In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine

In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine

In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine

In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine

Synopsis

In the Self's Place is an original phenomenological reading of Augustine that considers his engagement with notions of identity in Confessions. Using the Augustinian experience of confessio, Jean-Luc Marion develops a model of selfhood that examines this experience in light of the whole of the Augustinian corpus. Towards this end, Marion engages with noteworthy modern and postmodern analyses of Augustine's most "experiential" work, including the critical commentaries of Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Marion ultimately concludes that Augustine has preceded postmodernity in exploring an excess of the self over and beyond itself, and in using this alterity of the self to itself, as a driving force for creative relations with God, the world, and others. This reading establishes striking connections between accounts of selfhood across the fields of contemporary philosophy, literary studies, and Augustine's early Christianity.

Excerpt

This book might seem to respond to a necessity manifested long ago in the itinerary of those that preceded it. For, if one starts out from Descartes in order to broach the question of the status of metaphysics, establish its constitution, and mark its separation from Christian theology, how can one not end up returning to Saint Augustine, an obligatory reference, whether it be accepted or denied, for the entire seventeenth century? Yet the necessity, if there was one, was entirely other: the somewhat more precise identification of metaphysics attained by studying Descartes led, beyond the question of his sources, references, and context, to an investigation into the limits of metaphysics and a glimpse of their possible transgression. Now this question is posed more obviously in the terms of phenomenology than in those of the history of philosophy: if one wants to leave behind generalities, that is to say approximations, indeed ideological distortions, it is necessary to discover phenomena, describe them, and recognize those that make an exception, partially or radically, to the objectivity and beingness practiced by metaphysics. This work led only to sketching a phenomenology of givenness, phenomena as given, in particular saturated phenomena, including even the erotic phenomenon, in which Saint Augustine did not yet play a part.

It took chance, then, for this necessity to present itself—more exactly, for Saint Augustine to appear suddenly as the privileged interlocutor and, in a sense, inevitable judge, of the project of accessing phenomena irreducible to the objects and beings of metaphysics. This chance, or rather this fortunate occasion, came from the Conseil scientifique de la “Chaire Gilson,” which the Faculty of Philosophy at the Institut Catholique de Paris had set up more than ten years ago, when it did me the great honor of inviting me to deliver the six lectures anticipated for 2004. When it came time to set the theme of this series, I hesitated to take up what had . . .

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