GABRIEL MARCEL (1889-1973)


Early publications on Josiah Royce and other idealists


1929 converted to Roman Catholicism


1943 called Sartre an Aexistentialiste@ in a review of Being and Nothingness.  Called himself Aneo-Socratic@.  But his extensive reading of and identification with SK, Husserl, Herdegger, and Jaspers places him squarely in the movement.


Major books: Man against Mass Society and his magnum opus Being and Having.


                                                      Two Conditions for Free-Will


1) a power truly our own--a power of self-determination.  Kirilov=s self-will.


2) Freedom to act on what we determine for ourselves.  No obstacles to our self-determination.


APositive@ and ANegative@ Liberty split over the nature of the obstacles (internal for the former; external for the latter) and how we properly determine what we do.


Positive Liberty: determine our actions according to a universal moral law.  Jesus: AYou shall know the truth and it will set you free.@


Negative Liberty:  Doing what you want according to a minimal legal framework.



                            THE ONTOLOGY OF MARCEL=S BEING AND HAVING


BEING  Aa sphere that transcends all possible possession@ (627)


Mystery:   the transcendent


Second Reflection


No s/o split


AI am my body@






internal relations


relational freedom




objectified beings




First Reflection


s/o split


AI have a body






external relations



The greatest intellectual temptation:  To make mysteries into problems, e.g. the Aproblem@ of evil, which should remain a mystery.


Excerpts from Being and Having (Gill & Sherman):


October 31  Despair as the result of meeting the Ano more.@ AHugging@ our own deaths.  SK was right to bring this up. (11-9)


November 9  Wrong start: to assume with Descartes that our essence is self-consciousness.


November 11  Attack on Carterian starting point by using Heidegger: we are always beings along with othersCnot an isolated ego cogito.


619  The subject/object split, assuming it as primary, will spawn a host of unnecessary problems: do other people exist?  Does nature exist?  Is knowledge really possible?  Leads to intrasubjectivityCa circle of the isolated ego.


619 (2nd col.)  Do you really mean a metaphysical Thou?  Yes.  Anticipating Buber=s I/-Thou/I-it relationships.


Freedom in the I-Thou and determinism in the I-It.  Love, freedom, spontaneity is proof of the Thou and intersubjectivity.


Dangers of autonomy.  Autonomy belongs to the realm of Having.  AWe do not belong to ourselves.@  Radical freedom (autonomy) vs. relational freedom (more on p. 627).


621 Existentialist credo with some debt to Heidegger.  AOurs is a being whose concrete essence is to be in every way involved...@  We must raise the issue of Being once againCas Heidegger did.


Distinction between problem and mystery restated.  The unknowable is just the limiting case of the problematic.  It=s not to be confused with mystery.


Delving into mystery requires hypereflection -- a reflection squared?  How does this jibe with a deep intuition with no self-consciousness?  Our essence is not self-consciousness?  Marcel seems inconsistent here.


622 Suicide is the Aessential point of reference for all genuine metaphysical thought.@  Many existentialists (esp. Camnus) would agree.


623 The "phrase" `the problem of God' is certainly contradictory and even sacrilegious."


625 Category of Having assumes a zone of [Cartesian] separation.  Whose am I?  vs. Who am I?  Do I belong to God or to myself?  Both ideas trapped in Having.


626  Cartesianism implies a fatal "severance" between the self and its World.  Between "intellect and life" itself.


626 (1st col.)  Strong attack against Decartes.


autonomy - self-rule6self-owning authentic


heteronomy - other-rule6other-owning/inauthentic


Kant:  true freedom and moral worth is found only in autonomy; Marcel:   autonomy is impossible


627  Kant=s heteronomy is not the real danger if we incorporate the influence of others creatively within our own being.  Radical freedom as strict autonomy is impossible in a relational world.


627 Redefinition of autonomy as relational freedom within dialogical relations.  ARooted in very freedom.@


Joys of Not Having:  Joys of Wilderness: no one owns it.  It is in the sphere of Being not Having.  Joy of true love--not owning your partner.


Here is a great passage from Marcel's Creative Fidelity (pp. 14-17).