Saturday, June 16, 2007

Quaeritur: On Maritain's Thought and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange


Quaeritur: I found the following statement in an article by John Vennari on Modernism: "Bishop Sigaud lamented that Thomism is being displaced by the dangerous modern philosophies of Jacques Maritain."

Isn't Maritian one of the three 20th-century philosophers you said were good Thomists?

Respondeo: The three 20th-Century philosophers at the top of my list are:

a) Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.;
b) Fr. Santiago ("Jacobus") Ramirez, O.P.; and
c) Fr. Edouard Hougon, O.P.

But Maritain was undoubtedly a good Thomist in many respects; in fact, for his traditional approach to Thomism, he is seen as one of the most famous Thomists in the last century. But there is a question whether he was totally orthodox.

I would say, with Garrigou-Lagrange, that he wasn't totally orthodox. He may have been partially infected by modernism ub some areas. (Perhaps this is what Mr. Vennari had in mind: that he was a modernist, not that he wasn't a Thomist. After all, a "modernist Thomist" is not only not an oxymoron: that, unfortunately, is the best way to describe the majority of Thomists today!) In any case, Maritain's political views are definitely un-Thomistic and questionable (he tries to defend democracy based on Thomistic principles, whereas Aquinas and all of his traditional followers are obviously royalists / monarchists). Also, his aesthetics and "philosophy of mysticism" may also be a bit untraditional and objectionable from the point of view of revelation. Even his writing style and choice of expressions are a bit loose, un-Scholastic, and overly-existentialistic for the likes of a traditional Thomist.

However, the conceptual content in his metaphysical and epistemological works is nothing but sound, standard, traditional Thomism. He is also unique among Thomists because he is a convert; he was a non-Thomistic philosopher in his youth and his encounter with Thomism attracted him towards the Church. In his writings, when refuting all of his previous errors, he could look at things from a unique "insider's perspective." His best-known epistemological and metaphysical book is The Degrees of Knowledge. It is a very thorough and sophisticated Thomistic discussion of human knowledge. Even Garrigou-Lagrange (who was unquestionably the best Thomist of the last century, and also Maritain's spiritual director at somepoint) commends Maritain for his metaphysics and epistemology and even cites him approvingly in his own works.

However, once Garrigou became aware of Maritain's liberal political views, he advised him to stay away from political philosophy and to dedicate his time to his metaphysical epistemological issues. (A book that summarizes the relationship between these two famous Thomists is The Sacred Monster of Thomism by Peddicord; there, it is said that, when Maritain, the convert, tried to persuade the super-traditional Garrigou-Lagrange about democracy, Garrigou felt indignant and said something like, "you are now going to lecture us, who have been Catholic for 300 years, on a new Catholic social doctrine?!") This caused animosity between the two--actually, on the part of Maritain, rather than on the part of the saintly priest--which resulted in the end of their spiritual meetings and their friendship altogether. Maritain expected Garrigou to apologize, but he never did.

Truth over human friendships.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't Romano Amerio write in Iota Unum that at the end of his life Maritain embraced a weird universalist heresy, in which he wrote that even Satan may one day be saved?

I've always, deep down, hoped Amerio was wrong on this. I think Maritain's politics got confused after World War II, but that wasn't heresy per se.

Anonymous said...


You exchanged emails recently on the subject of Thomas's monarchism, among other things - it was at my prompting that he wrote, and he shared the emails with me (his and yours) - would you mind my publishing the exchange onine? (he wrote a comment as well, I believe, but I may be wrong on this) I'd clear it up a bit for "hello, thanks for your email" content.

Don Paco said...

Yes, I will edit and publish them soon. Thanks for prompting the conversation.

Anonymous said...

No,I was asking if I might publish them - I am asking hin for his and you for yours.

Anonymous said...

permission, that is,

Don Paco said...

Berenike, please see my reply here:

Geremia said...

Didn't Maritain embrace a Wolffian epistemology? He said in his Introduction to Philosophy, basically identifying philosophy with metaphysics: "Philosophy is the science which by the natural light of reason studies the first causes or highest principles of all things—is, in other words, the science of things in their first causes, insofar as these belong to the natural order."

