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  • Ars Christiane Philosophandi:John Paul II and Jacques Maritain on Christian Philosophy
  • Matthew DuBroy

In §76 of Fides et Ratio (1998), Pope Saint John Paul II confirmed the legitimacy and the importance of "a Christian way of philosophizing, a philosophical speculation conceived in dynamic union with faith."1 The meaning and reality of Christian philosophy was long debated in the 1930s by eminent thinkers such as Emile Bréhier, Étienne Gilson, Maurice Blondel, and Fernand van Steenberghen.2 More recently other authors have taken up the question anew, like Monsignor John F. Wippel,3 [End Page 67] Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.,4 Steven Baldner,5 and Nicholas J. Healy Jr.6 In this article, I will take up the thought of Jacques Maritain to offer an in-depth look at his doctrine. I argue that Maritain's teaching unfolds speculatively what John Paul II says in nuce about Christian philosophy in Fides et Ratio.7

The question of Christian philosophy is the question of whether or in what manner faith influences philosophy. Fides et Ratio allows for the use of the term "Christian philosophy" and is clearly concerned with clarifying its proper meaning so as not to be misunderstood.8

There are two basic concerns when considering the relationship of faith and philosophy: on the one hand and noted by Fides et Ratio, there is a concern about a philosophy separated from faith (rationalism) which is the staple of most modern philosophy, and yet, on the other hand and noted by the Congregation for Catholic Education's Decree On The Reform Of Ecclesiastical Studies Of Philosophy there is a concern about a confusion of philosophy and theology (fideism).9 We need to have a philosophy that is not separated from faith nor confused with faith. Thinkers must be [End Page 68] acutely aware of both of these possible errors, and so we need to protect both philosophy's integrity and philosophy's proper union with faith. It is precisely at this point where Maritain seems most helpful guiding us between these potential pitfalls. In fact, John Paul II cites Maritain as a significant example of how to philosophize in light of Christian revelation.10 Moreover, Maritain does well to apply the principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, to whom John Paul II is also dedicated.11 St. Thomas Aquinas provides the principles which Maritain interprets and applies to the question of how Christian revelation can influence philosophy. Consequently, the aim of this article is to explore the contribution and develop the argument of Maritain concerning the question of "Christian philosophy" in light of Fides et Ratio.12 Therefore, first I will lay out briefly what Fides et Ratio says about Christian philosophy before, second, giving a fuller treatment of Maritain.

John Paul II and Christian Philosophy

Fides et Ratio sets out certain principles for a proper understanding of Christian philosophy. There are six main points. First, philosophy can legitimately relate to the Gospel in different ways (completely independent of the Gospel, Christian philosophy, and as used within theology), or in other words, philosophy exists in different states (statibus; condicio).13

Second, philosophy has a proper autonomy and is universally valid. This proper autonomy means that philosophy "must obey its own rules [End Page 69] and be based upon its own principles."14 This means, for John Paul II, that philosophy "moves under the light of the intellect alone."15 Moreover, this autonomy is opposed to a separated philosophy.16 A philosophy separated from faith is a philosophy which has rejected the faith; it is a philosophy that is rationalistic.17

Third, Christian philosophy is philosophizing in a Christian manner, that is, philosophizing in such a way that the Christian faith gives life to it: "The term seeks rather to indicate a Christian way of philosophizing, a philosophical speculation conceived in dynamic union with faith."18

Fourth, Christian philosophy refers to the advances in philosophy caused by the faith in some way (that some advance was caused by the faith is seen if such an advance might not have happened without the faith). Faith causes this advance by helping or aiding philosophy: "The term Christian philosophy includes those...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2470-5861
Print ISSN
1542-7315
Pages
pp. 67-101
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-25
Open Access
No
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