Jean-Luc Marion

Jean-Luc Marion


region = Western Philosophy
era = Continental Philosophy
color = #B0C4DE
name = Jean-Luc Marion
birth = 1946
school_tradition = Philosophical Theology, Phenomenology
main_interests = Phenomenology, Descartes
influences = René Descartes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Jean Beaufret, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Ferdinand Alquié, Emmanuel Lévinas, Étienne Gilson, Jean Daniélou, Hans Urs von Balthasar
notable_ideas = saturated phenomenon

Jean-Luc Marion (born 1946) is among the best-known living philosophers in France, former student of Jacques Derrida and one of the leading Catholic thinkers of modern times. Marion's take on the postmodern is richly enhanced by his expertise in patristic and mystical theology, phenomenology, and modern philosophy. [Horner, Robyn. Jean-Luc Marion: a Theo-Logical Introduction. Burlington: Ashgate, 2005.] Although much of his academic work has dealt with Descartes and phenomenologists like Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl, it is rather his explicitly religious works that have garnered much recent attention. "God Without Being", for example, is concerned predominantly with an analysis of idolatry, a theme strongly linked in Marion's work with love and the gift, which is a concept also explored at length by Derrida. To a certain extent, Marion also takes up the mantle of Emmanuel Levinas in directing our thought beyond being. There is a widespread but possibly dubious designation of Jean-Luc Marion as a leading contributor to postmodern theology.


Marion was born in Meudon, France, in 1946. In 1970, he married a school-teacher, Corinne Nicolas, and has two sons. Marion studied at the University of Nanterre (now the University Paris X – Nanterre) and the and then did graduate work in philosophy from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he studied with Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser. At the same time, Marion's deep interest in theology was privately cultivated under the personal influence of theologians such as Louis Bouyer, Jean Daniélou, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. After receiving his doctorate in 1980, he began teaching at the University of Poitiers. From there he moved to become the Director of Philosophy at the University Paris X – Nanterre. In 1996 he became Director of Philosophy at the University of Paris IV (). He is currently the John Nuveen Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School; also in the Department of Philosophy and the Committee on Social Thought at the same university. [Horner, Robyn. Jean-Luc Marion: a Theo-Logical Introduction. Burlington: Ashgate, 2005.]

Notable ideas

According to John D. Caputo, Marion "is famous for the idea of what he calls the “saturated phenomenon,” which is inspired by his study of Christian Neoplatonic mystical theologians.... [The idea that] there are phenomena of such overwhelming givenness or overflowing fulfillment that the intentional acts aimed at these phenomena are overrun, flooded—or saturated." [Caputo, John D. (2007). 'Marion, Jean-Luc. The Erotic Phenomenon. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis' Book review in "Ethics" 118 (1): 164.]

The Intentionality of Love

The fourth section of Marion's work "Prolegomena to Charity" is entitled "The Intentionality of Love" and primarily concerns Intentionality and Phenomenology. Influenced by (and dedicated to) the French philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas, Marion explores the human idea of love and its lack of definition: "We live with love as if we knew what it was about. But as soon as we try to define it, or at least approach it with concepts, it draws away from us." [Marion, Jean-Luc. Prolegomena to Charity. Trans. Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham UP, 2002.] He begins by explaining the essence of consciousness and its "lived experiences." Paradoxically, the consciousness concerns itself with objects transcendent and exterior to itself, objects irreducible to consciousness, but can only comprehend its 'interpretation' of the object; the reality of the object arises from consciousness alone. Thus the problem with love is that to love another is to love one's own idea of another, or the "lived experiences" that arise in the consciousness from the "chance cause" of another: "I must, then, name this love "my" love, since it would not fascinate me as my idol if, first, it did not render to me, like an unseen mirror, the image of myself. Love, loved for itself, inevitably ends as self-love, in the phenomenological figure of self-idolatry." [Marion, Jean-Luc. Prolegomena to Charity. Trans. Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham UP, 2002.] Marion believes intentionality is the solution to this problem, and explores the difference between the "I" who intentionally sees objects and the "me" who is intentionally seen by a counter-consciousness, an other, whether the "me" likes it or not. Marion defines an other by its invisibility; one can see objects through intentionality, but in the invisibility of the other, one is seen. Marion explains this invisibility using the pupil: "Even for a gaze aiming objectively, the pupil remains a living refutation of objectivity, an irremediable denial of the object; here for the first time, in the very midst of the visible, there is nothing to see, except an invisible and untargetable gaze, for the first time, sees an invisible gaze that sees it." [Marion, Jean-Luc. Prolegomena to Charity. Trans. Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham UP, 2002.] Love, then, when freed from intentionality, is the weight of this other's invisible gaze upon one's own, the cross of one's own gaze and the other's and the "unsubstitutability" of the other. Love is to "render oneself there in an unconditional other gaze must respond to the ecstasy of "this particular" other exposed in his gaze." Perhaps in allusion to a theological argument, Marion concludes that this type of surrender "requires faith." [Marion, Jean-Luc. Prolegomena to Charity. Trans. Stephen E. Lewis. New York: Fordham UP, 2002.]

Works in English

*"God Without Being", University of Chicago Press, 1991.
*"Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger and Phenomenology", Northwestern University Press, 1998.
*"Cartesian Questions: Method and Metaphysics", University of Chicago Press, 1999.
*"On Descartes' Metaphysical Prism: The Constitution and the Limits of Onto-theo-logy in Cartesian Thought", University of Chicago Press, 1999.
*"The Idol and Distance: Five Studies", Fordham University Press, 2001.
*"Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness", Stanford University Press, 2002.
*"In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena", Fordham University Press, 2002.
*"Prolegomena to Charity", Fordham University Press, 2002.
*"The Crossing of the Visible", Stanford University Press, 2004.
*"The Erotic Phenomenon: Six Meditations", University of Chicago Press, 2006.
*"On the Ego and on God", Fordham University Press, 2007.
*"Descartes' Grey Ontology: Cartesian Science and Aristotelian Thought in the" Regulae, St. Augustine's Press, 2008.
*"The Visible and the Revealed", Fordham University Press, 2008.
*"Descartes' White Theology", Saint Augustine's Press, Translation in process.

Books in English on Marion

*"Givenness and God: Questions of Jean-Luc Marion", Ian Leask and Eoin G. Cassidy, eds., Fordham University Press, 2005
*"Jean-Luc Marion: A" Theo"-logical Introduction", Robyn Horner, Ashgate, 2005.
*"Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion", edited by Kevin Hart, University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.
*"Reading Jean-Luc Marion:Exceeding Metaphysics", Christina M. Gschwandtner, Indiana University Press, 2007.

Books in French on Marion

*Dossier paru dans le numéro 16 de la revue "Nunc", Ed. de Corlevour, Bruxelles, septembre 2008. []


ee also

*Continental philosophy
*Postmodern Christianity
*Radical orthodoxy
*Rational mysticism

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