Gabriel Marcel’s (1889-1973) involvement during World War I in the Red Cross movement gave him the most memorable and soul searing encounters of his life.



1.      Introduction

Gabriel Marcel’s (1889-1973) involvement during World War I in the Red Cross movement gave him the most memorable and soul searing encounters of his life. Because of the world war, many had lost their loved ones; mothers lost their husband and children, wives lost their husbands, brothers and sisters lost their parents, etc. The broken human spirit sought his services, though he was shattered, yet with courage he responded as personally and humanly as possible. It was during this time of his life that he developed his great regard towards human dignity and human values. From this experience, he grasped the pulse of existence and, because of his spontaneous interest in others he renounced even more emphatically the facile intellectualism and abstraction that had contributed so much to the dehumanization of persons.[1]

We live in a multi-fragmented 21stcentury. Our planet appears to be fractured, ruptured, broken and bleeding from all sides even today. The key reasons for this brokenness are as follows, Firstly, materialism which is rooted deep in the culture. It is extremely difficult to comprehend human values beyond materialism. The scientific mentality, a materialist descendant, pretends that human beings should be able to solve every challenge between lives to death without concerning to something beyond themselves. The outcome of this is God-talk and philosophical ideals are thrown away. This kind of attitude brings humanity to a complete despair and does not have a permanent solution to many of the troubling human difficulties. There can be no union or communion between individuals. As a result, generally, friends become foes, companions become conspirators, and families turn into hell, peaceful nations torn into pieces and lively ones turned into devils.

Finally, what we find is human being in despair, distress, nausea, boredom and suicide. As a supreme spectator having set him/herself in the pursuit of an all object-universe and placing him/herself in the prison of objects, totally forgetting the mystery dimension of reality, the modern human being suffers from a terrible illness i.e., the loss of sense of being and personhood, a loss of the sacred dignity of being human.[2]

Virtues such as faith, hope, fidelity and love hardly can make sense. The faith enhances faith in oneself and hope is not feasible for the Absolute.  Hope is hollow and futile because there is no possibility of transcendence. Any bonds of brotherhood binding communities and directing the social behavior are hard to imagine in this kind of environment. The cord which binds humanity breaks apart when there is no fraternal link. The universe is perplexed and splintered.

In this situation, the theme “From Brokenness towards Reconstruction of Human Dignity: A Critical Analysis from the Narratives of Gabriel Marcel” is relevant.  Marcel was hoping to some sort of better antidote to end the brokenness of the biosphere. Despite the world’s distorted nature, men and women must return to the true source and means of survival to satisfy themselves. Yet, how and what way is this possible? Intersubjectivity[3] which is encountering being in beings (the other as a subject) can make this conceivable. It helps everyone to accept every human being’s intrinsic dignity. It can only pave the way for the harmonious life in the community, society and the world and communion of beings by fostering humans.

Humanity must restore the components of love and faith, hope and transcendence, solidarity and integrity in social discourse, as well as figure out a way of re-establishing it as immortal and eternal ideals. This will lead to absolute freedom, a growing society of love and unencumbered comradeship, etc. Man’s transparency to his fraternity by love, faithfulness, confidence, participation,[4] presence,[5] openness, friendliness and availability is only meaningful when he is a form of everlasting communion.

That is what we mean by saying that human beings are self-transcending. His ego-centeredness equips his world to exploit and reap for his very benefit. It encourages him to a life of fellowship with others, in which the positive is harnessed and appreciated creatively. In addition, this leads him to a super-human culture where such good deeds are eventually realized to give him access to a fullness of being. Marcel’s ontological exigence[6] that is, the intersubjectivity lies here. In human beings, it is a constant search for perfection, a perpetual and infinite search, a constant awareness that this self-fulfilling search lies outside of itself. It depends on some force; some are even and is more than self. It is like a willingness to be packed with a void, and a desire to sleep deep inside.

Marcel claims that human existence remains a futile challenge and an eternal torment until this desire is fulfilled. The growth of hope, based on faith and motivated by love, eventually results in a union between the being and the Absolute Thou (for Marcel, God). Furthermore, he thinks mankind is doomed to ruin when we attempt to refute such a profound and restless religious experience.

[1] Cf. Vincent P. Miceli, Ascent to Being.  Gabriel Marcel’s Philosophy of Communion, Desclee Company, Rome 1965 5.

[2] Cf. Patrick Bourgeois, “Marcel and Ricœur. Mystery and Hope at the Boundary of Reason in the Postmodern Situation”, in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 80 (2006) 3, 421.

[3]Intersubjectivity is openness to others. It is where one stands in a vital relationship with others. One joins and shares the experiences of one another which includes a deeper union of interactions such as passion, loyalty, and hope.  (Cf. John Marson, D., “The Majesty of Intersubjectivity. Maritain and Marcel Contra Cartesian Subjectivity”, in Distinctions of Being. Philosophical Approaches to Reality, ed. Nikolaj Zunic, American Maritain Association, Washington 2013 145-156).

[4] Participation refers to an internal act that consciously engages the entire personality of a subject - it is not merely a perception of meaning, nor an intellectual intuition, nor a logical notion. (Cf. Richard J. Kroner, “Existentialism and Christianity”, in Encounter 17 (1956) 219-244). 

[5] Presence refers to the personal mode of life. And since the current cannot be effectively isolated from its existing, presence often implies the existing entity, effectively pointing to the comparison of existing with objectivity and impersonal existing in this use. (Cf. John B. O’ Malley, The Fellowship of Being. An Essay on the Concept of Person in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1966 96).

[6] Ontological Exigence is human persons’ internal hunger and demand for fullness and meaning.

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