This remarkable book deals with the border between philosophy and theology and asks a question that Stephen Mulhall (2001) also poses at the end of his book Inheritance and Originality and leaves unanswered, namely, “[C]an philosophy acknowledge religion and still have faith in itself?” Falque argues very much in the affirmative and a repeated slogan of the text is “the more we theologize, the better we philosophise”, that is, philosophy finds its rightful place when it engages with theology and then returns to its own land of ‘the human per se’. In this book Falque is dealing mainly with the theological ‘turn’ in French phenomenology and what we are to make of it, but it will be of interest in this review to see if his arguments hold for the wider terrain of philosophy.
He starts out reviewing hermeneutics and its relation to phenomenology and examines how Ricoeur and Levinas both allow their confessional faith to help determine their hermeneutic approach; Protestant faith’s reliance on scripture alone for Ricoeur and Judaism’s trace of God in the letter of scripture for Levinas. In contrast to these approaches Falque puts forward his own Catholic hermeneutic of the body and the voice, which highlights that in the liturgy the Word of God nourishes the faithful both in the aspect of Scripture and in the Eucharist. This leads to the idea that phenomenology should engage with lived experience and the Catholic hermeneutic that he has expounded allows us to do this by making us aware of the body that speaks (the original form of the text) and should allow us to appropriate the text or be appropriated by the text in a bodily way that he calls ‘intercorporeality’. He then moves on to an analysis of what faith is and states that there is a common human faith in the reality of the world that he calls ‘philosophical faith’ that we attempt to suspend in Descartes method of doubt or in the phenomenological reduction and argues that confessional faith must be a transformation of this faith rather than a further step on from this faith. This is based on the theological foundation that God became man to transform humanity not to supercede it. Confessional faith is a transformation of the natural trust in the world all humanity shares. This leads on to the idea that philosophers who have taken the decision to believe need to produce not so much a philosophy of religion but rather a philosophy of religious experience as he claims Kierkegaard, Edith Stein and Simone Weil all worked on. This involves elucidating the reasons from within the faith that led to their decision ‘while not renouncing philosophy, conceive its activity quite otherwise’ (Falque 2016: 104). Falque then carries out such a philosophical investigation by looking at the choice of believing and concludes that it involves community, that I believe through a ‘we’. The next part looks at the relation between Theology and Philosophy and the final section is called ‘finally theology’ and reiterates Aquinas’ phrase that ‘philosophy is the servant of theology’. At this point I will quote Falque to make his position clear:
Finitude, or the human per se…are indeed starting points for philosophy and under the jurisdiction of the philosopher. But only as this finitude is then rejoined and transformed in the recited and assumed act of the Resurrection, is it made known that we were actually within the realm of true humanity and thus of philosophy-not of divinity concealed under the cover of humanity –that is, theology…This position can be summarized as the principle of ‘the philosopher before all else’ which should be adopted today not against theology but, on the contrary, for it, in order to dwell otherwise and situated within it. (Falque 2016: 148-149)
In what follows I shall look at Falque’s contestation that philosophy can be transformed by a confessional faith and still remain philosophy.
‘First live then philosophize’
The first point we shall look at is how a confessional faith can impact on the work of a philosopher. Mulhall (1994) in Faith and Reason gives a Wittgensteinian take on the limits of philosophy’s foraging into the territory of theology and I shall quote it at length in order to contrast it with Falque’s position:
Is there really room here for an exercise of reason that is not an employment of it on one side or another of the existential choice with which Christianity faces us?
