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Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon

Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, The University of Chicago Press, 2006. (original in French: le phenomène érotique, Figures Grasset, 2003).  

The Erotic Phenomenon goes one step beyond the metaphysics towards what has characterised Marion’s thinking from early on: the substitution of being with that love, which both precedes and generates it. The book comprises six reflections on the ego, just like Descartes’ famous Metaphysical Meditations. However, while the ego cogito is the answer to the need for certainty which distinguishes the human ratio, Marion claims that the ego identifies and discovers itself in the response to a much profounder, more radical question; the question, “Am I loved”, which precedes the need to know. Man is a being who has been catapulted into the world and is in search of reassurance, when faced with the insignificance of his existence, of his being there, his Dasein. The crucial question is indeed not the Hamletian “to be or not to be”, but rather a possible alternative to that type of vanity denounced by Qohèlet. If Descartes finds himself in the consciousness of himself (I think, therefore I am) while in the solitude of his room, Marion’s lover moves towards an other because it is only the response of another being that can give him the certainty that he is desired (the “Here I am!” of the alter ego). The “I” comes from and is confirmed by another being. As the meditations progress and develop, human eros reveals its principle contradictions and limits, apparently leaving Man condemned to facing yet another anxiety. A guarantor is needed to support the finite lovers and their desire for reassurance, in order to sustain that love which, as individuals, they are unable to satisfy; it is the a-dieu (the Farewell and the “to-God”) of one to the other which opens up to a Third.

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