Former Laureates

Gabriel Marcel

Gabriel Marcel


In 1969 the 500th birthday of Erasmus was commemorated in Rotterdam. The presentation of the Erasmus Prize to Gabriel Marcel and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker in the St Lawrence church marked a highlight of the commemorative celebrations.

‘If goodness and wisdom go hand in hand with a life of study and reflection, that combination can be called Gabriel Marcel.’ With these words the Patron of the Foundation characterized the philosopher Marcel in his laudation. Human contact and charity, which prepare the way to God, are central to Marcel’s philosophy. The roman-catholic Marcel is often called the founder of Christian existentialism, but he himself described his way of thinking as ‘neo-socratism’, or rather, concrete philosophy. This philosophy considers the meaning and the background of human existence, starting from the concrete existence. The relation to one’s God and one’s neighbour were essential to Marcel. An important theme also was the struggle to protect individual subjectivity against its destruction by the materialistic and technological society. His philosophical works include 27 plays – theatre and music have been his great sources of inspiration – and many scholarly works, the best known of which are: Journal métaphysique (1927), Etre et avoir (1935), Le mystère de l’être (1951), Fragments philosophiques (1962), La dignité humaine (1964). Gabriel Marcel has, for more than fifty years, made a highly personal contribution to European philosophy and left an indelible imprint on European cultural life. With his analyses of hope and loyalty, he attempted to give a diagnosis and a therapy for the spiritual pain of his time. Gabriel Marcel was born in Paris in 1889 and died in 1973.

The philosopher Gabriel Marcel offered his Erasmus Prize to the Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne in Paris. This was a foundation that extended support to Eastern European writers, artists and intellectuals by giving grants, organising conferences, sending Western publications, and arranging contacts with publishers in the West. In 1991 the Fondation was taken over by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.


Erasmus Prize reception 1969

The French philosopher Gabriel Marcel enjoys a glass of wine during the Erasmus Prize award ceremony in 1969.

Laudation HRH Prince Bernhard

HRH Prince Bernhard at the award ceremony in 1969.