Only if the following distinction can be made and observed: the distinction between a description and a defence of (or an attack upon) a form of life. For what can then follow is a distribution of duties, a division of intellectual labour. On this understanding, philosophy can spell out the features of the forms of life that face one another across the divide between religious and other modes of existence, and bring us to see how each will inevitably appear to the other…But it neither can, nor should, attempt to engage in those arguments with, let alone to make that choice for, its readers. The latter is always an error; the former is the business of edification, engagement, substantive discussion. It is, of course, neither an intellectually nor an ethically illegitimate enterprise – it is a perfectly valid use to which reason might be put, and forms a central part of any individual’s life; but it is not a philosophical use of reason, and it should form no part of a philosopher’s life qua philosopher. A philosopher should never forget that she is a human being, but not everything that a human being may do should be done in philosophy’s name. As Climacus might say, philosophy is not an edifying business. (Mulhall 1994: 76-77)
What seems to be missing here, and what Falque is very much aware of is that philosophy is never done in a vacuum. To take a hermeneutic approach for a moment, there is always, as Heidegger (1962) states, a fore-concept before the analysis begins and this is then where the enquiry starts from. If this is the case then the most intellectually honest way of proceeding is to make this fore-conception transparent. And so if you are philosophizing from the standpoint of someone with a confessional faith it is best if this faith is given an airing at the start to make the reader aware of the type of human life you envision and are trying to elucidate. Falque makes this point by looking at the Protestant hermeneutics of Ricoeur and the Judaic hermeneutics of Levinas before positing his own Catholic hermeneutic and what this allows us to see is how a confessional faith can help to make salient certain aspects of the philosophical enterprise that may be obscured from a primarily secular starting point. The life a person leads undoubtedly permeates their philosophy and although philosophy should be solely based on reason, the experiential ‘content’ given through a lived faith and the motivation, in terms of the mission of the philosopher will transform the subject matter and methodologies employed. This does not mean the resulting philosophy will necessarily be edificatory, but rather certain evidence, premises, topics and intuitions will have salience above others in the work of a philosopher with a confessional faith and this will not invalidate the philosophy by itself, but a self-aware philosopher would do well to make transparent how her faith informs her practice.
‘The more we theologize, the better we philosophise’
To make clear how a faith can inform a philosophical practice I would like to set out one particular practice in philosophy that is evident in philosophers such as Cavell, Mulhall, Wittgenstein and arguably Falque and argue that it is a legitimate philosophical practice. This practice might be called ‘transfiguring the ordinary’ and I will present a version of it developed elsewhere (Earnshaw 2011). A quote from Simone Weil sums up a way of understanding the interconnection of philosophy, ethics and aesthetics focused on the everyday:
The beautiful: that which we do not want to change. The good: not to want to change it, in fact (non-intervention). The true: not to want to change it in one’s mind (by means of illusion). The good — not to want to change what? My place, my importance in the world, limited by my body and by the existence of other souls, my equals (Weil 2004: 38).
The experience of beauty is of something that strikes us in such a way that we do not want to change it; the apprehension of it as beautiful just is seeing the object of our attention as perfect just as it is. Such an experience is articulated in McCarthy’s book The Road:
He remembered waking once on such a night to the clatter of crabs in the pan where he’d left steakbones from the night before. Faint coals of the driftwood fire pulsing in the onshore wind. Lying under such a myriad of stars. The seas black horizon. He rose and walked out and stood barefoot in the sand and watched the pale surf appear all down the shore and roll and crash and darken again. When he went back to the fire he knelt and smoothed her hair as she slept and he said if he were God he would have made the world just so and no different (McCarthy 2007: 234).
Here the character describes an experience through which he is willing to affirm the whole world as it is. In such experiences we are able to ‘see’ the world as ‘good’, as God is said to have done in Genesis. These experiences allow us to affirm that there is a value to life and living, and, indeed, we are able to affirm the value of our own existence because it is only due to the fact that we exist that this consummation experience (of perceiving the goodness of the world) is possible.
So what is it about ourselves that leads us to want to escape the real and live in fantasy? One line of thought (developed by Cavell in The Claim of Reason (1979)) is that we become entangled in philosophical problems (in the widest sense) because of the tendency for humans to want to overcome what they see as the limitations of finitude. This is one way of understanding what Weil is responding to in the quote above when she talks about the true as not wanting to change the world by means of illusion. The work of philosophy can then be understood as getting the person to see that the facts about our lives that can seem like obstacles or limitations should instead be perceived as limits to our lives. Their overcoming does not make any sense as they are the conditions for the possibility of the intelligibility of the world and other people. Scepticism can be seen as a desire to know the world in a more secure way than through our human faculties, as if there were a means of arriving at a more direct access to the world than through our everyday procedures for finding things out and to other people than through the means provided by language. Ordinary language philosophy tackles scepticism by reminding us of ‘what we say when’ in order to bring the conditions for knowledge of the world and others to the fore. However, this can seem like a very deflationary account of what is possible for philosophy. Wittgenstein sums this feeling up when he says:
Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble) (Wittgenstein 1963: §118).
