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Jacques Maritain — , French philosopher and political thinker, was one of the principal exponents of Thomism in the twentieth century and an influential interpreter of the thought of St Thomas Aquinas. Jacques Maritain was born on November 18, in Paris. He was initially attracted to the philosophy of Spinoza. Both were struck by the spiritual aridity of French intellectual life and made a vow to commit suicide within a year should they not find some answer to the apparent meaninglessness of life.

They returned to France in the summer of , and it was at this time that the Maritains explicitly abandoned bergsonisme and Jacques began an intensive study of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

He became full Professor in and, in , was appointed to the Chair of Logic and Cosmology, which he held until In his early philosophical work e. Following brief service in the first world war, Maritain returned to teaching and research. The focus of his philosophical work continued to be the defense of Thomist and, more generally, Catholic thought e. Maritain et D. Lallement [] , but Maritain also authored some introductory philosophical texts e.

Nevertheless, encouraged through his friendships with the Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdiaev beginning in and Emmanuel Mounier from , Maritain began to develop the principles of a liberal Christian humanism and defense of natural rights.

From the early s Maritain was an established figure in Catholic thought. Following his lectures in Toronto at the beginning of , he moved to New York. With the occupation of France by the German military in June , the Maritains decided not to return to France; Jacques taught at Columbia University —44 as well as at Princeton — While in the United States during the war, Maritain was active in the war effort, recording broadcasts destined for occupied France and contributing to the Voice of America.

He continued to lecture and publish on a wide range of subjects—not only in political philosophy, but in aesthetics e. Following the liberation of France in the summer of , he was named French ambassador to the Holy See, serving until , but was also a member of and, for a time, Head of the French delegation to UNESCO, and was importantly involved in the promotion and, indirectly, in the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights During this time, in addition to his work in political philosophy cf.

In , at the age of seventy, Maritain retired from Princeton, but continued living and periodically lecturing there as Professor Emeritus. During this time he wrote a number of books, the best-known of which was Le paysan de la Garonne a work sharply critical of post-Vatican Council reforms , published in late In , he petitioned to join the order, and died in Toulouse on April 28, While his turn to Catholicism was largely due to personal reasons and to the influence of friends, his intellectual itinerary and his defense of Catholic thought and Thomistic philosophy were undoubtedly determined by events affecting his adopted church.

One such series of events was the attack on principally Catholic religious organisations by secular and humanist forces within the French state in the early twentieth century, culminating in a number of laws affecting the taxation and ownership of church property and the place of religion in public affairs.

Another, at about the same time, were those reflecting the tensions within Catholicism—particularly in France—in reaction to theological modernism. Further, the major philosophical traditions in France were seen as incompatible with Catholic theology. Given this turmoil, there was a call for a defence of the philosophies and the theological teachings of the Catholic Church.

Following Aquinas, Maritain holds that metaphysics deals with being as being ens inquantum ens , i. Again, in answer to the problem of unity and plurality—e. The way in which he does so distinguishes him from several of the other leading twentieth-century Thomists, such as Gilson and Fabro Contat It is because of this difference in object that Maritain distinguishes as he notes in his epistemology and his philosophy of nature, discussed below among the activities of the empirical scientist, the mathematician, the philosopher, the theologian, and the mystic.

It is a very simple sight, superior to any discursive reasoning or demonstration [… of] a reality which it touches and which takes hold of it; Preface to Metaphysics , [ 50—51]. Maritain claims that this intuition of being is something which escaped Kant [ 48] and many subsequent philosophers until, perhaps, the arrival of the existentialists.

There are approaches that one may adopt in order to acquire this grasp or intuition, but there is no method that one may follow that definitely produces it. This grasp may, for example, be acquired by focusing on something real and then reflecting on what lies behind it. Maritain believes that such an emphasis is characteristic of any consistent Thomism;. What distinguishes authentic Thomism … is precisely the primacy which [it] accords to existence and the intuition of existential being.

It stands against the position of his contemporaries who abandoned talk of natures or essences or of their intelligibility, but also against those who imagine that essences were created and then came to exist. As one has the intuition of being and pursues this investigation into being, one is led into the traditional questions of metaphysics and natural theology.

There are, Maritain holds, four basic principles of metaphysics: the principles of identity, of sufficient reason, of efficient causality, and of finality i. Though the truth or the applicability of these principles does not admit of direct proof, they are consistently confirmed by experience and, Maritain holds, cannot be denied without contradiction Preface to Metaphysics , [ 90].

Metaphysics, then, properly includes an investigation into the cause of being—i. Some sympathetic scholars e. In any case, since Maritain holds that being is something that is grasped through intuition, one is not surprised to see that he will argue that one can attain knowledge of the existence of God not only through the Thomistic five ways, but also through intuition.

This is discussed in section 3. He maintained that, despite the differences among them, Kantianism, idealism, pragmatism, and positivism all reflected the influence of nominalism—that universal notions are creations of the human mind and have no foundation in reality.

Thus, when it comes to knowledge of sensible objects, for example, the mind has both a passive role receiving sense impressions and an active one constructing knowledge from these impressions see Deely , Munoz First, in the order of rational knowledge, one can speak of the knowledge of sensible nature i.

Degrees of Knowledge , [ 23]. For example, natural science, which is based on sense perception, aims at formulating laws which reflect certain features of the objects perceived.

Such an analysis does not provide knowledge of the essence of natural beings. Maritain offers mathematical physics as an illustration of this approach. But for natural science to achieve the status of a science, it presupposes the capacity of human beings to know things apart from their particular individuating characteristics though not apart from the existence of matter , i.

