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Ethics and Knowledge in Proust, Bergson, Marcel, and James
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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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The close affinity between the philosophies of William James and Gabriel Marcel has often been overlooked. In this chapter I will show how James and Marcel can complement and illuminate each other in a discussion of the following themes. First, I will investigate hope’s negative counterpart, the state of mind James calls anhedonia, and show how it can be the result of a worldview in which there is no room for the vague, for that which escapes rational analysis. Second, Marcel’s distinction between problem and mystery will help describe this overly rational world, and explain why it is marked by despair. Third, I will distinguish hope from desire and show that whereas hope involves a courageous openness to, and active acceptance of, vagueness and mystery, desire is focused on a particular outcome to be achieved. Finally, both James and Marcel have been mistaken for optimists. An additional point which I want to address in this chapter is that according to these two philosophers, hope is not easy, but difficult and requires a constant effort.

In: Hope Against Hope
In: The Locus of Tragedy
Author:

The close affinity between the philosophies of William James and Gabriel Marcel has often been overlooked. In this chapter I will show how James and Marcel can complement and illuminate each other in a discussion of the following themes. First, I will investigate hope’s negative counterpart, the state of mind James calls anhedonia, and show how it can be the result of a worldview in which there is no room for the vague, for that which escapes rational analysis. Second, Marcel’s distinction between problem and mystery will help describe this overly rational world, and explain why it is marked by despair. Third, I will distinguish hope from desire and show that whereas hope involves a courageous openness to, and active acceptance of, vagueness and mystery, desire is focused on a particular outcome to be achieved. Finally, both James and Marcel have been mistaken for optimists. An additional point which I want to address in this chapter is that according to these two philosophers, hope is not easy, but difficult and requires a constant effort.

In: Hope Against Hope
Ask for the tragic and Europe will answer.

Leaving behind the philosophers’ enthusiasm of the nineteenth century, ‘tragedy’ and ‘the tragic’ now seem little more than vague containers. However, it appears that we still discover a tragic essence in our personal lives. Time and again tragedy is being registered, written down and staged.

This book wants to open a contemporary philosophical perspective on the tragic. What is the locus of tragedy? Does it relate to metaphysics, the gods, destiny, and chance? Or is it a matter of ethics, of the Law and its transgression? Does man himself occupy the locus of tragedy, because of his unreasonable and boundless desires, as many philosophers have suggested? Is man today still able to account for his tragic condition? Or do we locate the tragic first and foremost in the esthetic imagination? Is not the theatrical genre of tragedy the locus authenticus of all things tragic? Is there more to the tragic than drama and play?