If ‘the destruction of anything interesting’ is all this methodology of philosophy can achieve, why should it claim any of our attention? Wittgenstein’s answer is that ‘the aspect of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity’ (Wittgenstein 1963: §129). The disappointment we feel at the humble task of philosophy is a hankering after the facility and seeming profundity found in fantasy. In order for us to see ‘the aspect of things most important for us’ it is necessary to find ways of exalting in the ordinary and recovering the hidden beauty therein.
One way of tackling this problem of familiarity can be found in art, but also in religion. In Catholicism, the sacraments involve taking some everyday activity and relating it to the divine. For instance, in the sacrament of Communion the value of sharing a meal is celebrated with all the related values of family and friendship. In Confession the process of repairing a relationship is connected with our relation to the divine. In all religions the life of the community is understood as bound up with the eternal. In this way everyday practices are transfigured and thereby their value as part of a life is re-presented (reflected back to the community) in a new light and reaffirmed. This reaffirming of the everyday is found in Wittgenstein’s philosophy where we are invited to pay careful attention to our life with words and how this is inextricably bound up with our form of life (thereby taking our anxieties about language and showing how they express anxieties about our lives). Wittgenstein’s writings focus our attention on the conditions of the human relationship to the world and others, and help us to recognise that the wish for depth in our understanding of things is inherently empty. Such a recognition is one way in which we can overcome artificial craving to go beyond the everyday. The words of this philosopher allow the familiar to become strange and enticing and thereby reignite our interest in the ordinary. Through the ordering of his words the ordinary is transfigured and our poor substitute fantasies can be left behind for a time.
The idea that ‘transfiguring the ordinary’ is a respectable aim of philosophy is given backing in the writings of Victor Shklovsky who takes the methodology of art as involving what he calls an ‘enstrangement’ of objects and forms of life. I will quote at length from Shklovsky’s book and then comment briefly afterwards:
If we examine the general laws of perception, we see that as it becomes habitual, it also becomes automatic. So eventually all of our skills and experiences function unconsciously – automatically. If someone were to compare the sensation of holding a pen in his hand or speaking a foreign tongue for the first time with the sensation of performing this same operation for the ten thousandth time, then he would no doubt agree with us. It is this process of automatization that explains the laws of our prose speech with its fragmentary phrases and half-articulated words…If the complex life of many people takes place entirely on the level of the unconscious, then it’s as if this life had never been.
And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art. The purpose of art, then, is to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the organ of sight instead of recognition. By ‘enstranging’ objects and complicating form, the device of art makes perception long and ‘laborious. (Shklovsky 1991: 5-6).
It is by creating a space in our workaday activity (by making the task ‘harder’ than it might normally be) that can release us from ‘enslavement’ to habitual practices. This disruption enables us to carry out projects in ways that interweave spontaneity into the rhythm of the task we are engaged in. This practice in philosophy of trying to ‘transfigure the ordinary’ for the reader can be seen as a practice adopted from a perspective of a confessional faith without overstepping the boundaries of the ‘human per se’. I believe this is what Falque is aiming towards and if it seems an important practice is worth defending.
Conclusion: ‘I am first of all a philosopher and want to remain one’
Mixing theology and philosophy can be seen as a path inherent with dangers that may mean that others convict you of not doing philosophy at all. Crossing the Rubicon is an important book in that Falque attempts to cross the stream between these two disciplines to eventually return and know philosophy better. It would seem his crossing is successful and that he does remain a philosopher in the end and I have tried to outline the practice within philosophy that he follows that has confessional roots but conforms to the boundaries of philosophy. The book is a testament to being honest about your motivations and trying to find a way to carry on in a discipline bound by the ‘human per se’ while being inspired by the divine and highlights an overwhelming need in philosophy for the recognition and the acknowledgement of the personal as an necessary partner of the rational.
Cavell, S. 1979. The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality and Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Earnshaw, O. 2011. Recovering the Voice of Insanity: A Phenomenology of Delusions. (Doctoral dissertation). Available at: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/3225/
Falque, E. 2016. Crossing the Rubicon: The Borderlands of Philosophy and Theology. trans. R. Shank. New York: Fordham University Press.
