Jacques Maritain Center : Philosophy of History



1 Cf. Charles Journet, D'une philosophie chrétienne de l'histoire et de la culture, in "Jacques Maritain, son oeuvre philosophique," Revue Thomiste, Paris, Desclée De Brouwer, 1949.

2 When he asked me to give these lectures he was head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

[Chapter 1]


1 History deals with individual persons and individual events. Now it is true, of course, that once it has happened, an event cannot be changed, and that it has thus acquired a certain kind of necessity. But still this event as such was a contingent thing.


2 I am using here the words "science" and "scientific" in the broad Aristotelian sense (intellectually cogent or demonstratively established knowledge) which covers, in a quite analogical way, both philosophy and the sciences of phenomena.


3 Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire; essai sur les limites de l'objectivité historique (new ed., Paris, Gallimard, 1948). Essai sur la théorie de l'histoire dans l'Allemagne contemporaine; la philosophie critique de l'histoire (Paris, Vrin, 1938).

4 Paris, Colin, 1949.

5 Paul Ricoeur, Histoire et vérité (Paris, éd. du Seuil, 1955); Henri-Irénée Marrou, De la connaissance historique (Paris, ed. du Seuil, 1954). Cf. the review of the latter work by Charles Journet, Nova et Vetera, April-June 1955.


6 "Plus il sera intelligent, cultivé, riche d'expérience vécue, ouvert à toutes les valeurs de l'homme, plus il deviendra capable de retrouver de choses dans le passé, plus sa connaissance sera susceptible de richesse et de vérité" Henri Marrou, op. cit., p. 238.

7 This happens especially when the factual data and factual relations with which the historian is concerned are at an optimum of generality, neither too close to, nor too far from, the singular as such -- just as for an object to be photographed there is an optimum distance not too close to, nor too far from, the camera.

8 "Il n'y a pas d'histoire véritable qui soit indépendante d'une philosophie de l'homme et de la vie, à laquelle elle emprunte ses concepts fondamentaux, ses schémas d'explication, et d'abord les questions mêmes qu'au nom de sa conception de l'homme elle posera au passé. La vérité de l'histoire est fonction de la vérité de la philosophie mise en oeuvre par l'historien." Henri Marron, op. cit., p. 237.


9 The way in which Toynbee (I shall have some critical remarks to make on his work in my concluding chapter) characterizes the great civilizations is a good example of the possibility of drawing through induction some typical characteristics relating to history.


10 De Veritate, XII, 3, ad 3. "Sicut extremo et ultimo, ad quod resolutio fiat . . . ."

11 Summa theol., I, 84, 8.


12 I enclose history and the sciences in brackets to indicate that they are not part of the general philosophical movement represented in my diagram. I would merely point out that there is a certain symmetry or correspondence between history and the sciences, so far as they are both disciplines which are not philosophical.


13 Charles Péguy engaged many years ago in a great controversy with the official historians at the Sorbonne. He reproached them, and I think quite rightly, for being abstract historians, considering history as a kind of accurate science. The pseudo-scientific history they were teaching at the Sorbonne was a fake, for history is not a science. And Péguy insisted that an historian must have an experiental knowledge, a knowledge through connaturality, of the matter in question.


14 Not only is it now recognized, but we are in some respects poisoned by it. We have inherited from the nineteenth century the most dogmatic, arbitrary and sophistic systems of philosophy of history. But far from being a reason for despising and rejecting the philosophy of history, this should stimulate us to try to discover what is genuine and positive there.

15 Cf. Jean Hyppolite, Genèse et structure de la phénoménologie de l'esprit (Paris: Aubier, 1946), pp. 143-145, and his reference to H. Marcuse, Hegels Ontologie und die Grundlegung einer Theorie der Geschichtlichkeit (Frankfurt, 1932).


16 There are even many valuable inductive insights in Hegel's work, such as, for instance, so far as the philosophy of history is concerned, the notion of the "beautiful individuality" which he uses to characterize Greek civilization. Another -- quite obvious -- example of inductive generalization is his linking of the Roman world and the notion of right. Another -- more original -- is his characterization of the Roman Emperor (Herr der Welt).


17 The Marzist theorists confuse these two notions. When they speak of materialism they are often thinking of realism, and when they speak of realism they are often thinking of materialism.


