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Happy birthday to Jacques Maritain!

By Thomas V. Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 18, 2020 | In Quick Hits

Today is the birthday of the great 20th-century Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Maritain contributed to virtually every subfield of philosophy, was a major influence on the second Vatican council, and his legacy continues to be appreciated (and debated). This post will feature some of CatholicCulture.org’s Maritain-related resources.

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For those completely unfamiliar with him, a good place to start is Christopher Shannon’s “Jacques Maritain’s Service to Truth”, an overview of Maritain’s life and legacy which also notes some of his weak points (mainly in politics).

We have some of Maritain’s own writings here: chiefly his magnum opus on the arts, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry. Also two shorter essays, “Some Reflections on Religious Art” and “An Essay on Art”.

Then there are a couple of my articles discussing insights of Maritain’s: his moving response to existentialism in “To know as we are known: Maritain on human subjectivity”, and his comparison of great world philosophies in “Four responses to the human condition”.

Finally, we have a number of podcast episodes touching on Maritain:

  • On Catholic Culture Audiobooks, James Majewski reads a well-known passage from wife Raïssa Maritain’s memoirs, describing the day when the two teenagers, in despair from growing up in an atheistic environment but refusing to accept life on nihilistic terms, decided that if they could not find meaning to existence, they would take their own lives. This determination to have all or nothing ultimately led them to Jesus Christ.
  • In one of my best Catholic Culture Podcast interviews, Pennsylvania Poet Laureate Sam Hazo gave an overview of Maritain’s contributions to the philosophy of art, illustrated by spontaneous recitations of poems (his own and others’).
  • By way of criticism of Maritain’s political philosophy, Thomas Pink recently compared and contrasted Maritain’s understanding of Church-State relations with that of Pope Leo XIII. The former said that the Church was to the State as grace is to nature, while the latter used the analogy of soul and body.
  • In the second of three episodes on his brilliant book The Vision of the Soul, poet and philosopher James Matthew Wilson discussed Aquinas and Maritain on beauty, and the pitfalls of Maritain’s focus on the criteria of radiance and clarity over that of proportion.
  • In this discussion of Yves Simon’s General Theory of Authority, Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P. touched on the dispute between Maritain and De Koninck on the person and the common good.
  • In a discussion on Garrigou-Lagrange, Matthew Minerd mentions how Garrigou and Maritain both distinguished between the person and the individual but took this idea to opposite political conclusions.
  • Maritain’s Art and Scholasticism is mentioned in my second interview with Basil Cole, O.P., “The Arts, Contemplation, and Virtue”—and possibly also in our first discussion, “Music and Morals”.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist living in New York City. He is the director of audio media for CatholicCulture.org and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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