Jacques Maritain

1882-1973. French philosopher. He is noteworthy both as an interpreter of Thomas Aquinas and as an independent thinker. Reared in liberal Protestantism, he was converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1906, and in 1914 was appointed to the chair of modern philosophy at the Institute Catholique in Paris. From 1945 until 1948 he was French ambassador to the Vatican, and followed this by teaching at Princeton until his retirement in 1956. He lectured at many other places and was the author of over fifty books.

In his philosophy Maritain used not only Aristotle and Aquinas, but insights from other philosophical sources, and has taken account of modern empirical research in anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Maritain claimed there were different ways of knowing reality, as “mobile being” (nature), quantity (mathematics), and being as being (metaphysics), the last involving the use of a metaphysical intuition. Maritain refashioned the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas and added his own sixth way. This proof involves coming to see, through intuition and reflection, that the “I” who thinks has some pre-personal existence in God, and hence that God exists.

In his moral philosophy, Maritain claimed that account must be taken of the data of revelation, amd allowed that though this made his work not strictly moral philosophy, he claimed that philosophical method is appropriate to it. He expended considerable effort in working out a truly Christian politics. He made a sharp contrast between sacral and secular civilization. Man is necessarily social, as is seen by his needs and his possession of gifts, though he is of greater value than society because he is destined for union with God.