18 Pierre Vendryès expresses well this basic notion that there are in human history necessary trends and that at the same time there is no inevitability: "Jamais les engrenages de l'histoire n'ont un caractère fatal. Les cycles n'ont pas une évolution déterminée. Chacun d'eux peut se trouver ouvert ou fermé. . . . Tout en étant entraînés par elle, les hommes font leur histoire. Entre les événements il reste toujours quelque intervalle libre dans lequel la volonté humaine puisse développer ses propres chances." De la probabilité en histoire (Paris, Editions Albin Michel, 1952), p. 299. See also two important studies: Isaiah Berlin, Historical inevitability (London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1954), and Pieter Geyl, Debates with Historians (Groningen, Holland, J. B. Wolters, 1955).


19 Cf. Henri Marron, op. cit., p. 16.


20 As against all philosophies of history of the Hegelian or dialectical type.

21 As against all philosophies of history of the Comtian or supposedly" scientific" type.

22 Cf. The Degrees of Knowledge (New York: Scribners; London: Bles), Chapter II.

24 See Charles Journet's Introduction à la théologie (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1947), pp. 73-76; 159-203.


23 Paris, Gallimard, 1949 (Eng. tr.: The Myth of the Eternal Return, Bollingen Series, Pantheon Books, 1954).


25 See my books An Essay on Christian Philosophy (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955) and Science and Wisdom (London: Bles; New York: Scribners, 1940). In my view, this use or consideration of the data of theology must take place in moral philosophy because moral philosophy has to do with a practical object, the conduct of man. Therefore, it needs to know the existential condition of man in its integrity; it needs to know not only human nature but also original sin, grace, etc. But when it comes to speculative philosophy, to metaphysics, for instance, there is no need of such a dependence on theological data, because here we have only to consider the natural content of reality. It is another question whether speculative philosophy needs, for its completion, to be guided by faith, protected by the truths of faith. In its own realm it does not have to borrow anything from theology.


26 The End of Time (London: Faber and Faber; New York: Pantheon, 1954).

27 Op. cit., pp. 236-Z37. (Eng. tr., p. 160).


28 Ibid., pp. 238-239. (Eng. tr., pp. 161-162).

[Chapter 2]


1 Summa theol., III, 8, 7.

2 See Ibid., III, 61, 3, ad 2.


3 I remember a discussion I once had with an eloquent and dynamic Protestant theologian, who was also a Socialist deputy of the French Parliament. "If you are so hopeless about any Christian possibility in the world," I asked him, "why, then, are you a Socialist? Do you not hope for some improvement in terrestrial justice?" And he answered: "I am a Socialist, a Protestant Socialist, only to protest against evil and injustice. But I don't hope for any truly Christian accomplishment in the terrestrial order, I don't believe that any Christian civilization will ever be possible."

4 Moralium, lib. II, cap. 10, n. 16, P. L., LXXV, 564.

5 Habacuc, 8, 5.


6 Cf. Summa theol., I, 49, 3.


7 On the distinction between "dogmatic tolerance" and "civil tolerance," see my book Man and the State, pp. 180-181.


8 Cf. Charles Journet, L'Eglise du Verbe Incarné, t. II, pp. 708-799.


9 Cf. Peter F. Drucker, "Organized Religion and the American Creed," in The Review of Politics, July, 1956.


10 See The Review of Politics, January, 1942; also my book The Range of Reason (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952).

11 Ibid., pp. 149-150


12 Translated from Mémoires d'outre-tombe (Garnier edition), Vol. II, p. 20.


13 For example, the effort toward a supra-national unity of the world pertains to the order of new problems and new changes. But the question of how to achieve a supra-national unity, a world government, can be solved in a quite tyrannical direction, issuing in some kind of super-Empire, or in a truly pluralist and freedom-loving manner. (See my book, Man and the State, Chapter VII.)

Another new problem and new change, particularly crucial and urgent for present times, relates to the political emancipation of the peoples which were subjugated -- and at the same time carried along into the stream of universal history -- by the colonial regime. Here is an historic revolution which in order to foster, not sheer violence and irreconcilable hatreds, but at last a sufficient dose of mutual understanding and cooperation for the common good of mankind, requires not only that amount of generosity which is inseparable from political intelligence, but also the effort, inspired [69]

by fraternal love, of Christians aware of their temporal mission. And we know that such an effort is being made.

