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The Erotic Phenomenon

While humanists have pondered the subject of love to the point of obsessiveness, philosophers have steadfastly ignored it. One might wonder whether the discipline of philosophy even recognizes love. The word philosophy means “love of wisdom,” but the absence of love from philosophical discourse is curiously glaring. So where did the love go? In The Erotic Phenomenon, Jean-Luc Marion asks this fundamental question of philosophy, while reviving inquiry into the concept of love itself.

Marion begins his profound and personal book with a critique of Descartes’ equation of the ego’s ability to doubt with the certainty that one exists—“I think, therefore I am”—arguing that this is worse than vain. We encounter being, he says, when we first experience love: I am loved, therefore I am; and this 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, including sentimentality, pornography, and even boasts about one’s sexual conquests, stem not from the ego as popularly understood but instead from love.

A thoroughly enlightening and captivating philosophical investigation of a strangely neglected subject, The Erotic Phenomenon is certain to initiate feverish new dialogue about the philosophical meanings of that most desirable and mysterious of all concepts—love.


“In attempting to place love at the center of things, Jean-Luc Marion wishes to escape the reign of heartless reason.”

Roger Pol-Droit | Le Monde

“A superb philosophical reflection on love. . . . Here, finally, is a book that explores the intimate landscape of each one of us . . . . [Marion] deserves our complete attention. Let’s give it to him.”--L’Express


The Erotic Phenomenon is a philosophical act of love. Not a discourse of love, nor one on love, but an act of love, an act that makes love, that makes it happen, that ‘conceives’ it.”--Liberation



"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."

Paul J. Griffiths | Commonweal

“Marion is doing the most interesting work in phenomenology today. . . . This work carries on the true spirit of phenomenology: 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.”


"I now add the writings of Jean-Luc Marion to those whose writings enhance the analyst’s understandings of the psychoanalytic encounter by bringing to the forefront a theoretical frame that further illuminates the internal world of the self and its relational others. . . . The Erotic Phenomenon is strongly recommended to a diverse humanistic audience that includes the theologian, academician, and practitioner."

Annie Lee Jones | PsycCritiques

"The book is what we have come to expect from Marion: challenging, subtle and nuanced analyses, dassling formulations, . . a provocative and original philosophical genius."

John D. Caputo | Ethics

"For readers who will patiently bring it into perspective before thebackground of Marion’s philosophy, the book will open a stunningly original and provocative view of love."

Sandra Wynands | Christianity and Literature

Table of Contents

Translator’s Acknowledgments
The Silence of Love

Concerning a Radical Reduction
 1. Doubting Certainty
 2. "What’s the Use?"
 3. The Erotic Reduction
 4. The World According to Vanity
 5. Space
 6. Time
 7. Ipseity

Concerning Every Man for Himself, and His Self-Hatred
 8. Separation and Contradiction
 9. The Impossibility of a Love of Self
 10. The Illusion of Persevering in One’s Being
 11. Whether I Will It or Not
 12. Self-Hatred
 13. The Passage to Vengeance
 14. The Aporia of Assurance

Concerning the Lover, and His Advance
 15. Reducing Reciprocity
 16. Pure Assurance
 17. The Principle of Insufficient Reason
 18. The Advance
 19. Freedom as Intuition
 20. Signification as Face
 21. Signification as Oath

Concerning the Flesh, and Its Arousal
 22. Individuality
 23. My Flesh, and the Other’s
 24. Eroticization as Far as the Face
 25. To Enjoy
 26. Suspension
 27. The Automaton and Finitude
 28. Words for Saying Nothing

Concerning Lying and Truthfulness
 29. The Naturalized Person
 30. The Gap and Deception
 31. Abduction and Perversion
 32. The Street of Darkened Faces
 33. Jealousy’s Honor
 34. Hatred’s Way
 35. Free Eroticization

Concerning the Third Party, and Its Arrival
 36. Faithfulness as Erotic Temporality
 37. The Ultimate Anticipatory Resolution
 38. The Advent of the Third Party
 39. The Child, or the Third Party on the Point of Leaving
 40. The Adieu, or the Eschatological Third Party
 41. Even Oneself
 42. The One Way

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