Heidegger, M. 1962. Being and Time. trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson. Oxford: Blackwell.
McCarthy, C. 2007. The Road. London: Pan Mcmillan Ltd.
Mulhall, S. 1994. Faith and Reason. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd.
Mulhall, S. 2001. Inheritance and Originality: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Kierkegaard. Oxford: OUP.
Shklovsky, V. 1991. Theory of Prose. trans. B. Sher. London: Dalkey Archive Press.
Weil, S. 2004. The Notebooks of Simone Weil. trans. A. Wills. London: Routledge.
Wittgenstein, L. 1963. Philosophical Investigations. trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Jean-Luc Marion’s new book Givenness and Revelation is a collection of the four Gifford Lectures Marion delivered in 2014. The book reiterates the concept of a saturated phenomenon as a pure given, which has been a recurrent theme of Marion’s works since God without Being. In Givenness and Revelation, however, the saturated phenomenon is analysed in its tight connection to revelation thought as Trinity and thus provides us with a powerful insight into Marion’s religious thought.
Givenness and Revelation, translated by Stephen E. Lewis, is divided into four main parts, preceded by an Introduction, which describes the guiding thread of the four sections according to the following outline: 1) The Aporia of the Concept of Revelation, which looks into the pre-modern epistemological limitation of the concept of revelation; 2) An Attempt at a Phenomenal Re-Appropriation of Revelation, in which Marion continues the analysis of the epistemological limitations of revelation in its modern understanding and sets the stage for its reinterpretation; 3) Christ as Saturated Phenomenon: The Icon of the Invisible, a section that serves to uncover a new phenomenal logic inspired by the iconic figure of Christ and His Trinitarian manifestation; and 4) A Logic of Manifestation: The Trinity. This final section further develops the Trinitarian aspect of revelation by emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in the manifestation of God.
These four parts structure the book in accordance with Marion’s usual method. He begins with a critique, or better yet, a deconstruction of the historical understanding of the concept to be analysed, in this case revelation. Through this deconstruction, the line of thought against which Marion shall argue is identified. At the same time, the historical analysis will pinpoint the possibilities of going beyond metaphysics in order to pave the way for a re-interpretation of the said concept in terms of pure givenness. This propaedeutic part is then followed by a revision of said concept, which grounds itself in a counter-experience. This counter-experience overturns metaphysics in order to assert the priority of a counter-intentionality, i.e. an intentionality which originates in the given and suspends the constitutive power of the subject. In Givenness and Revelation this amounts to the following thesis: God reveals itself through the Son, who gives himself as an Icon. As an icon and through the agency of the Holy Spirit, he completely refers to the Father. God reveals Godself in a Trinitarian way as Trinity. Thus, that which gives itself (Trinity) completely accords with the way of its giving.
This review will adhere to this structure and will analyse first, Marion’s critique of philosophy, and second, his reinterpretation of revelation. Prior to this, however, we shall give an account of the phenomenological considerations that lead to the question concerning revelation.
Setting the Stage
The concept of a counter-experience already makes an appearance in the Introduction, where Marion distinguishes between revealed and natural theology. The former, in opposition to the latter, will accept the logos of the revelation from elsewhere, i.e. from God, and does not impose its own logic on the revelatory phenomenon. This view plays a major role in Givenness and Revelation. In order to avoid an illusionary experience of revelations, Marion introduces the concept of conflict or resistance as a condition for the reception of revelation, albeit not a sufficient condition. Through this conflictual character of revelation, Marion bridges the link between the theological concept of revelation and the phenomenological one of givenness.
Givenness is received as a counter-experience, this being the thesis of both Being Given as well as Negative Certainties. In Givenness and Revelation, however, the very authenticity of revelation depends on a resistance from the one who witnesses it. If revelation turns out to be inauthentic, the resistance and the conflict are resolved within immanence; if, however, the revelation is authentic, resistance will increase to the point at which a resistance from elsewhere is recognized that cannot be subsumed under concepts. Through this resistance coming from elsewhere the counter-experience is received as authentic. This conflictual character is thus inherent to the witnessing of revelation.
