Courageous Vulnerability

Ethics and Knowledge in Proust, Bergson, Marcel, and James


This work develops the ethical attitude of courageous vulnerability through the integration of Marcel Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time and the philosophies of Henri Bergson, William James, and Gabriel Marcel. Central to the discussion is the phenomenon of involuntary memory, taken from common experience but “discovered” and made visible by Proust. Through the connection between a variety of themes from both Continental and American schools of thought such as Bergson's phenomenological account of the artist, James' "will to believe," and Marcel's "creative fidelity," the courageously vulnerable individual is shown to take seriously the ethical implications of the knowledge gained from involuntary memories and similar "privileged moments," and do justice to the "something more" which, though part of our experience of ourselves and others, escapes rigid philosophical analysis.

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Rosa Slegers, Ph.D. (2007) in Philosophy, Fordham University, is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Babson College.

Chapter One: Privileged Moments and Felt Knowledge
Involuntary Memory: An Unusual Pleasure Caused by an
Identity of Sensations
Privileged Moments of the Imagination
Pleasurable Certainty and Wonder
Couvercles, Obligation, and Obstacles to the Search
La réalité pressentie: Joy and Sorrow in the Privileged Moment
Felt Knowledge
Epistemic Responsibility

Chapter Two: Courageous Vulnerability and the Bergsonian Artist
Bergson: Intuition and Intellect
The Task of the Artist
The Problem of Language and the Freshness of Experience
Courageous Vulnerability: Preliminary Remarks
Courageous Vulnerability at Work

Chapter Three: Vagueness and Mystery
Bergson on James, James on Bergson
Vagueness and/in Language
Pragmatic Meaning and Truth
The Sentiment of Rationality and Anhedonia
Anhedonia and the Broken World of À la recherche
Marcel’s Distinction between Problem and Mystery
Primary and Secondary Reflection, Despair and Hope

Chapter Four: Crystallization and the Tragedy of Having (a Lover)
Stendhal’s Crystallization
Albertine a Stone round Which Snow Has Gathered
Love Regained in Absence
Love and the Role of Habit
Love as a Poetical Action: Albertine an Unconscious Thing of Beauty
Love as the Desire to Possess
Th e Tragedy of Having
Th e Tragedy of Desire
Presence Made Impossible by l’avoir-implication

Chapter Five: The Will to Believe in Privileged Moments
Religion, Mysticism, and the Privileged Moment
Anhedonia Dispelled by Uneven Paving Stones
Mystical Moments in À la recherche
Th e Place of the Privileged Moment on James’ Mystical Ladder
Invitation to a Strenuous Pursuit of Involuntary Memory
Zest and the Mystic Sense of Hidden Meaning
The Will to Believe in Privileged Moments

Chapter Six: The Difficulty of Being Courageously Vulnerable
Fidelity and Death in À la recherché
Th e Will to Believe in Presence
Sincups and Effigies: A Critique of Creative Fidelity
Conclusion: The Difficulty of Being Courageously Vulnerable
All those interested in the integration of philosophy and literature, the integration of the American and Continental philosophical traditions, virtue ethics, existentialism, Gabriel Marcel, and William James.
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