Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of the Enlightenment Revisited

By Lieven Boeve; Joeri Schrijvers et al. | Go to book overview

Marion on Miracles
Of Insufficient Reason and a New Enlightenment

Joeri Schrijvers


Introduction

This essay is nothing more than an attempt to raise a question, for in contemporary philosophy we are witnessing what one might call, especially seen from the viewpoint of the Enlightenment, a miraculous return of the miracle. Whereas the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries is famous for its critique of miracles, formerly proofs of divine revelation, now, when philosophy has turned unexpectedly to religion, again the theme, or at least the vocabulary, of the miracle has entered philosophical discourse as well. Immediately, the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and that of Jean-Luc Marion come to mind. Levinas has, in several instances, used the term miracle to refer to the alterity of the Other,1 but it is Marion who seems particularly eager not to exclude the miracle from philosophy's concerns, since, indeed, the saturated phenomenon opens the frontiers of phenomenology to such an extent that it would be simply irrational not to include a phenomenology of theological phenomena. Marion asserts that his phenomenology of givenness offers the opportunity to read the data of Revelation (i.e. the scriptures) as simple and plain 'phenomena.' For Marion, miracles are no longer to be conceived of as exceptions to ordinary phenomena; it is rather the other way around: ordinary phenomena give themselves from themselves and as themselves, in short, they are events and, supposedly, "the event can take the figure of the miracle" (Marion 2002a: 53). We will limit ourselves here, then, to the thought of Marion.

One will object that the miracle of the saturated phenomenon has nothing to do with the well-known definition of the miracle, according to which a miracle contradicts the laws of nature. However, my focus here is not on the 'laws of nature,' or on whatever contradicts them, but

1 See Levinas 2002a: 89, "the miracle of creation," and especially 97,
""a"terity is possible only as a miraculous abundance." See also Levinas 2002b:
44, ""s"ubstitution, that miracle of ethics…"

-292-

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