While humanists have pondered the subject of love to the point of obsessiveness, philosophers have steadfastly ignored it. The word philosophy means “love of wisdom,” but the absence of love from philosophical discourse is curiously glaring. In The Erotic Phenomenon, Jean-Luc Marion attends to this dearth with an inquiry into the concept of love itself.
Marion begins with a critique of Descartes’ equation of the ego’s ability to doubt with the certainty that one exists. We encounter love, he says, when we first step forward as a lover: I love therefore I am, and my love is the reason I care whether I exist or not. This philosophical base allows Marion to probe several manifestations of love and its variations, including carnal excitement, self-hate, lying and perversion, fidelity, the generation of children, and the love of God. Throughout, Marion stresses that all erotic phenomena stem not from the ego as popularly understood but instead from love.
“Marion is doing the most interesting work in phenomenology today. . . . This is not a book about other books about love. It is patiently and carefully attentive to ‘the things themselves,’ and reads as an analysis that is at once rigorous and lyrical—attuned to both the concept and the caress.”—Choice “Marion's avowed topic is the erotic phenomenon, and his method is phenomenology. He is a master of that method, and the result is an analysis of erotic love of unparalleled precision and depth. The depiction he gives of the erotic phenomenon is fundamentally convincing, and readers will find their own loves illuminated and questioned.”—Commonweal