Association Présence de Gabriel Marcel

Un volume, 160 p.
ISBN : 2-9512139-3-X
Parution : novembre 1999
12 euros  
Postface de Xavier Tilliette

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Entretiens Paul Ricœur - Gabriel Marcel

Paul Ricoeur, one of the best French living philosophers, talks with Gabriel Marcel, who has been one of his masters, and we have here six conversations which make up a philosophical itinerary of sorts, travelling from the ontological side to the existential, dramatic and ethical one, together with their common points.

The First Talk deals with the formative years, in relation with the two parts of the Journal mtaphysique (Metaphysical Diary). The first part, very dialectical in form, was written in 1914 ; Marcel wrestles with dialectics and stubbornness, " but with the very means of that system ". The second one (1915-1923) culminates in the essay Existence et objectivit, in which Marcel analyses sensation and the " proper body ", thus laying the foundations of what Merleau-Ponty and others would later call the " Phenomenology of Perception ". Here Marcel honestly acknowledges his debt to Claudel and his Art potique.

Starting from 1933, why does the question of being replace the question of existence ? asks Paul Ricoeur at the beginning of the Second Talk. Gabriel Marcel explains that this came to be first because of his own education in idealism, then, more deeply, with a more precise examination of perception itself, when he came to wonder " what we mean to say when we talk about Being, what is our purpose ". The notion of " exigence ontologique ", which is dealt with in Position et approches du mystre ontologique (1933), is rooted in a polemic way in the refusal of a world " in which man is merely treated as a bundle of functions ", in the name of an aspiration " which carries us towards a plenitude, that is, something which goes wholly against " the functional and abstract determinations of a world which is more and more technicalized.

The Third Talk deals with the vital link between theater and philosophy in Gabriel Marcel's work. Among other remarks on the dramatic nature of his philosophy, his desire to render towards human beings a providential conciliation of points of view, the attraction of the Christian ethics of non-judgment, and the frequent anticipation of the dramatic work on the philosophical work (the first one remaining wholly autonomous from the second), Marcel draws an interesting link with the Kierkegaardian method of " indirect communication ".

In the Fourth Talk the two philosophers first try to bring into light the relations between Marcel's philosophy and Christianity. Starting with Marcel's statement that he's always considered himself " a philosopher of the threshold " - leaning against the Christian religion but never ceasing to talk with non-believers - Paul Ricoeur brings Jaspers into the dialogue, and Heidegger, with whom Marcel notes a deep agreement regarding " the sacred sense of Being " and the " conviction that Being is a sacred reality ".

The Fifth Talk deals with the question of the philosopher's presence in society and political commitment. Marcel sees two sorts of commitment : a partisan commitment that goes against " everything human in man " and which is thus unacceptable ; a fundamental commitment in " the structural conditions of personal existence ". The philosopher is fully concerned with this second commitment, for he must " take up a truly militant stand " everytime he witnesses an attack against the dignity of Being in both human and sacred presence. Here we have an ontology which is both the source and the foundation of political commitment.

Now the two philosophers had to consider, in a Last Talk, " the living unity that binds all themes " in Marcel's work, which can suitably be qualified as " socratisme chrtien " (Christian Socratism), as did Xavier Tilliette. Christian socratism indeed, insisting on humility, the call upon Grace, the paramount importance of the Thologales (fidelity, hope, and agap) ; a genuinely socratic work, too, in which the theme of man's " journeying " plays such an essential part. This philosophy in which we find a recurring conflict between " a metaphysics of light and a sociology of darkness " (Paul Ricoeur) is not a skeptical one : " It is a search that moves about tentatively, but a search in which one doesn't shut out the light when one sees it. " Here is the true meaning of the Christian call upon Grace, which has nothing to do with an undue objectivation which would make it " the engine of a pseudo knowledge ".

It would be unfair to say that this slim volume brings us major revelations, but starting from page one in the spirit of exploration, it provides a welcome recapitulation of Marcel's thought. We can be grateful for Paul Ricoeur's unobtrusive intelligence and for the masterly way he conducts these talks.


Michel Sales

Présence de Gabriel Marcel
Julien Farges - Archives Husserl de Paris
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