Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson

Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson

Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson

Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson

Synopsis

In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson, Francesca Aran Murphy tells the story of this French philosopher's struggle to reconcile faith and reason. In his lifetime, Gilson often stood alone in presenting Saint Thomas Aquinas as a theologian, one whose philosophy came from his faith. Today, Gilson's view is becoming the prevalent one. Murphy provides us with an intellectual biography of this Thomist leader throughout the stages of his scholarly development. Murphy covers more than a half century of Gilson's life while supplying the reader with reminders of the political and social realities that confronted intellectuals of the early twentieth century. She shows the effects inner-church politics had on Gilson and his contemporaries such as Alfred Loisy, Lucien Levy Bruhl, Charles Maurras, Henri de Lubac, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and Jacques Maritain, while also contextualizing Gilson's own life and thoughts in relation to these philosophers and theologians. These great thinkers, along with Gilson, continue to be sources of important intellectual debate among scholars, as do the political periods through which Gilson's story threads--World Wars I and II, the rise and fall of Fascism, and the political upheavals of Europe. By placing Gilson's twentieth-century Catholic life against a dramatic background of opposed political allegiances, clashing spiritualities, and warring ideas of philosophy, this book shows how rival factions each used their own interpretations of Thomas Aquinas to legitimate their conceptions of the Catholic Church. In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson, Murphy shows Gilson's early openness to the artistic revolution of the Cubist and the Expressionist movements and how his love of art inspired his existential theology. She demonstrates the influence that Henri Bergson continued to have on Gilson and how Gilson tried to bring together the intellectual, Domi

Excerpt

This is an “intellectual life” of Étienne Gilson. the “intellect” follows a thematic order, but lives are chronological. I have tried to give both chronology and thematicism their due, for certain intellectual themes shaped Gilson's life. the thematic currents all flow from one historical fact, the French modernist crisis. Gilson was an impressionable nineteen year old when the modernist crisis began in France. It was like being nineteen during the French Revolution, or like being a real-life Johnny Tremaine at the start of the American Revolution. One can hardly imagine a real Johnny Tremaine putting it all behind him when the War of American Independence concluded. This book tries to show how Gilson was marked throughout his life by his reactions to modernism.

If Gilson's reaction had been straightforward, it would have been easy to describe, but perhaps not worth describing. If a historian could play with counterfactuals, one would say that if, between 1903 and 1914, Gilson had been simply for the modernists, or if he had simply been against them, he would have made no contribution to twentieth-century philosophy. in fact, his response made for a serious internal conflict. Gilson was a devout and loyal French Catholic who felt a great sympathy with the modernists. So modernism worked in him like the grit in the oyster, producing a pearl.

There were four great issues at work in the French modernist crisis, each of which played out in Gilson's life and thought. the first—the political theme—is the most difficult to grasp for people who are not natives of France. It concerns the battle of many French Catholics against “social modernism, ” or political liberalism. Nearly all French Catholics resented the French Revolution; many do so to this day. in the minds of many of Gilson's contemporaries, both believers and their adversaries, monarchism went along with Catholic faith and republicanism was inimical to it. Opposition to everything that they imagined to have resulted from the Revolution, such as the emancipation of Jews, was ingrained in the French Catholic . . .

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