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The Mystery of Being, Volume I: Reflection and Mystery (Gifford Lectures, 1949-1950) Paperback – January, 2001
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Original Language: French
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He states in the Introduction, "my tasks... could not be that of expounding some system which might be described as Marcelism... but rather to recapitulate the body of my work under a fresh light... above all to indicate its general direction." (Pg. 4) He continues, "When I look at or listen to a masterpiece, I have an experience which can strictly be called a revelation. That experience will just not allow itself to be analysed away as a mere state of simply strongly felt satisfaction. One of the secondary purposes, indeed, of these lectures will be to look into the question of how we ought to understand such revelations." (Pg. 12) He adds, "it may be that the role of the free critical thinker in our time is to swim against the current and attack the premises themselves... we must state, simply and flatly, that there do exist ranges of human experience where a too literal, an over-simplified way of conceiving the criterion of universality just cannot be accepted." (Pg. 13)
He explains, "We shall be starting off...Read more ›
Almost as disturbing is Marcel's frequent habit of extensively referencing his other philosophical works and plays. While Marcel does mention other thinkers (e.g. Sartre), he does so mostly in passing. One gets the impression that he used the Gifford Lectures to market the oeuvre of Gabriel Marcel. Given that he delivered these lectures in the philosophically rich post World War 2 era (1949-1950), Marcel's work in volume 1 chronicles a disappointing missed opportunity for philosophical engagement.
None of this is to say that Marcel doesn't have his moments. He does, but, unfortunately, they are merely that: moments. His discussion of the human body is a case in point. He makes the interesting and potentially seminal claim that our sense of ownership of secondary and tertiary things arises from our felt ownership of our bodies. But he doesn't develop the insight with any depth because he launches into other considerations, ones (like the body should be understood as a subject and not an object) that would have served to progress the discussion of ownership had he presented them earlier in the discussion.
I found volume 1 so disappointing that I now have serious reservations about reading volume 2.