1959): 252.”18                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “Gabriel (-Honore) Marcel. the Letter to the Romans.M. “What Can One Expect of Philosophy. to Marcel. “Concrete reality…is precisely the soil on which reflection lives. agrees with Marcel when he argues that narrative presentation of the Gospel is not necessarily inferior to systematic or logical one.” 252. Marcel. It is a personal response to a call17 upon the inner urgent need. Available from: http://plato. the philosopher is called to respond to fundamental questions on human condition and reality to find an answer for them through “illumination by the spiritual life which is truth.”15 As philosophy seeks to discover it demands participation. the method of his philosophical reflection works “from life to thought and then down from thought to life again. A Gabriel Marcel Reader. that person must be saved. 1951). 18 17 Marcel. 1981). which is narrative in nature. and every other way we attempt to present the gospel. 52. Kinlaw. 21. Leeuwen. The Mind of Christ (Anderson: Francis Asbury Press. Mystery of Being I. accessed: 10 February 2012.”14 Thus.

which are not only physical but also spiritual. that such deepening of being human is an open possibility. In recognizing the transcendent.     Blessildo  Dagasen  2013   .   Thus. to Marcel to be is to participate in being. In his reflection upon human persons. according to Marcel. The concrete philosophy as Marcel’s starting point leads him to a concrete ontology that explores the multidimensions of life that is both physical and spiritual. he affirms that human 5   persons are graced with the possibility of growth to the fullness of their being human. And in and through intersubjective relationships. Marcel affirms the multi-dimensional of human life.

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