Test Cover Image of:  Negative Certainties

Negative Certainties

Translated by: Stephen E. Lewis
In Negative Certainties, renowned philosopher Jean-Luc Marion challenges some of the most fundamental assumptions we have developed about knowledge: that it is categorical, predicative, and positive. Following Descartes, Kant, and Heidegger, he looks toward our finitude and the limits of our reason. He asks an astonishingly simple—but profoundly provocative—question in order to open up an entirely new way of thinking about knowledge: Isn’t our uncertainty, our finitude and rational limitations, one of the few things we can be certain about?

Marion shows how the assumption of knowledge as positive demands a reductive epistemology that disregards immeasurable or disorderly phenomena. He shows that we have experiences every day that have no identifiable causes or predictable reasons, and that these constitute a very real knowledge—a knowledge of the limits of what can be known. Establishing this “negative certainty,” Marion applies it to four aporias, or issues of certain uncertainty: the definition of man; the nature of God; the unconditionality of the gift; and the unpredictability of events. Translated for the first time into English, Negative Certainties is an invigorating work of epistemological inquiry that will take a central place in Marion’s oeuvre.

Author Information

Jean-Luc Marion, member of the Académie française,is emeritus professor of philosophy at the Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV). He is the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor of Catholic Studies, professor of the philosophy of religions and theology, and professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He also holds the Dominique Dubarle chair at the Institut Catholique of Paris. He is the author of many books, including The Erotic Phenomenon and God without Being, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. Stephen E. Lewis is professor and chair of the English Department at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has translated several works by Jean-Luc Marion.


“Crowned by the Académie Française . . . the philosopher in a bow tie, Jean-Luc Marion, loosens our Borromean knots: the human enigma, the mystery of God, and the unknown of birth as well as death, are so many inexplicable events. Negative Certainties, his latest book, questions the very possibility of these impossibilities.”
— Le Monde, on the French edition

“Marion is one of today’s most important philosophers. . . . If certain knowledge is impossible, must we condemn ourselves to hazardous understandings and skepticism? For Marion, there is a third way, through negative certainty.”
— Libération, on the French edition

Audience: Professional and scholarly;