This helps Marion to avoid both an idolatrous as well as a fanatical understanding of revelation. Marion argues that revelation retains its revelatory character only as a paradox: “[it is] the visibility of the invisible as such, and which remains so in its very visibility” (5). This highlights the two main lines of thought discussed in Givenness and Revelation: 1) as a paradox, revelation cannot be resolved by our logic and is thus not part of the wisdom of the world; 2) even though not resolved by our logic it still gives itself to reason as pure (non-objectifiable) givenness and imposes its own counter-logic, i.e. the wisdom of God.
Wisdom of the World
Marion begins by analysing the epistemological limitation of revelation through Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of theology. According to Marion, Thomas tries to ground theology as a science of God. In doing so he distinguishes between two kinds of theologies: philosophical theology, which deals with divine things only inasmuch as it infers them as the principles of their mundane and immanent effects, and sacra doctrina, which has revelation or divinity as its immediate object. This would imply, according to Marion, an epistemological hierarchy, in which philosophical theology and sacra doctrina differentiate themselves based solely on the degree in which they know God. Consequently, the sacra doctrina is reduced to the principles of natural reason and loses its revelatory character. Marion states that alternately, in Summa contra Gentiles Thomas introduces a new kind of knowledge to this hierarchy by subordinating sacra doctrina to “the science of the blessed,” i.e. an eschatological knowledge of God, which should provide the required principles to make the sacra doctrina a scientia dei. These principles, however, remain inaccessible due to the eschatological character of the blessed science. Thus the scientific character of sacra doctrina remains unfounded.
Marion draws from this consequence not that Thomas was wrong in his evaluation of revealed theology, but that he brings to light the aporia of theology understood as science. Philosophy has tried to resolve this aporia by emphasizing the epistemological understanding of revelation, while Vatican I and II provide an alternate interpretation of revelation based on biblical texts. Through Suarez, revelation was reduced to a sufficiens propositio and thus Thomas’ hierarchy was inverted, the epistemological account gaining primacy. This line of thought was to be continued and emphasized during the Enlightenment. According to Marion, the epistemological understanding subjects apokalypsis (revelation) to aletheia (truth), which is to be understood in its modern meaning as clear and distinct knowledge. In order to bring revelation to presence as clear and distinct it must be subjected to the principles of contradiction and sufficient reason, which for Marion are the basic principles of metaphysics. This critique is present throughout Marion’s works, stating that through the principles of contradiction and sufficient reason philosophy becomes dependent on ipseity. The entirety of phenomenality is reduced to the constitutive power of the subject.
Against this metaphysical view, Marion invokes Pascal in order to suggest that the will is not preceded by reason, as Descartes argues, but conditions knowing. This reversal of the relation between will and understanding concerns revelation when understood in connection to Augustine. Augustine states that only charity, which has been poured into our souls by the Holy Spirit, can lead us to truth (De trinitate). This is the turning point in Marion’s re-interpreting of revelation, which relies on two main arguments. First, the will to be willing is conditioned and sparked by revelation as the attraction to see the Father in the Son. And second, the will to be willing consists in faith, which conditions and precedes seeing. Only by accepting Jesus as the Son of the Father can we see the Father in the Son. What is at stake here is the conversion of intentionality and knowing the Father starting from the Father, which is only possible if we will the Father by being attracted to the Father through the Son. This is consistent with what Marion calls the logic of love: the hermeneutics of love is received from love itself, thus from elsewhere, and consequently not subjected to a sufficiens proposition (Marion, 1991).
From these considerations Marion draws three conclusions: 1) we can only see revelation through faith, i.e. if we believe; 2) in order to believe we need to will it. The will, however, is “put in operation” by the fact of being drawn by God’s love. Therefore, 3) we can will something only inasmuch as we love said something. Here the will is equated with love, and revelation becomes possible only inasmuch as it is freed from the logic of natural reason and able to impose its own logic, which must start with the will and end up in love again. Marion thus uncovers a new kind of logic in theology, which is not subdued by the logic of natural reason. In order for philosophical logic to come to terms with the logic of love it must turn to phenomenology, as Marion argues. Through phenomenology, phenomena are perceived inasmuch as they give themselves (Marion, 2002). This would allow us to see them based on their own logic of manifestation. This way of giving itself is made apparent in saturated phenomena and all the more so in the figure of Christ, who gives himself in an exceptional way. Christ, as a saturated phenomenon, gives himself from himself and does not abide by the epistemological conditions of experience. He thus contradicts these conditions and is received or seen as non-objectifiable. He therefore gives himself as a paradox, a paradox that neither excludes logic nor is outside logic, but instead extends to the possibility of describing the impossible as a counter-experience.
