Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 18:4, June 1958, 561-62.
Reviews of Jacques Maritain, Bergsonian Philosophy and Thomism, New
York: The Philosophical Library, 1955, pp. 383; and The Social and
Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain. Selected Readings edited by Joseph W. Evans and Leo R. Ward. New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955, pp. xiv, 348.
Reprinted here not to endorse the nice
things Maritain had to say about democracy, but rather to honor the
reviewer, the late Plotinus scholar and author of
"St. Thomas and the
Language of Total Dependence."
Studies: Two Reviews
John N. Deck
Bergsonian Philosophy and Thomism
incorporates a translation of Prof. Maritain’s first published work,
La Philosophie Bergsonienne (1913), in its 1930 revision, plus an
“Essay on Appreciation” dated 1940, and short notes written later.
In the basic text,
Bergson is criticized in the light of Thomistic realism, intellectualism,
and regard-for-distinction. The affirmation that Bergson confuses human
freedom with animal spontaneity, and in reality reduces the former to the
latter indicates a characteristic Maritainisn motif—human freedom as
specifically rational—that occurs constantly in his later political and
Taken as a whole, this
expanded reissue furnishes most of the materials for a history of
Maritain’s valuations of Bergson. The original work argues against
Bergson in the name of
but sees a “Bergsonism of intention” which is “oriented toward Thomistic
wisdom.” The “Essay on Appreication” takes up, more trenchantly yet
sympathetically, the same basic themes. For Maritain Bergson remains the
“master, who freed in me my metaphysical desire . . . . whose doctrine I
had criticized—through love of truth, as he well knew.”
The Social and Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain is a topically organized anthology drawing from M. Maritain’s numerous
books and papers on the subject. The editors have done a commendable job
of selection and articulation.
M. Maritain, seeing man
as a person “a universe in himself open to the universe of truth and
goodness,” favors that trend of modern history which has issued in the
“democratic secular faith.” He considers the modern interpretation of
civil society as specifically temporal to be a positive gain. He looks
forward to a personalist and pluralist democracy in which the common good
will be existentially the personal good of its members, but he insists
that this society must be worked for and worked through. The democratic
faith, as M. Maritain interprets it, is the practical guiding energy of a
society working out the freedom of its members. Its inspiration is
practical intuition and the “gospel leaven”—adhesion to its demands no
religious or philosophic conformity.
Posted June 15,
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