Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life

Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life

Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life

Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life

Synopsis

French philosopher Maurice Blondel had a tremendous impact on both philosophy and religion over the first half of the twentieth century. He was at once a postmodern critical philosopher and a devout traditional Catholic, trying not only to reconcile these two seemingly disparate factors in his own mind, but also to prove to others that the two must go together. / In the first critical examination of the philosopher's life Oliva Blanchette tells the story of Blondel's stormy life confronting an Academy dismissive of religion and a Religion uncomfortable with rational philosophy. This book not only follows his biographical history, but also presents his systematic philosophy, from the beginning of his journey to the culmination found in Philosophical Exigencies of Christianity, the book for which he signed the publishing contract the day before he died. / Maurice Blondel is part of the Ressourcement: Retrieval and Renewal in Catholic Thought series, edited by David L. Schindler.

Excerpt

A new mode of religious thinking was in the offing, launched as a philosophical dissertation on Action at the Sorbonne. Before we go into this mode of thinking as it appears in L’Action of 1893, it is interesting to note how Blondel first presented himself to the University and how it first reacted to him and his claim to establish supernatural religion as a legitimate and necessary domain for philosophical inquiry.

Blondel first came to Paris in November 1881, at the age of twenty. He had gained admission to the highly touted École Normale Supérieure through a rigorous competitive exam that was carried on in France every year. He came from the provincial city of Dijon. He was from a well-established family of lawyers and notaries, professional people who gave their children a good bourgeois and Christian education, an example of work well done, a concern for doing the right thing, and even a certain taste for discreet but active proselytizing. He had done his studies at the Lycée of Dijon, the regular state-run school, and not at a Catholic school, and had spent his last year in intense preparation for the very competitive national admission examination that was the only way of access to the École Normale, then and still considered a Mecca for intellectuals in France.

At the École Normale, Blondel was to learn to think. Henri Bergson and Émile Durkheim had just finished the year before he came there. Victor Delbos and Pierre Duhem, along with many others less well known, were to be his classmates. What he was to learn, however, was not exactly congenial to his way of thinking or to his convictions. Among the faculty he found a deep-seated rationalism that was essentially anti-religious, though two, Émile Boutroux and Léon Ollé-Laprune, were themselves avowed Christians who supported him in his religious interests. Among the student body, he found a general skepticism derived from Renan, and from a waning scientism as well as a loss of confidence in the power of reason to deal with concrete questions of the meaning of life.

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