Degrees of Givenness: On Saturation in Jean-Luc Marion

Degrees of Givenness: On Saturation in Jean-Luc Marion

Degrees of Givenness: On Saturation in Jean-Luc Marion

Degrees of Givenness: On Saturation in Jean-Luc Marion

Synopsis

The philosophical work of Jean-Luc Marion has opened new ways of speaking about religious convictions and experiences. In this exploration of Marion's philosophy and theology, Christina M. Gschwandtner presents a comprehensive and critical analysis of the ideas of saturated phenomena and the phenomenology of givenness. She claims that these phenomena do not always appear in the excessive mode that Marion describes and suggests instead that we consider degrees of saturation. Gschwandtner covers major themes in Marion's work--the historical event, art, nature, love, gift and sacrifice, prayer, and the Eucharist. She works within the phenomenology of givenness, but suggests that Marion himself has not considered important aspects of his philosophy.

Excerpt

In this book I consider Jean-Luc Marion’s proposal for a phenomenology of givenness and saturated phenomena, asserting a greater need for “degrees” of givenness and saturation. I discuss a variety of phenomena that Marion identifies as saturated, but also argue for other phenomena as saturated that Marion does not consider in his proposal, especially phenomena of nature. I move from some of the phenomena Marion identifies as “simply” saturated (event, idol, flesh, icon) to those he sees as “doubly” saturated, namely the phenomenon of revelation or religious phenomena. Throughout I contend that all these phenomena require an account of degrees of saturation, of degrees of “negative certainties,” and especially a stronger role for hermeneutic preparation than Marion so far admits. The introduction sets the context by briefly laying out Marion’s phenomenological project of givenness, explaining its most important terminology, such as those of the saturated phenomenon and negative certainty, and highlighting some of its central difficulties, especially those surrounding the role of hermeneutics. It discusses the ways in which Marion does or does not allow for degrees of givenness and considers why he focuses so strongly on the most excessive manifestations of phenomena. The introduction hence provides the background for understanding Marion’s phenomenology but also articulates the contribution this particular study will make to that project. Although this book is critical of various aspects of Marion’s thought, it certainly does not constitute a rejection of Marion’s project per se; rather, it works within his phenomenology of givenness by suggesting important aspects that have not been explicitly considered by Marion himself but are not therefore incompatible with his project.

Chapter 1 focuses on historical events. Marion presents historical events as overwhelming encounters to which no historical account can ever do justice. They are excessive in quantity, so overwhelming that they cannot be “counted.” He includes cultural and more personal events, such as a public lecture or a friendship. Marion admits that an “endless hermeneutics” is necessary in their regard because no account ever gives the full picture. Yet Marion says little about how distinguishing between accounts is possible, occasionally giving the impression that critical historical research is meaningless and futile. I show that he does not acknowledge that we might come to understand an event better after researching it . . .

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