Joseph Marie De Maistre

1754-1821. Catholic philosopher, and one of the initial proponents of Ultramontanism.* He experienced the French Revolution as terror and anarchy when the revolutionary armies invaded Savoy (1792). He linked such action to the rationalism of the philosophes, many of whom he knew well. His Lettres d'un royaliste savoisien (1793) first stated the argument which he elaborated in Essai sur le principe générateur des constitutions politiques (1814) and his foremost work Du pape (2 vols., 1819). Society, he affirmed, is dependent on authority to cohere. It is God who establishes authority by divine sovereignty which is then reflected in the sovereignty of the popes, who are infallible in spiritual things, and of monarchs, infallible in temporal things. Divine Providence in history creates the traditions of society which are a revelation of the order necessary to men's existence (cf. Traditionalism). De Maistre's emphasis on faith, rather than rationalism, and on an organic, rather than mechanistic, view of history, found wide acceptance among Catholics in France. He formulated most of his ideas while serving as Savoy's ambassador to Russia (1802-16). After an education in law at Turin, he entered the Savoy civil service (1774), the senate (1788), and was appointed twice as regent (1799, 1817).

J. de Maistre, Oeuvres complètes (14 vols., 1884-86); F. Bayle, Les idées politiques de Joseph de Maistre (1945); A. Caponigri, Some aspects of the philosophy of Joseph de Maistre (1945).