Also, McCool wrote in his book on the history of 20th century Thomism, regarding Maritain's Degrees of Knowledge, that (pg. 154-155): "Unfortunately for Maritain, later historical research has established beyond doubt that Cajetan's account of the three degrees of abstraction does not correspond to St. Thomas' own teaching. A new edition of St. Thomas' In Librum Boethii de Trinitate, Questiones quinta et sexta, published in 1948, led to a major revision of the accepted understanding of St. Thomas' theory of abstraction. Apart from the abstractio totius, abstraction of a sensible whole from its particulars required for any form of conceptual thought, the only other type of abstraction proposed by St. Thomas confines itself to the level of mathematics. This is an abstractio formae, the mind's separation of the form of quantity from the rest of the sensible whole which the mind disregards in mathematics. The being of the metaphysician is not grasped by abstraction at all. It is grasped through a negative judgment, the separatio, in which the mind affirms that all being is not material. Contrary to Cajetan's belief, analogy is not known prior to the metaphysician's grasp of being. Far from being a necessary condition for being's proper understanding, analogy itself is not understood until after the metaphysician has grasped being through the 'separation' of his negative judgment. Thus the new interpretation of St. Thomas' own thought cuts the ground out from under Maritain's argument that metaphysics must be approached through the philosophy of nature."

Is this true?

Geremia said...

What about Fr. Joseph Gredt?

Josephus (Augustinus) Gredt natus est Luxemburgi die 30 iulii 1863. Studiis humanioribus in Athenaeo civitatis suae, quod a patre regebatur, absolutis, ad sacerdotium aspiravit et in clericorum Seminarium eiusdem civitatis ingressus est. In cursu theologica Joanne Woltrink, qui restauratore studiorum clericalium Leone XIII s. m. monente anno 1884 Luxemburgum vocatus erat ut munere lectoris theologiae dogmaticae fungeretur, in doctrinam et rationem santi Thomae Aquinatis introductus est. Sacerdotio auctus die 24 augusti 1886 a Joanne Josepho Koppes f. m. episcopo Luxemburgensi ut studio prosequeretur et lauream in Sacra Theologia acquireret, Romam missus est, ubi frequentabat egregios de renovata doctrina thomistica bene meritos magistros Franciscum Satolli, postea S. R. E. Cardinalem, qui in Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide floruit, et Albertum Lepidi O.P. futurum Magistrum Sacri Palatii Apostolici, qui in Collegio S. Mariae supra Minervam docebat. Deinde aliquamdiu in Universitate Oenipontana studio linguarum orientalium sub clarissimo Gustavo Bickell vocavit.
Monasticam vitam professus est in abbatia B. M. V. Seckau in Styria die 18 Maii 1891. Mox abbatis iussu iuniores fratres monasterii philosophicis disciplinis erudivit, dum anno 1896 Romae in Collegio S. Anselmi O. S. B. professor philosophiae ordinatus est. Hoc munere innumeros fere alumnos inprimis ex ordine S. Benedicti doctrina aristotelico-thomistica instituit, atque etiam hodie eidem praeclaro officio indefesso labore vires suo impendit. Eminent eius «Elementa Philosophiae Aristotelico-Thomisticae» quae anno 1899 primo, anno 1937 septimo edita sunt. Quod opus doctrinam thomisticam genuinam et integram sermone luculento accurato reddere et optimum esse instrumentum philosophiae thomisticae elucidandae omnes consentiunt.
Anno 1908 P. Josephus Gredt Pontificiae Academiae S. Thomae Aquinatis et Religionis Catholicae associatus est. Anno 1932 constitutus est philosophicae Facultatis Pontificii Instituti S. Anselmi de Urbe O. S. B. Decanus. S. A. R. Carola, Magna Ducissa Luxemburgi, eum anno 1937 nominavit «Officier de l'Ordre de la Couronne de Chêne».
Deus cui animi nobilitate, perspicuitate ingenii, veritatis amore, religione sincera aetatem in doctrina fere peregit, eum omni bono spiritali repleat, ipse Pater luminum, cui sit in omnibus gloria.