Adolf Berle's Tides of Crisis (New York: Reynal, 1957) appeared while I was correcting my own proofs. I can only mention it. I would have liked to quote from the chapter "Battle of the Past Against the Future" and from what the author says, in a general way, of the historical "ghosts" and their "armies of conscripts" in this remarkable book.


14 I have said in French "moyens temporels pauvres." It is very difficult to translate this expression accurately into English. If we say "poor temporal means," I am afraid it is just the contrary of what I mean. "Humble" is a good enough word, I think, but unfortunately it leaves aside the notion of poverty, which is quite important here. [72]

15 See my Du régime temporel et de La liberté (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1933), Annex II.


16 See, for instance, Lanza del Vasto, Vinoba ou le nouveau pèlerinage (Paris: Denoël, `154). AlSo, Hallam Tennyson, India's Walking Saint, Vinoba Rhave (New York: Doubleday, 1955). [74]

17 We read in the New York Times, December 10, 1956: "Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 9 (AP) -- About 3000 Negroes closed today a week-long institute on nonviolence and social change. It marked the first anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott.

"The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which has led the boycott and sponsored the institute, told the group that `we have had a glorious week here together.'

"The week included seminars on the way that Montgomery's 50,000 Negroes have conducted the boycott. The passive resistance used in protest against city bus segregation was described as an [75]

example to Negroes elsewhere in their battle against racial discrimination.

"The United States Supreme Court decided Nov. 13 that interstate bus segregation was unconstitutional and ordered it ended in Montgomery. The city and the state of Alabama have asked for a rehearing."

[Chapter III]


1 Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, who coined this expression (I was a student of his at the Sorbonne, and I always liked this scrupulously sincere and fair-minded positivist), first seemed to hold the intellect of the [78]

primitive man and its laws of functioning as different in nature from our civilized intellect. Later on he came to other conclusions and accepted the interpretation founded on the notion of state. [83]

2 See my book The Living Thoughts of St. Paul (New York: Longmans, Green, 1941).


3 Rom. 9, 30-33. This is taken from the Douay version of St. Paul's epistle, with a few words modified to make the sense clearer.

4 Rom. 10, 19-21.

5 Rom. 11, 1. [88]

6 Rom. 11, 11-31.


7 "What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! For we that are dead to sin, how shall we live any longer therein?" Rom., 6: 1-2.

8 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas (in Reginald's transcr.), In Joan, cap. 20, lect 1. The source is St. Gregory, Homil. XXII in Evangelia, n. 2. P. L, LXXVI, 1175.


9 I would stress that no philosophy of history can be complete without anthropology -- anthropology is a basic consideration for the philosopher of history.

10 See Quatre essais sur l'esprit dans sa condition charnelle (1939; Paris: Alsaria, 1956, new ed.), Chapter II Ransoming the Time (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941), Chapter IX.


11 Bronisaw Malinowski: Magic, Science and Religion (Anchor Books), pp. 33-34. See also Pierre Lecomte du Noüy's Human Destiny (Signet Books), Book III, especially pp. 79-80.


12 I remember that Lacute;evy-Bruhl sent a copy of his first book on primitive mentality to a friend of his, the Belgian poet Verhaeren. Verhaeren wrote to Lévy-Bruhl that he was delighted to read the book because he found in it a complete description of his own mentality. Well, this was more of a criticism than a compliment.


13 See above, pp. 81-85.


14 See Raissa Maritain, Histoire d'Abraham ou les premiers âges de la conscience morale (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1947); Engl. trans.: Abraham and the Ascent of Conscience, in The Bridge, vol. I (New York: Pantheon Books, 1955).


15 I would recall here St. Jerome's comment in reference to the patriarchs and the limited knowledge of natural law which prevailed in their time (with particular reference to polygamy): "Abraham was much holier than I am," he said, "but my state is better." (I quote St. Jerome from memory; there is a similar remark in St. Augustine, De bono conjugali, XXIII, n. 28.)


15 "In man there is, first of all, an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he possesses in common with all substances: inasmuch as every substance tends to preserve its own being, according to its nature. . . . Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things which appertain to him more specially according to the nature that he shares with the animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law `which nature has taught all animals,' such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring, and so forth. Thirdly, there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him. Thus, man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society." Summa theol. I-II, 94, 2.


