20th Century Philosophy

Gabriel Marcel

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Existentialism : A Reconstruction
coverThe Philosophy of Existentialism by Gabriel Marcel  

An important work within the realm of 20th century philosophy. Marcel critiques the existentialism of Sartre, pointing out the many paradoxes and pitfalls, and then offers his own theories on ontology, metaphysics, ethics, and even psychology. It is immediately apparent that Marcel's work is daringly original, and is free from the many shortcomings found within the works of more "academic" philosophers. An independent scholar and dramatist, Marcel often considered his thought "neo-socratic." Never speaking from the pulpit of authority, but joining us in true intellectual (even spiritual) inquiry, Marcel is a philosopher's philosopher. It is unfortunate that Marcel was frequently dismissed as dogmatic, and it is equally as unfortunate that he seldom understood the small plot of common ground he shared with Sartre. In affirming human freedom and responsibility, along with recognizing the fragility and disquietude of human existence, both Gabriel and Jean-Paul had a common vision. Marcel's idea of problem and mystery, in addition to his insights on dualism are essential concepts for anyone seeking to understand 20th century thought. This book serves as a fine introduction..

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The Gabriel Marcel Society

This site has information about some increasingly rare texts of Marcel, and information on how to join the Marcel Society. (The information is in both French and English)


Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) Paris, France was a Dramatist-Philosopher of international renown. Many of his thirty plays were staged in major theaters of Europe, produced by university theater groups, and broadcast by radio as well. Marcel authored as many philosophic works, and was a lecturer sought after by audiences around the world. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland 1951-1952, and at Harvard University in the United States 1961-62. In 1952 he was elected a member of the Institute of France, to serve in its Academy of Social and Political Sciences. He lived at the heart of the cultural, intellectual, political and social developments of the twentieth century, and, his correspondence reveals the respect shown him by people from all stations and walks of life....


Reflection on Marcel's 'On the Ontological Mystery

Essay by John Barich, subtitled: "Atomic Age and Mass Death...twin scourges of the 20th century."

To understand what Marcel means by the expression "ontological mystery" it is necessary to understand his view of reality. Marcel sees reality as existing on two levels which he calls the world of the problematical and the world of the ontological mystery. For Marcel, the world of the problematical is the domain of science, of rational inquiry, of technical control. The real is defined by what the mind can formulate into a problem, solve, and contain in a formula. Reality is merely the sum-total of its parts. In the world of the problematical, human beings are viewed as objects, as statistics, as cases. They are defined in terms of their vital functions, (i.e., biological) and their social functions; the individual is considered merely a biological machine performing various social functions. There is nothing unique about me. There is nothing more to my identity than the biological processes which keep me alive, the type of job I hold, and the number of possessions I acquire. I am my functions. Marcel further notes that the ontological need, the need for imbue one's life in transcendental meaning, is stifled and suppressed, ignored and denied. 


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