Expérience et empathie chez Bernard de Clairvaux

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Experience and empathy in the thought of Bernard of Clairvaux Experience and empathy define two great quests of contemporary phenomenology, one in the thought of Edmond Husserl, the other in the thought of Max Scheler. In an altogether different order and according to an altogether different perspective, Bernard of Clairvaux appears here as the pioneer: in his conceptualization of experientia on the one hand and his reflection upon compassio on the other. Far from pursuing a negative denunciation of metaphysics, we will attempt to show here how, positively in this instance, metaphysics opens upon another « type of discourse » and displays the « possibles » to be reexamined today. Supported by a rereading of the Sermons on the Canticle and the Treatise on the Love of God, the application of the « field of experience », the novelty of « language of affect », and man’s amorous empathy » with God, thus constitute the different moments of a possible philosophical rediscovery of Cistercian mysticism for our time.

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This article examines Heidegger’s appropriation of ideas of Bernard of Clairvaux in the note "Zu den Sermons Bernardi in Canticum Canticorum (Serm III.)" (Heidegger, 1995, p. 334-337), which is part of other notes and sketches in a never presented Vorlesung entitled "Philosophical foundations of medieval mysticism (1918-1919)" (Heidegger, 1995). Throughout my analysis I highlight three points, based on the initial formula "Today we read in the book of experience". This formula is paraphrased by Heidegger as follows: "Today we want to move ourselves in the field of personal experience in a comprehensive way, return to the sphere of living itself and perceive the revelation of conscience itself." Therefore, first I emphasize the initial formula as an experiential field that the book opens: to read (legere) is no longer to decipher, but moving oneself, collecting, and even being affected. Second, based on the appropriation of the Christology of Bernard of Clairvaux, I show how Heidegger points to a "fundamental experience" in the sense that, even considering that the religious experience of the Cistercian mystic is centered on the figure of Christ celebrated in the monastic liturgy, the unveiled Christian religion is a life that is fundamentally more intense and richer in living experiences and lived phenomena. Finally, and in third place, I highlight a certain "inviolability" of religious experience in Bernard of Clairvaux in the sense of absolute autonomy and independence, so that no external authority, not even ecclesiastic authority, can determine meaning based on a body of doctrine foreign to lived experience. To illuminate the notes on the cancelled Vorlesung, my analysis turns to other lectures Heidegger gave at the University of Freiburg (1919-1923). © 2016, Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). All rights reserved.
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