17 I was most gratified to see this distinction used and emphasized by Msgr. Charles Journet in his great work, L'Eglise du Verbe [113]

Incarné (Paris: Descée De Brouwer, 1941). See Vol. I, pp. 269-425 (Eng. tr., The Church of the Word Incarnate, Vol. I, London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955, pp. 214-330). It is good to have a notion elaborated in the field of the philosophy of history thus sanctioned by a theologian. Again, there must be cooperation between the philosophy of history and the theology of history. They are distinct, but they must not be separated.


18 See his excellent Histoire de l'éducation dans l'antiquité (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1948), especially Parts I and II.

19 See supra, p. 69.


20 See my book Cbristianity and Democracy (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944).


21 And still the fact remains that willy-nilly, Communism, in the very use it makes of the phrase "people's democracy," cannot help paying tribute to the moral power of the democratic principle.

[Chapter 4]


1 Existence and the Existent (New York: Pantheon Books, 1948), pp. 85-122.

2 The bad action or decision is a sort of thing, or being, spoiled by that "privation" which is evil. In order to exist, it presupposes the general divine motion through which everything in the universe is activated. I am not speaking here of the bad action or decision as action or decision, but of the very evil or privation which spoils it.


3 I have proposed this expression "breakable motion or activation" as a kind of philosophical equivalent of the theological expression "sufficient grace."


4 For the purpose of the argument, I assume that Brutus was a criminal.


5 Matt., 10, 26; Luke, 8, 17.


6 See L'Eglise du Verbe Incarné, Vol. II, pp. 1056-1114.


7 I mean that faith in God, "rewarder to them that seek him" (Hebr., II, 6), in which all the other tenets of faith are implicitly contained.

8 Cf. Summa theol., III, 8, 4, ad x: "Illi qui sunt infideles, etsi actu non sint de Ecclesia, sunt tamen de Ecclesia in potentia. Quae quidem potentia in duabus fundatur: primo quidem et principaliter in virtute Christi, quae eat sufiiciens ad salutem totius humani generis; secundario, in arbitrii libertate."

9 See infra, pp. 141-142.


10 I have long insisted on this point -- that as a result of the achievements of grace, as a result of grace perfecting nature, nature is superelevated in its own order. In my opinion, the temporal common good of the body politic, for instance, can be superelevated in a Christian society. Brotherly love, Christian love will play a part in civil life itself -- it is not restricted to the inter-relation between saints in the Kingdom of God. From there it superabounds and quickens civic friendship. In the same way, I think, philosophy is superelevated by virtue of its vital relation to theology, from which it is distinct, of course. To my mind, it is very important that we admit this superelevation in the very order of nature. If we don't admit it, we are led willy-nilly to a kind of separatism between nature and grace, to a kind of naturalism -- nature will have its own course separately from any contact with grace.


11 See De virtutibus cardinalibus, a. 4, ad 3; Summa theol., I-II, 65, 2.


12 See also my book, Neuf legons sur les notions premidres de la philosophie morale (Paris: T~qui, 1951), pp. 79-81.

13 Cf. Raïssa Maritain, Le Prince de ce monde (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1932); English translation by Dr. G. Phelan, The Prince of This World (Toronto: Catholic Extension Press, and Ditchling, England: St. Dominic's Press, 1936).


14 "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. And the field is the world.... And the enemy that sowed them [the cockle] is the Devil." Matt., 13, 37-39.

15 John, 17, 18. Cf. ibid., ii, 27; I John, 4, 9.


16 Hebr., 10, 5-7.

17 John, 17, 23. (Ital. mine.)

18 John, 14, 31. (Ital. mine.)

19 John 1, 10.

20 John, 7, 7.

21 John 15, 18-19. Cf. ibid., 8, 23.

22 John, 17, 14-16.

23 Epistle of St. James, 4, 4.


24 I John 2, 15-17.

25 Galat., 6, 14.

26 I John, 5, 19.

27 Matt., 18, 7.

28 John, 16, 11.

29 I Cor., 11, 32.

30 John, 16, 33. Cf. I John, 5, 4-5.

31 John, 3, 16.

32 See supra, note 29.


33 John, 3, 27.

34 John, 12, 47.

35 John, 1, 29.

36 II Cor., 5, 31.

37 "Spirirus veritatis, quem mundus non potest accipere." John, 14, 27.


