Converging and Convincing Proof of God: The God of Promises and the Iron Cage of Modernity
the "other" did not represent a hell, but a sort of entry into a metaphysical heaven, ultimately one that suggested that God must exist.
Marcel seized on the incontrovertible fact that human language is full of words that describe relationship between persons--words such as promising, committing, vowing, covenanting, loving. The concepts behind such terms, it seemed to him, contained a reality of their own which imposed themselves on persons. They therefore suggested that there was a reality that transcended us in which these realities participated.
This sort of critical thinking, of course, reached right into the heart of the Enlightenment as if to administer some sort of philosophical CPR. To Descartes' famous first-person-singular cogito, ergo sum-I think, therefore, I am, Marcel emphasized the truth entirely neglected by the father of modern philosophy with the rejoinder: sumus, "we are." The truth was not, in its most important kernel, first person singular, but first person plural.
Reality was not simply what I felt it was (subjectivism) unattached to the world outside of me; reality was not something I possessed for myself, as if it were a drawing I had made and put in my pocket. Reality was also something that we participated in. It was not subjective alone, but, at its most important, inter-subjective, which means it necessarily include the "other."
"A complete concrete knowledge of oneself cannot be self-centered," Marcel wrote in his book Mystery of Being, "I should prefer to say that it must be centered on others. We can understand ourselves by starting from the other, or from others, and only by starting from them."
"Metaphysics," Marcel succinctly said in perhaps the most anti-Cartesian sentence ever penned, "is our neighbor."
In exploring these inter-subjective experiences--especially at their highest level, say in friendship or the love between a man and woman in marriage--Marcel observed that they had to be grounded in promise, and the promise had to be grounded in something beyond promise or it had no meaning.
The goods of communion between persons, such as friendship or marriage, were based upon promise, fidelity, love, and hope. And all these realities suggested an Absolute or they made no sense to Marcel. Without an Absolute Being behind them, it seemed to Marcel that these things were destined to an otherwise inexplicable frustration.
It was the experience of fidelity, and the promise behind fidelity, which led Marcel to transcendence. "The approach to transcendence by way of fidelity proceeds by a meditation on the nature of promising," Aidan Nichols observes in his book A Grammar of Consent when discussing Marcel's thought.
Fidelity to promises is something that is impossible to exercise alone. It is at the heart of a person-to-person communion. As Aidan Nichols puts it: "Fidelity is always a gift to self to another who is at once present to the self and accepted by it as a unique person--in Marcel's favorite word, a thou."
Gnothi seauton, "Know thyself," was writ on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, a truth which was at the heart of the Socratic philosophy. "To thine own self be true," said Polonius to his son Laertes in Shakespeare's play Hamlet, "and it must follow, as night the day: thou canst not then be false to any man."
Marcel, who, like Shakespeare, was also a playwright, perceived a corollary to the English bard's truth, which, in Shakespearean terms we might put this way: "To the other be true, and it must follow, as night the day: thou canst not then be false to yourself."
This, in a nutshell, was Gabriel Marcel's notion of "creative fidelity." In a stroke of philosophical genius, Marcel flipped the Delphic aphorism "know thyself" (without denying it) to: know the other!
Marcel, however, knew that, among men, death was the ultimate betrayer of fidelity. Death always destroyed communion and spelled certain ruin of fidelity. Our promises do not survive death though we want them to.
But fidelity, especially in its highest form as love, was seen by Marcel as such an important, transcendent value that the only means to vindicate its reality was to suggest the question: Might fidelity survive even death?
In his book Homo Viator, Marcel stated: "It is in this way that fidelity reveals its true nature, which is to be an evidence, a testimony. It is in this way too that a code of ethics centered on fidelity is irresistibly led to become attached to what is more than human, to a desire for the unconditional which is the requirement ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: existence of God, proofs of God, illative sense, Gabriel Marcel, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq, fidelity, promise
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