Patience, hope, and love – Gabriel Marcel

“If we introduce the element of patience into non-acceptance we at once come very much nearer to hope. It seems then that there exists a secret and rarely discovered connection between the way in which the ego is either centred or not centred in itself, and its reaction to the duration of time, or more precisely to the temporal order, that is to say to the fact that change is possible in reality. A simple expression borrowed from everyday language is a help here: to take one’s time. He who stiffens and rebels does not know how to take his time. What exactly do these words, so foreign to the vocabulary of technical philosophy, mean? “Take your time”, an examiner would say, for example, to a flurried candidate. That means, do not force the personal rhythm, the proper cadence of your reflection, or even of your memory, for if you do you will spoil your chances, you will be likely to say at random the first words which come into your head. It may seem that we have wandered very far from hope in the strict sense of the word. I do not think so, and this how I am going to try to explain the analogy, or more exactly, perhaps, the secret affinity between hope and relaxation. Does not he who hopes, and, as we have seen, has to contend with a certain trail comparable to a form of captivity, tend to treat this trial and to proceed in regard to it as he who is patient towards himself treats his inexperience young ego, the ego which needs educating and controlling. Above all he never lets it contract but, on the other hand, he does not allow it to kick over the traces* or take control prematurely or unwarrantably. From this point of view, hope means first accepting the trial as an integral part of the self, but while so doing it considers it as destined to be absorbed and transmuted by the inner works of a certain creative process.

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Further back I spoke of patience with oneself; perhaps it is still more instructive now to consider patience with others. This most certainly consists in never hustling or being rough with another person, more exactly, in never trying to substitute our won rhythm for his by violence. Neither should the other person be treated as though he lacked an autonomous rhythm, and could accordingly be force or bent to suit us. Let us say positively this time that it consists in placing our confidence in a certain process of growth and development. To give one’s confidence does not merely mean that one makes an act of theoretical acceptance with no idea of intervention, for that would, in fact, be to abandon the other purely and simply to himself. No, to have confidence here seems to mean to embrace this process, in a sense, so that we promote it from within. Patience seems, then, to suggest a certain temporal pluralism, a certain pluralisation of the self in time. It is radically opposed to the act by which I despair of the other person, declaring that he is good for nothing, or that he will never understand anything, or that he is incurable. That is, of course, the same despair which makes me proclaim that I shall never be cured, that I shall never see the end of my captivity, etc. It seems, strangely enough, that in hoping, I develop in connection with the event, and perhaps above all through what it makes of me, a type of relationship, a kind of intimacy comparable to that which I have with the other person when I am patient with him. Perhaps we might go so far as to speak here of a certain domesticating of circumstances, which might otherwise, if we allowed them to get the better of us, fright us into accepting them as a fatum. If we look no further than its etymological meaning, patience appears to be just a simple letting things alone, or allowing them to take their course, but if we take the analysis a little further we find that such non-interference is of a higher order than indifference and implies a subtle respect for the other person’s need of time to preserve his vital rhythm, so that it tends to exercises a transforming influence upon him which is comparable to that which sometimes rewards love. It should moreover be shown how here and there pure causality is utterly left behind. Of course patience can easily be degraded; it can become mere weakness, or mere complacency, precisely in so far as it betrays the principle of charity which should animate it.”

* “The idiom ‘kick over the traces’ goes back at least to the 1800s and refers to the straps that attach a horse, oxen or other draft animal to the wagon it is pulling, known as traces. If an animal kicks over the traces, it steps over these leather straps. This makes it impossible for the driver to control the animal” – h/t http://www.grammarist.com

Marcel, Gabriel. Homo Viator: Introduction to the Metaphysic of Hope. USA: Harper Torch Book, 1965, pgs 39-40.

Anger and its Human Responses – A comparative study of Aristotle and Dante

Dante’s Commedia is often referred to as “the Summa in verse”[i] due to the influence of Thomas Aquinas upon Dante’s theological, philosophical, and moral formation. Aquinas is himself influenced by Aristotle, whom he regards as “The Philosopher.” Dante was undoubtedly familiar with Aristotle.[ii] Thus, by way of Aquinas’ influence upon Dante, and Dante’s own knowledge of Aristotle, we can see elements of Aristotelian thought put into verse, albeit Aristotelian thought strengthened and refined by the Christian faith of Aquinas and Dante. This essay intends to explore Aristotle’s understanding of the varied human responses to anger and then see how Dante’s poetic imagery expresses or expands upon Aristotle’s thinking. This will be done by way of exegesis and comparison of Aristotle and Dante’s work while utilizing Thomas’ commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics as the link. It is hoped that Aristotle and Dante’s unique insights may shed mutual light upon one another.

 

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Before we look at the specific passage in the Ethics it is necessary to express concisely how the passage is framed within Aristotle’s entire work. Aristotle begins the Ethics by stating, “Every art [τέχνη – “art, skill, cunning of hand”][iii] and every investigation [μέθοδος – “pursuit of knowledge, investigation”][iv], and likewise every practical pursuit [πρᾶξις – “doing”][v] or undertaking [προαίρεσις – “purpose, resolution”][vi], seems to aim at some good: hence it has been well said that the Good is That at which all things aim.”[vii] In the Ethics Aristotle explores what this means in all its diversity. There are a variety of Goods at which we aim, as well as a hierarchy amongst the Goods. There is a lack of understanding regarding what the universal conception of the Good is, and what the Good is in relation to particulars. Also, there is the possibility of a rejection of the Good. For humans, the Good is different from that which is the Good for plants or animals, and this is due to our specific difference. The specific difference is our capacity to reason.[viii] This specific difference defines and clarifies the specific function or aim of human life. To live in a good way, or to live exercising our capacity to reason in a good way, means to live virtuously (ἀρετή – “goodness, excellence, of any kind”).[ix] If humans live in this way consistently and fully we will be happy (εὐδαιμονία – “true, full happiness”).[x]

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The Realization of Personality

“The personality is only realized in the act by which it tends to become incarnate (in a book, for instance, or an action or in a complete life), but at the same time it is of its very essence never to fix itself or crystallize itself finally in this particular incarnation. Why? Because it participates in the inexhaustible fulness of the being from which it emanates. There lies the deep reason for which it is impossible to think of personality or the personal order without at the same time thinking of that which reaches beyond them both, a supra-personal reality, presiding over all their initiative, which is both are beginning in their end”

Marcel, Gabriel. Homo Viator: Introduction to the Metaphysic of Hope. USA: Harper Torch Book, 1965, p. 26.