Music played a central role in the thought of existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973). One of the most tantalizing claims he made in a set of conversations with Paul Ricoeur. Employing a geographic metaphor, he claimed that philosophy was the continent of his work while his plays formed the off-shore islands; but what was deepest was music as the water that conjoins the two. One who wishes to understand how he thought of music will find that his philosophical writings contain only a few, quasi-aphoristic, though significantly penetrating things about the nature of music and its relation to his thought. Disappointingly, neither his short “An Essay in Autobiography” of 1947 nor his larger autobiography of 1971, Awakenings, adds much to that beyond a few remarks. But the latter work makes reference to an article, “La musique dans mon vie et mon oeuvre,” a lecture he delivered in Vienna in 1959, that turned out to be a significantly richer source. And if one turns to his bibliography, one discovers that, as a music critic, Marcel published over 100 items on music—including “Musique dans mon vie”! None of them are available in English. Those of greater length and philosophical interest were gathered together, along with several shorter representative pieces, in the work entitled L’esthétique musicale de Gabriel Marcel that appeared in the Présence de Gabriel Marcel series.
In order to enrich and deepen the appreciation of Marcel’s thought in the English-speaking world by following up his understanding of the central role of music in his thought, but also to underscore the central importance of the aesthetic in human experience, we have selected the main articles that appeared in that work for translation here. Marcel complained that (as of 1959) commentators had not paid significant attention to the close connection between music and philosophy. The present text should remedy that.
Stephen Maddux is Associate Professor of French and Robert Wood is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas, Irving, Texas. Among Professor Wood’s previous books are included: Martin Buber’s Ontology: An Analysis of I and Thou(Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1969). A Path Into Metaphysics: Phenomenological, Hermeneutical, and Dialogical Studies (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990). Placing Aesthetics: Studies in the Philosophic Tradition (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1999. Dr. Wood was recipient of the American Library Association’s Outstanding Academic Title Award in 2000.