Gabriel Marcel's critique of the Thomist proofs for God's existence
On the surface, Gabriel Marcel and Thomas Aquinas are two philosophers who have a great deal in common: both are Catholic, both reflect at length on being, both try to discover whether God is a reality. Yet, beyond these similarities lie some real and serious disagreements between the two men. The starkest illustration of the differences lies in their approach to knowledge of God. Whereas Thomas believes in the power of human reason to arrive at knowledge of whether God exists, Marcel is critical of an approach to God which purports to be "demonstrative." Peppered throughout Marcel's major philosophical works (Journal metaphysique, Etre et avoir, Mystere de l'etre, to name a few), are criticisms and outright rejection of what Marcel understands to be Aquinas' notion of being and his demonstration of God's existence. The goal of this study is not to examine the similarities between Marcel and Aquinas on the question of God's existence, nor is it to examine all of the serious conflicts between the two men regarding this question. Rather, this study tries to do what none has yet done in the Aquinas-Marcel dialogue: it asks precisely what Marcel sees in Thomas' approach to being and to God that inspires him to reject it. Marcel does ultimately reject a Thomist approach to knowledge of God. Why? What, precisely, is it in Thomas' philosophy that Marcel is sure cannot be reconciled with his own?Is the Thomism Marcel rejects, in fact, the real Aquinas as found in his actual texts? No commentator has yet specifically addressed this point; this study attempts just that, to examine the differences between Marcel and Aquinas on the question of what counts as a proper "proof," the different notions each has of causality, Marcel's conscious divergence from Aquinas' definition of being, and its importance in his rejection of Thomas' route to knowledge of God. In reflecting on points such as these, this study questions both the source of such disagreement, and the impact it has on any possible rapprochement between these two men.
Anne Mercedes Maloney,
"Gabriel Marcel's critique of the Thomist proofs for God's existence"
(January 1, 1988).
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