Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Garbriel Honoré Marcel

French Philosopher, Existentialist, Drama Critic, Playwright and Musician

"Everything really comes down to the distinction between what we have and what we are."

"Contemporary thinkers would say that man is continuously transcending himself. "

"The wise man knows how to run his life so that contemplation is Possible. "

"I should like to start 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."

"What defines man are his exigencies."

"Being is—or should be—necessary. It is impossible that everything should be reduced to a play of successive appearances which are inconsistent with each other… or, in the words of Shakespeare, to “a tale told by an idiot.” I aspire to participate in this being, in this reality—and perhaps this aspiration is already a degree of participation, however rudimentary."

"There is an order where the subject finds himself in the presence of something entirely beyond his grasp. I would add that if the word “transcendent” has any meaning it is here—it designates the absolute, unbridgeable chasm yawning between the subject and being, insofar as being evades every attempt to pin it down."

"A problem is something which I meet, which I find completely before me, but which I can therefore lay siege to and reduce. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity."

"When I am dealing with a problem, I am trying to discover a solution that can become common property, that consequently can, at least in theory, be rediscovered by anybody at all. But…this idea of a validity for “anybody at all” or of a thinking in general has less and less application the more deeply one penetrates into the inner courts of philosophy"

"The metaproblematic is a participation on which my reality as a subject is built… and reflection will show that such a participation, if it is genuine, cannot be a solution. If it were it would cease to be a participation in a transcendent reality, and would become, instead, an interpolation into transcendent reality, and would be degraded in the process."

"If I treat a ‘Thou’as a ‘He’, I reduce the other to being only nature; an animated object which works in some ways and not in others. If, on the contrary, I treat the other as ‘Thou’, I treat him and apprehend him qua freedom. I apprehend him qua freedom because he is also freedom and not only nature. "

"The other, in so far as he is other, only exists for me in so far as I am open to him, in so far as he is a Thou. But I am only open to him in so far as I cease to form a circle with myself, inside which I somehow place the other, or rather his idea; for inside this circle, the other becomes the idea of the other, and the idea of the other is no longer the other qua other, but the other qua related to me."

"The fact is that when I commit myself, I grant in principle that the commitment will not again be put into question. And it is clear that this active volition not to question something again, intervenes as an essential element in the determination of what in fact will be the case…it bids me to invent a certain modus vivendi…it is a rudimentary form of creative fidelity. "

"No doubt the solitary consciousness can achieve resignation [Stoicism], but it may well be here that this word actually means nothing but spiritual fatigue. For hope, which is just the opposite of resignation, something more is required. There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral. "

"It will perhaps be made clearer if I say the person who is at my disposal is the one who is capable of being with me with the whole of himself when I am in need; while the one who is not at my disposal seems merely to offer me a temporary loan raised on his resources. For the one I am a presence; for the other I am an object. "

"When I put the table beside the chair I do not make any difference to the table or the chair, and I can take one or the other away without making any difference; but my relationship with you makes a difference to both of us, and so does any interruption of the relationship make a difference. "

"But a science is exact to the extent that its method measures up to and is adequate to its object."

"But however measurable, there is much more life in music than mathematics or logic ever dreamed of."

"It is right that we be concerned with the scientific probity of metaphysics."

"Contemplation and wisdom are highest achievements and man is not totally at home with them."

"On a grassroots level we say that man can touch more than he can grasp."

"The dynamic element in my philosophy, taken as a whole, can be seen as an obstinate and untiring battle against the spirit of abstraction."

"The striking thing about the Precious Blood is the bond it establishes between love and suffering in our experience, a bond that has become so close that we have come to think of suffering accepted with joy as the most authentic sign of love with any depth at all."

"Music at times is more like perfume than mathematics."

"Metaphysics is a science."