Wisdom of God
This reversed hermeneutics of the counter-experience is further explained in the case of mysterion, which can be uncovered only by the Father through His giving of Jesus as Son. The reception of such a phenomenon cannot be known or seen directly. In order to see a mysterion the reversal of intentionality is necessary, which implies that the mysterion is seen through the gaze of the Father and not transcendentally constituted as an object. The reversal of intentionality, however, is possible only through the Holy Spirit, who accomplishes the anamorphosis, i.e. a phenomenon becomes visible once we accept its own perspective. Through this acceptance of the perspective from elsewhere the mysterion shall not be known or unveiled but rather will show itself from itself in its uncovering (apokalypsis).
In order to emphasize charity’s coming from elsewhere, Marion relies on a Paulinian description of the power of God as hyperbolic (Eph. 3:18-19). Here the power of God is described as having four dimensions (height, depth, length, breadth), which for Marion signifies that charity cannot manifest itself within our space, as it exceeds it. Instead, it constitutes a “milieu” where we are absorbed in order to be saturated by the power of God: “I must allow myself to be situated in the midst of it, to be encompassed by it to the point of losing myself in it” (71). This losing of myself indicates nothing else than the loss of ipseity or I-intentionality, because our gaze, which constitutes objects in a three-dimensional space, cannot conceive a four-dimensional phenomenon. Therefore, charity or revelation is to be seen through a gaze which is not finite. The only gaze that is not finite, but still part of the world, is that of Christ. The mysterion uncovers itself in the gaze of Christ, who acts as the icon of the Father. He exhausts the invisibility of the Father and brings it to light in the flesh.
This relation between Christ, apokalypsis, and mysterion announces a phenomenological principle – “so much mysterion, so much revelation” – which for Marion fulfils the goal of phenomenology, namely that something gives itself from itself as itself without a doubled representation. Reinterpreting Husserl’s principle of principles, Marion explains this relation as follows: “the phenomenon shows itself in itself and through himself only in as much as it gives itself in and through Himself” (76). In short, the mode of appearance coincides with the mode of givenness. The only phenomenon which lives up to this principle and actualizes it is Christ, as he shows himself absolutely. This, however, is also dependent on the subject becoming a witness, i.e. on accepting the infinite gaze of the Son, which in its turn relies on being drawn by revelation. This appears to be a hermeneutic circle, which Marion recognizes and embraces as it leads to a Trinitarian manifestation of God. This is the turning point for understanding the Trinitarian manifestation of God, which alone can account for the revelation of the Father in the Son, the latter of which acts as the absolute icon based on two hermeneutical steps. The Father is the ground and condition for the giving of Jesus as Christ, i.e. as the Son of the Father. And this implies that Jesus can be seen as the Son of the Father only from the perspective of the Father.
These two steps make way for a conclusion: if we know Jesus as the Son of the Father, we also know the Father, as only from His perspective can Jesus be seen as the Christ. Consequently, and holding true to his status as icon, Jesus never refers to himself but to an Other, which is also the ground for the revelation. This is a first step in constituting a Trinitarian phenomenality. The second step connects tightly to the characteristic of the icon of letting the gaze of the other target the one who witnesses it. The fact that Jesus is given as the Son of the Father to mankind implies that mankind feels itself intended by the intentionality of the Father via the agency of the gift: “In this way the putting of Christ into an icon is accomplished, which properly defines the work of the Spirit” (86). The Spirit is consequently part of the unity of God. According to Marion the very phenomenal function of the Spirit is the accomplishing of the anamorphosis. This is to say, the finite intentionality is replaced by an infinite intentionality, which can in its turn only occur through the grace of the Father. Thus understood, the Spirit is the very act of giving, of the putting into operation of revelation, staying invisible but within visibility.
Having established revelation as a saturated phenomenon which gives itself in a Trinitarian way, Marion can now tackle the problem of Trinity by resorting to phenomenology, in order to show how the inner logic of Trinity is the logic of its manifestation.
