Gabriel Honoré Marcel

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Marcel, Gabriel Honoré


Born Dec., 7, 1889, in Paris; died there Oct. 9, 1973. French philosopher, playwright, and literary critic; founder of Catholic existentialism. Son of a diplomat.

Marcel graduated from the Sorbonne and became a teacher of philosophy. In his youth he was influenced by H. Bergson, L. Brunschvicg, and J. Royce. In 1929, under the influence of F. Mauriac, he converted to Catholicism. After existentialism was condemned by a papal encyclical (1950), he called his philosophy Neosocratism or Christian Socratism. He was the author of dramas and a large number of works on philosophy, theater, music, and literary criticism. In 1952 he became a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

Breaking with the tradition of Catholic Scholasticism represented by Thomism, Marcel considered any rational validation of religion to be impossible. His attention was focused on the problem of being, refracted through individual experience, and the existence of the individual man. In his basic work Being and Having (1935), Marcel makes a sharp distinction between the world of “objectivity,” dissociated from the physical world, and the world of “existence,” where the dualism of subject and object is overcome and all relations with the world are accepted as personal. In this regard, reality for Marcel is split into the authentic world of being and the nonauthentic world of possession. On the epistemological level Marcel opposes “mystery” (intuitive, emotional-ethical comprehension) to the “problem” (abstract rational knowledge). Religious and moral conflicts constitute the basis of the majority of Marcel’s dramas (Disrupted World, 1933; Thirst, 1938; Emissary, 1945; Rome Is No Longer in Rome, 1951). Marcel’s social views are characterized by romantic idealization of patriarchal relationships of the Middle Ages, bitter criticism of technology as a “broken world” that turns man into a thing, and rejection of any sociopolitical actions of the masses. On the whole, Marcel’s philosophy reflects the crisis of bourgeois consciousness and culture.


Journal métaphysique. Paris, 1927.
Eire et avoir. Paris, 1935.
Homo viator, Paris [1944].
Le Mystere de Vetre, 2 vols. Paris, 1951.
Les Hommes contre l’humain. Paris, 1951.
Rome n’est plus dans Rome. Paris, 1951.
L ’Homme problematique. Paris [1955].
Présence et immortalite. Paris, 1959.
L’heure thedtrale. Paris, 1959.
Essai de philosophic concrete. Paris, 1967.


Tavrizian, G. M. “Etika ekzistentsializma i khristianskaia moral’.” In the collection Sovremennyi ekzistentsializm. Moscow, 1966.
Existentialisme chretien: G. Marcel. Paris, 1947.
Chenu, J. Le Théătre de G. Marcel et sa signification métaphysique. Paris, 1948.
Troisfontaines, R. De /’Existence a Vetre, 2 vols. Namur [1953].
Sottiaux, E. G. Marcel, philosophe et dramaturge. Louvain, 1956.
Gallagher, K. T. The Philosophy of G. Marcel New York, 1962.
Widmer, C. G. Marcel et la theisme existentielle. Paris, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Among them, French philosopher, playwright, and musician Gabriel Honore Marcel (1889-1973) is concerned with the environment created by means of communication to and from each person within the human encounter.