Thus, from that which is presented in sense perception, the mind constructs an object the essence which is universal. This is possible because, Maritain maintains, there are essences or natures of things. So, while natural science and natural philosophy both focus on the physical, the natural philosopher—unlike the scientist—is concerned with the essence of the object and its definition or, at the very least, an account of its various properties.

Physico-mathematical objects e. While they cannot exist without the existence of material things, once known, they can be conceived of without any reference to such objects. Finally, metaphysical or speculative knowledge deals with objects existing at a third degree of abstraction i. Because of the nature of the objects of metaphysics, this latter kind of knowledge does not involve logical inference as much as reasoning by analogy or what Maritain calls ananoetic knowledge.

Such knowledge e. Those objects which are highest in intelligibility, immateriality, and potential to be known are the objects of the highest degree of knowledge. Maritain writes,. Degrees of Knowledge , [ 37]. Maritain points out that philosophical demonstration is different from natural scientific or mathematical demonstrations:. Range of Reason , [ 5]. Thus, Maritain writes, natural philosophy penetrates to the nature of its object.

Metaphysics—which is also a kind of philosophic knowing—is concerned with purely intelligible being. It is precisely because he holds that empiricist and rationalist epistemologies do this, that Maritain takes issue with them. According to Maritain, in theological wisdom, the divine is known by drawing not just on reason but on faith. In this way, human beings acquire a kind of knowledge that makes them more loving and more spiritual. It is worth noting that, for Maritain, this mysticism extended beyond the Christian tradition.

Maritain places this knowledge at the level of the preconscious intellect. Man and the State , Nor is it, as much knowledge is, a knowledge of essences. Moreover, while Maritain claims that there is a difference in method between the sciences and philosophy, some have argued that it is not clear what exactly that difference is Vitoria For example, Maritain would follow Aquinas in holding that metaphysics uses demonstratio quia —demonstration from effects.

But it would seem that science also sometimes uses such a method of demonstration. Thus, it is not clear what it is in the method as distinct from the content of the premises that differentiates a metaphysical proof e. Second, Maritain holds that scientific knowledge is distinguished from philosophical knowledge in terms of their different methods and different objects.

But if scientific knowledge and philosophical knowledge are, as it were, incommensurable, it is not clear how philosophy can judge, or be corrective of, the sciences. Finally, it would seem that the model of demonstration that Maritain employs is foundationalist and, thus, has to answer to those criticisms that modern anti-foundationalism draws attention to—e.

Some defences of Thomistic epistemology e. His disillusionment with the positivistic approach to the sciences taken by his teachers in Paris, and his interest following his conversion in bringing Thomistic philosophy to bear on the contemporary world led him to review the relation between philosophy and the sciences and, particularly, to develop a philosophy of nature. For Maritain, the philosophy of nature is a branch of speculative philosophy.

It is concerned with, then,. Degrees of Knowledge , [ ]. Among the—and at the summit of—natural objects is humanity, and thus psychology is the highest category of the philosophy of nature. The philosophy of nature lies, therefore, between the sciences and metaphysics; it is to be distinguished from metaphysics, which deals with all being qua being, but also from the empiriological sciences, which deal with sensible being qua observable or measurable.

Because it seeks principles that underlie all physical objects, it follows from reflections on and goes beyond science; because it still refers to such objects and acknowledges that its conclusions need to be consistent with verification by the senses, however, it is not metaphysics. According to Maritain, the investigations of natural science fall short of a philosophy of nature because the objective of a philosophy of nature is not merely to reflect on the methods and conclusions of the physical sciences, but to provide the underlying principles.

Moreover, the philosophy of nature understands that reality is not reducible to the physical physical reality. It focuses on the essences of things and the natural classes to which those things belong. The levels in this hierarchy are determined, then, by how and the extent to which what is known is abstracted from matter. The philosophy of nature, then, is a deductive science that lies at the first level of abstraction. It is close to metaphysics in that it addresses general issues concerning the universe, such as its relation to principles of necessity and contingency, and to a first cause.

But it also needs to be completed by a knowledge of the natural sciences, and so is at the same level of abstraction. What are the principles that such an approach seeks? The philosophy of nature is specifically concerned with the nature of movement, of corporeal substance i.


Art and Scholasticism and the Frontiers of Poetry. Translated by Joseph W. Evans

Jacques Maritain — , French philosopher and political thinker, was one of the principal exponents of Thomism in the twentieth century and an influential interpreter of the thought of St Thomas Aquinas. Jacques Maritain was born on November 18, in Paris. He was initially attracted to the philosophy of Spinoza. Both were struck by the spiritual aridity of French intellectual life and made a vow to commit suicide within a year should they not find some answer to the apparent meaninglessness of life. They returned to France in the summer of , and it was at this time that the Maritains explicitly abandoned bergsonisme and Jacques began an intensive study of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.


Art and Scholasticism, and the Frontiers of Poetry

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Art and Scholasticism

Eliot once called Jacques Maritain "the most conspicuous figure and probably the most powerful force in contemporary philosophy. Maritain studied under Henri Bergson but was dissatisfied with his teacher's philosophy, eventually finding certainty in the system of St. Thomas Aquinas. Appointed French ambassador to the Vatican in , he resigned in to teach philosophy at Princeton University, where he remained until his retirement in He was prominent in the Catholic intellectual resurgence, with a keen perception of modern French literature. Although Maritain regarded metaphysics as central to civilization and metaphysically his position was Thomism, he took full measure of the intellectual currents of his time and articulated a resilient and vital Thomism, applying the principles of scholasticism to contemporary issues. In , Maritain was honored by the French literary world with the national Grand Prize for letters.

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