38 I am thinking of Aldous Huxley's novel Grey Eminence, which gives us a challenging, and, I think, tragically true picture of a man who was a real contemplative in the spiritual order and a real Machiavellian in the temporal order.


39 See Summa theol., I-II, 18, 9, where St. Thomas develops the thesis that there are no morally indifferent human actions.


40 See L'Eglise du Verbe Incarné, Vol. II, pp. 1115-1129.

41 See St. Paul, Ephes., 5, 7. This point was already mentioned supra, p. 128.


42 St. Thomas writes: "Because human nature is not altogether corrupted by sin, namely, so as to be shorn of every good of nature, even in the state of corrupted nature it can, by virtue of its natural endowments, perform some particular good, such as to build buildings, plant vineyards, and the like; yet it cannot do all the good natural to it, so as to fall short in nothing. In the same way, a sick man can of himself make some movements, yet he cannot be perfectly moved with the movement of one in health, unless by the help of medicine he be cured." Summa theol., I-II, 109, 2.


43. Cf. Charles Journet, L'Eglise du Verbe Incarné, Vol. II, pp. 953, 1107-1108.


44 On the notion of Christendom, see infra, pp. 156 ff.


47 See above, Chapter II, pp. 49-50.

48 In New York it was a failure.

49 Paris: Table Ronde, 1952. [Das heilige Experiment.]


50 Then it is relevant to say, as I put it in another book, that Catholicism "rejoices, without envy, in every good even though it be achieved outside its boundaries -- for that good is outside Catholic boundaries only in semblance; in reality it belongs to it invisibly" (Religion et Culture, 2nd ed., Paris, Desclée De Brouwer, 1946, p. 62). And so the proper task of Catholics is to recognize such a good, and to further it, and to improve it if possible.


51 As a matter of fact we see that in modern times many badly needed achievements in the temporal order which were Christian-inspired -- one thinks, for instance, of the final abolition of slavery (Uncle Tom's Cabin), the improvement in the penitentiary system, assistance to victims of war (The Red Cross), the prohibition of legalized prostitution, the struggle against alcoholism -- came from Protestant initiatives. The humanitarian activity of the Quakers is a great testimony to Christian inspiration. Cf. Charles Journet, Exigences chrétiennes en politique (Paris: Egloff, 1945), pp. 438-448, apropos of Max Huber's Le bon Samaritain, considérations sur l'Evangile et le travail de la Croix-Rouge (Neuchâtel, 1943).

As regards the American Constitution, I observed in another book: "Paradoxically enough, and by virtue of the serious religious feelings of the Founding Fathers, it appeared, at a moment of unstable equilibrium (as all moments in time are) in the history of ideas, as a lay -- even, to some extent, rationalist -- fruit of the perennial Christian life-force, which despite three centuries of tragic vicissitudes and spiritual division was able to produce this momentous temporal achievement at the dawn of the American nation: as if the losses suffered by human history in the supreme domain of the integrity and unity of faith, and in the interest in theological truth, had been the price paid, with respect to human weakness and entanglements, for the release at that given moment of humbler, temporal Christian energies that must at any cost penetrate the historical existence of mankind." (Man and the State, The University of Chicago Press, p. 183.)


52 Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (New York: Doubleday, 1955.)

53 See my book Reflections on America (New York: Scribners, 1958), Ch XIX. [Chapter 5]


1 See supra, chapter I, pp. 6-8, and especially the passages from H. Marrou quoted in Footnotes 6 and 8, p. 8.


2 Contrariwise these typological laws occupy a larger place in the work of John Nef and his effort to characterize, in the whole complexity of their elements, the various epochs in modern history, especially the Industrial Age. See John Nef, La naissance de la civilisation industrielle et le monde contemporain (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1934).

I can only briefly mention here Professor David B. Richardson's article "The Philosophy of History and the Stability of Civilizations," in The Thomist, April, 1957, which I read while correcting my proofs. For the author of this excellent essay, the philosophy of history is, as it is for me, part of ethical philosophy -- and of a Christian ethical philosophy. I was particularly interested in his analysis of historical cycles, in which he suggests a philosophical interpretation of Toynbee's observations about the growth and decline of civilizations.


3 "Toynbee's Odyssey of the West," The Commonweal, LXI, No. 3 (Oct. 22, 1954), pp. 62-67. See also H. Marrou, op. cit., pp. 202-203.


4 "Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Matt., 10, 34-36.

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