2

After reading this question about existentialism What is the difference between existentialism, nihilism and absurdism? I began to doubt that all philosophers whom I have associated with existentialism are worthy of being satirized in a Woody Allen film.

But then I wondered whether these philosophers have been mislabeled as existentialists. Are they really existentialists? Or nihilists? Or absurdists?

One of the philosophers whom I remember reading (and probably not understanding) as an undergraduate was Gabriel Marcel. Jill Graper Hernandez introduces her article about him with the following words:

The philosophical approach known as existentialism is commonly recognized for its view that life’s experiences and interactions are meaningless. Many existentialist thinkers are led to conclude that life is only something to be tolerated, and that close or intimate relationships with others should be avoided. Heard distinctly among this despair and dread was the original philosophical voice of Gabriel Marcel. Marcel, a World War I non-combatant veteran, pursued the life of an intellectual, and enjoyed success as a playwright, literary critic, and concert pianist. He was trained in philosophy by Henri Bergson, among others. A prolific life-long writer, his early works reflected his interest in idealism. As Marcel developed philosophically, however, his work was marked by an emphasis on the concrete, on lived experience.

Focusing on "lived experience" and "idealism" have positive connotations for me. Focusing on "despair and dread" do not.

I have a copy of The Mystery of Being. Given this text can one argue using references to it that Marcel is or is not an existentialist? I seriously doubt he would fit under the category of "nihilist" or "absurdist", but I may be wrong. Is calling Marcel an existentialist a mislabeling or does Marcel represent something of value in existentialism that I should perhaps pay attention to?

That is, in what sense is Gabriel Marcel an existentialist?


Reference

Jill Graper Hernandez, "Gabriel Marcel (1889—1973)", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy https://www.iep.utm.edu/marcel/

Marcel, G. (1950). The mystery of being.

  • 2
    This book by F. Temple Kingston I found to be very good, but for me it did not download so well. Still it was readable and well worth reading. archive.org/details/frenchexistentia013201mbp/page/n5 – Gordon Nov 9 '18 at 15:05
  • 1
    (As far as reading Marcel, I find him disorganized and unclear. However, he is forging new ground. Also, his emphasis on plays (you see also in Sartre) seems distinctly French to me. Also, since Marcel was so early, he was untouched by Husserl and Heidegger, as far as I know. But because I found him difficult to read, the book by Kingston was helpful to put this all in context.) – Gordon Nov 9 '18 at 15:30
  • @Gordon The book by Kingston looks interesting. Thank you! – Frank Hubeny Nov 9 '18 at 15:33
  • The answer is in the first para of the IEP entry itself: "Many existentialist thinkers are led to conclude that life is only something to be tolerated, and that close or intimate relationships with others should be avoided. Heard distinctly among this despair and dread was the original philosophical voice of Gabriel Marcel. After converting to Catholicism in 1929, he became a noted opponent of atheistic existentialism, and primarily that of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre’s characterizations of the isolated self, the death of God, and lived experience as having “no exit” especially disgusted Marcel" – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Nov 9 '18 at 15:58
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA I see this as a surface distinction. What I am wondering is should Sartre even be considered an existentialist and reserve that term for people like Marcel? Or maybe there should be a different label for people like Marcel. They are very different. Adding "theist" or "atheist" as adjectives does not seem enough. – Frank Hubeny Nov 9 '18 at 17:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.