Before the text: Phenomenology and revelation

Adam John Graves, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores the relationship between phenomenology and revelation in the work of three major figures in twentieth-century continental philosophy: namely, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Luc Marion and Paul Ricoeur. Why have these leading phenomenologists insisted on employing the term revelation within their 'strictly' philosophical texts? How has this appropriation of an explicitly theological term altered the phenomenological enterprise itself—its methods, its aims, its self-understanding? How has phenomenological discourse, in turn, transformed the meaning of revelation? By focusing on the question of revelation and its deployment within phenomenological discourse, this work seeks to shed new light on what is now commonly referred to as the "theological turn" in phenomenology and, more generally, on the emergence of religious motifs within recent continental philosophy as a whole. Furthermore, it seeks to contribute to the understanding of the recent history of the concept of revelation itself. After a brief introduction to the so-called theological turn in phenomenology, it is argued that two very different manners of treating the phenomenon of revelation have emerged within the phenomenological movement (Chapter 1). The dominant approach (exhibited in the thought of the early Heidegger and throughout Marion's philosophical texts) is chiefly concerned with disclosing the fundamental structures of, or fundamental conditions for, any possible revelation. Chapters 2 and 3 are comprised of a series of close readings of Heidegger and Marion, where it is argued that their "radical" approach leads to a merely formal conception of revelation—one that is purged of its material contents and extricated from the historical and textual milieu of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Chapter 4 turns to the work of Ricoeur, whose "hermeneutical" phenomenology is presented as an important alternative to the "radical" approach of Heidegger and Marion. By incorporating a hermeneutical moment into his phenomenological enterprise, Ricoeur's work offers a conception of revelation that is attuned to its historical and textual character.

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Recommended Citation

Graves, Adam John, "Before the text: Phenomenology and revelation" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271758.