Marion seeks to distance himself from the traditional understanding of Trinity, where substance is of priority and relation is secondary, accepting instead the relational shift proposed by Karl Barth and Karl Rahner. Based on their considerations that Trinity and its revelation constitute the basis of the unity and essence of God, Marion seeks to show how the phenomenological manifestation of God, or revelation, entails the primacy of love and communion concerning the essence of God. The phenomenological description of revelation as a saturated phenomenon would support this shift, as it implies that God is to be seen only as He gives Himself. Here, the thesis of the book is clearly formulated: “the Trinity offers not only the content of the uncovering, but also its mode of manifestation” (99). Because God gives Himself in a hyperbolic way, which saturates and surpasses our conceptual experience, and because such a given can only be seen through its own logic, God should be known only as He gives Himself. Considering that He gives Himself as a Trinity or communion, Trinity has primacy in the knowing of God. This is further sustained by Marion’s argument that Trinity reveals itself through Christ as an icon, which means that Christ never refers to himself but to another, and completely to another. This implies that the more he refers to another, i.e. to the Father, the more he appears as an icon and as the Son of God. This further entails that the stronger the communion between Father and Son is, the stronger the unity of God is.
Marion’s Givenness and Revelation provides a Trinitarian account of revelation, which, though based mainly on biblical texts, ends up both redefining theology as revealed theology and realizing the principles of his phenomenology of givenness. This account is consistent with Marion’s earlier description of Christ as the icon of the Father in which the logic of love is accomplished in a Trinitarian way (Marion, 1991: 139-56). Furthermore, the coherence of Givenness and Revelation is also sustained by Marion’s phenomenological developments of the figure Christ as the highest degree of givenness (Marion, 2002). This being said, we turn our attention to three possible inconsistencies of Givenness and Revelation.
Even though Marion’s critique of metaphysics retains the same aspects of going against egology, beingness, and objectivity (Gschwandtner, 2007: 194), one can notice several revisions made to his understanding of Husserl. Whereas in Being Given Husserl’s principle of principles is seen as the limitation of givenness, conditioning it based on a foreseeable indeterminacy, Givenness and Revelation describes revelation as the fulfilment of the same principle. It must then follow either that Marion’s understanding of said principle is inconsistent or that revelation itself is limited. Two additional points may be raised against Marion’s investigation of revelation. First, the question concerning the violation of Husserl’s principle of neutrality – already highlighted by Jones (Jones, 2011) – can also be posed here. Against this, one can argue based on Marion (Marion, 2000) that theology acts purely as an inspiration for phenomenology in constructing a christological philosophy. Second, the reception of revelation and its imposed logic without requiring a hermeneutics coming from the subject may be questioned, as already observed by Shane Mackinlay (Mackinlay, 2010). Against this point one can interpret the constitution of the subject as a witness together with Thomas Alferi (Alferi, 2007: 297), who states that this constitution is a pre-phenomenal one, the phenomenal subject being thus already inscribed within the Trinitarian hermeneutic circle. This latter description of the subject seems to be more consistent with Givenness and Revelation. Furthermore, Marion’s introduction of the concept of resistance in experiencing revelation might provide a further solution to the issue of the subject being too passive.
Alferi, T. (2007). “Worüber hinaus Grösseres nicht ‘gegeben’ werden kann…” Phänomenologie und Offenbarung nach Jean-Luc Marion. Freiburg: Alber.
Gschwandtner, C. M. (2007). Reading Jean-Luc Marion: Exceeding Metaphysics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Jones, T. (2011). A Genealogy of Marion’s Philosophy of Religion: Apparent Darkness. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Mackinlay, S. (2010). Interpreting Excess: Jean-Luc Marion, Saturated Phenomena, and Hermeneutics. New York: Fordham University Press.
Marion, J. (1991). God Without Being: Hors-texte. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Marion, J. (2000). “Eine andere ‘Erste Philosophie’ und die Frage der Gegebenheit.” In Ruf und Gabe: Zum Verhältnis von Phänomenologie und Theologie. Her. J. Marion, J. Wohlmuth. Bonn: Alfter: Borengässer.
Marion, J. (2002). Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness. Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press.
Marion, J. (2015). Negative Certainties. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Marion, J. (2016). Givenness and Revelation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.