Gabriel Marcel

I read a bit of Marcel back in college (yeah all the way back in 2006, whew), and I really liked him.  So I looked up what I could find on him.  I found a great link from the Stanford Philosophy Encyclopedia, and I'm starting to read it.

Here's the link for those interested.

And an excerpt that might get you interested:

“I should like to start,” Marcel says, “with a
sort of global and intuitive characterization of the man in whom the
sense of the ontological — the sense of being, is lacking, or,
to speak more correctly, the man who has lost awareness of this
sense” (Marcel 1995, p. 9). This person, the one who has lost
awareness of the sense of the ontological, the one who's capacity to
wonder has atrophied to the extent of becoming a vestigial trait, is
an example of the influence of the misapplication of the idea of
function. Marcel uses the example of a subway token distributor. This
person has a job that is mindless, repetitive, and monotonous. The
same function can be, and often is, completed by automated
machines. All day this person takes bills from commuters and returns a
token and some change, repeating the same process with the same
denominations of currency, over and over. The other people with whom
she interacts engage her in only the most superficial and distant
manner. In most cases, they do not speak to her and they do not make
eye contact. In fact, the only distinction the commuters make between
such a person and the automatic, mechanical token dispenser down the
hall is to note which “machine” has the shorter line. The
way in which these commuters interact with this subway employee is
clearly superficial and less than desirable. However, Marcel's point
is more subtle.

What can the inner reality of such a person be like? What began as
tedious work slowly becomes infuriating in its monotony, but
eventually passes into a necessity that is accepted with indifference,
until even the sense of dissatisfaction with the pure functionalism of
the task is lost. The unfortunate truth is that such a person may come
to see herself, at first unconsciously, as merely an amalgamation of
the functions she performs. There is the function of dispensing tokens
at work, the function of spouse and parent at home, the function of
voting as a citizen of a given country, etc. Her life operates on a
series of “time-tables” that indicate when certain
functions — such as the yearly maintenance trip to the doctor,
or the yearly vacation to rest and recuperate — are to be
exercised. In this person the sense of wonder and the
exigence for the transcendent may slowly begin to wither and
die. In the most extreme cases, a person who has come to identify
herself with her functions ceases to even have any intuition that the
world is broken.

Edit:  Wow, we actually learned most if not all of this in that class.  Of course, I took the class twice (and it was different both times), so maybe it was the combination of them that got at it all.  Very cool though.

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: