Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

THE SITUATION OF RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY IN FRANCE

Roger Mehl*

The title, religious philosophy or philosophy of religion, is, apparently, not one of the most frequent in French philosophy. One might look for it in vain in the majority of our great philosophical reviews.1 This does not mean that French philosophy is lacking in religious signification. On the contrary, most of the great philosophies of the present day, that of Brunschvicg, of Bergson, of Lavelle, of Le Senne, and that of the existentialists, have a religious problem. But philosophy is averse to calling itself religious. It seems to think it would lose some of its own proper quality and some of its methodical rationality if it took to itself this qualification. It is quite common, in France, for philosophy to pursue a religious aim, while making out that religion has nothing to bestow upon it. It often takes science or art as its object--much less often, religion. With Bergson, religious meditation supports itself much more upon the bases of the system, itself, upon the notion of creative evolution, than upon religion, objectively given and grasped in its specific essence. At the most, this latter happens to bring to the work some apt illustrations (Jewish prophetism, Catholic sainthood).

This paradoxical attitude, which does not show lack of concern on the part of the religious, but disregard of positive religion, is to be explained, perhaps, by a long philosophical tradition which goes back to Descartes, if not to medieval scholasticism. The attitude of Descartes, in fact, is resolutely dualistic: two ways are offered man to attain to God--that of supernatural revelation, for which a more than human assistance is need-

____________________
*
Born in 1912. Agrégé in philosophy; licencié in theology; master of conferences, Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Strasbourg. Editor of the Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuse. Author of La condition du philosophe chrétien ( 1947), and Éthique et théologie (in a collective volume in the press).
1
Exception being made of the several yearly volumes of Recherches philosophiques and, naturally, of the Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses.

-249-

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