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4. Love and Violence

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

The lover “declares his love as one declares war” (EP, 79; PE, 129). So insists Marion repeatedly in his investigation into the nature of the erotic phenomenon. War, of course, is here “only” a metaphor illustrating the absolute commitment of the lover. Yet the fact that this analogy is used several times throughout The Erotic Phenomenon seems to indicate that it is not insignificant. Rather, it points to a problematic aspect of Marion’s treatment of eros, namely the extreme—if not almost militant—character of this love. And the careful reader finds the connotations of absoluteness exacerbated by another subtheme, stated even less obviously: the parallel between this phenomenological analysis of eros and Marion’s earlier theological analysis of charity. Combined, they lead to a troubling conclusion. The lover, on Marion’s account, will turn out to be like a God declaring war. In this chapter I (ab)use four of Marion’s comparisons of love to war in order to highlight the absolute character of his treatment and show how in each case the divine emerges surreptitiously. I maintain, instead, that the phenomena of the other in general and that of love in particular require, on the one hand, distinctions between types of love and between degrees of love, and, on the other hand, an account of the hermeneutic context that makes any relationship with the other, especially a loving relationship, possible. Before analyzing these comparisons more carefully, however, let me briefly provide some context for Marion’s exploration of love.

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7. Eucharist and Sacrament

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

Marion has explored sacraments and especially the Eucharist throughout his work, beginning with his rather controversial treatment in God without Being and culminating with two accounts in Le croire pour le voir. Why is the Eucharist so important for Marion? On the one hand, it is obviously a central liturgical rite that particularly defines Christian identity. It is therefore especially significant for a phenomenology that seeks to explore religious experience. One might say that the Eucharist is Christian religious experience par excellence. On the other hand, the Eucharist is believed to be a central place of God’s self-revelation. The Eucharist is said to be the “body of Christ” who is given to the ones who participate in the rite. Eucharist is hence not merely something religious people do, but it is something they receive: the eucharistic elements are given to us. It is hence above all a gift and, in fact, eucharistia means “thanksgiving.”

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6. Prayer and Sainthood

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

Prayer is a fairly prominent topic in Marion’s writings, although it is not a concern addressed much by the secondary literature on his work.1 Already the early distinction between idol and icon in God without Being is to a large extent about prayer or worship, about the human approach to the divine that can be expressed in idolatrous adoration or authentic prayer before an icon. The former is idolatrous for Marion because it becomes an invisible mirror that returns entirely upon the self, while the other is authentic because it is emptied of self and exposed to the divine gaze. This account is deepened and focused more fully on prayer in The Crossing of the Visible, where the final chapter examines explicitly what it means to pray before an icon. Somewhat surprisingly, the final chapter of In Excess, which really should examine the possibility of a phenomenon of revelation if it consistently followed the outline of the five kinds of saturated phenomena (event, idol, flesh, icon, revelation) as presented in Being Given and the first chapter of In Excess, instead examines the kind of language appropriate for the divine. This language turns out to be prayer or praise. In some sense, then, this simply continues the earlier distinction between an idolatrous and an iconic way to approach the divine. Yet, formulated as a response to Derrida on negative theology, it is a much more conscious articulation of the linguistic element in prayer.2

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2. Art and the Artist

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

Marion has written fairly extensively on art, although this topic has not been discussed much in the secondary literature on his work.1 One of his early works, The Crossing of the Visible, is an extended reflection on the status of the image in art and contemporary culture. In his later writings, the work of art occupies a central place as the second type of saturated phenomenon, saturated according to quality. A “mediocre” Dutch painting and the practice of anamorphosis employed in painting is an element of the discussion of the given phenomenon in general in Being Given, and the chapter on the idol in In Excess discusses the work of Mark Rothko. Not only does “eventness” characterize all given phenomenon, but so does their bedazzling aesthetic quality.2 An article for a collection on “idol anxiety” again reflects explicitly on the artist and the work of art. A further book on art, focusing specifically on the artist Gustave Courbet, is due to appear shortly.3

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3. Nature and Flesh

Christina M. Gschwandtner Indiana University Press ePub

Instead of examining a phenomenon that Marion already depicts as saturated, this chapter focuses on one he does not discuss. I will suggest that nature and various nonhuman beings can appear to us as saturated phenomena, both on Marion’s own terms and in the sense in which I have argued in respect to the first two types of phenomena examined: as displaying degrees and requiring hermeneutic context. Hence this chapter is not specifically about Marion’s discussion of the third saturated phenomenon, that of the human flesh. Yet, as we see later in this chapter, there might be some connections between “nature” and “flesh.” I use “nature” here loosely to refer to what are generally understood to be “natural phenomena”: the land, the weather, the habitat of species, and so forth, including nonhuman animal and plant life and perhaps even our own “animality.” Nature is distinguished, however, from what Marion calls “technical objects.” As emerges near the end of the chapter, technology often subverts and covers over nature, making us forget our intrinsic connection with it and dependence upon it, often even destroying it. While a discussion of nature need not necessarily have “environmental” or “ecological” concerns, such concerns are not excluded in this discussion.1

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