Professor Emeritus Université de Poitiers
"Approaches to God in the Philosophy of Jean Luc Marion"
Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 7:30pm
Nau Hall 342 (New South Lawn)
Co-sponsored by: The Department of Religious Studies,
The St. Anselm Institute for Catholic Thought, and The Office of International Programs
Before the new South Lawn buildings at the University of Virginia even received their official dedications, their value was on full display on October 19 when visiting French philosopher Miklos Veto cheerfully shepherded a standing room only gathering of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and local community members through the complex yet celebrated philosophical-theological writings of French philosopher Jean Luc Marion. Following the great theological turn in French phenomenology, Marion aspires, according to Veto, to bring philosophical clarity to our thinking about God's existence and essence. Rather than constraining God's essence merely to the idea of Being--an idea that necessarily self declares and affirms its own limits--Marion reveals how the sacrificial giving and emptying qualities of Love necessarily realize a transcendent fullness beyond itself. Hence, thinking about God as both Love and beyond Being liberates us to understand God as beyond the categories of human thought, even beyond the deepest and most profound phenomenological category of Being.
The opening of this path of thought also reveals how God is radically free to become that which He is not and still remain completely who He is: hence, the Incarnation (when God became man), the Eucharist (where God is revealed as truly present), the Crucifixion (when God as man really dies), and the Resurrection (when God triumphs over Death) make manifest in wholly new ways a glorious yet still mysterious reality that is beyond all possible realities conceivable by the human mind. Veto, the faithful guide, assured his audience that to confess we recognize we cannot describe the incomprehensibility of God's essence is not a failure, but a recognition of a presence beyond the limits of human intelligence. Moreover, Veto charitably noted that even St. Anselm--the great proponent of a rational proof of God's existence--concluded we can only rationally
come to understand God's incomprehensibility. A fitting endnote to an evening dedicated not to a building but to the larger purpose of deep and serious thinking with others about all things thinkable and Unthinkable. Little wonder Veto's South Lawn talk moved many in the audience to smile with him.
Miklos Veto's biography is as interesting and inspiring as his Nau Hall talk was on Oct. 19. Veto is a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, who experienced a religious conversion as a teenager and became a Roman Catholic. While studying law at the University of Szeged in Hungary, he participated as a pamphleteer and speech writer in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Communist rule. When the Soviets brutally crushed the revolution, he escaped to a refugee camp in Yugoslavia and then to Paris, where he completed his studies at the Sorbonne. He earned a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford, where he focused on the ethics of Simone Weil, the topic of his first book. He has written and edited many works on modern philosophy and religion since then. In 2008, he was elected to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and in 2009 to the Académie Catholique de France.