Saturday, September 6, 2008

Marcel's New Species of Mystery

The locus classicus for metaphysical conundrum as a species of mystery is Kant's antinomies. The locus classicus for existential vertigo as a species of mystery is Kierkegaard's "Truth is Subjectivity." Now I have third species, and--I think--loci, from the pen of Gabriel Marcel: "My life infinitely transcends my possible conscious grasp of my life at any given moment; fundamentally and essentially it refuses to tally with itself..." (Mystery of Being, p. 167) To metaphysical conundrum and existential vertigo we must add..., well, what?

I'll take a stab here: The elusive center of experience.

Marcel was a Socratic Christian thinker. But it was with human experience rather than human persons that he conducted his inquiry. And as Socrates famously was wise only in knowing that he was not, so Marcel's inquiries into human experience yield insight only if we are willing to admit--with Marcel--that no view of human experience is adequate or final...

I invite you to consider various perspectives on the essential elusiveness of aspects of human experience in Marcel's thought. I will strive to give you the flavor of his thinking, without falling into the trap of trying to "nail down"--objectify--what cannot be nailed down. In his words, " is around a series of acts of recognition that the body of thought I am striving to present to you is gradually building itself up..." (p. 139)

How does one build what cannot be nailed down? Well, that's a question that gets to the heart of why it is difficult to understand the man. But could his view be credible--that "life infinitely transcends my possible conscious grasp of [it]?"--if his exposition were easy?

My "takes" on Marcel's The Mystery of Being will alternate with Into the World on a weekly basis for a month or so.

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