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Maritain, Jacques (1882–1973)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K047-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Maritain was one of the most influential twentieth-century interpreters of the thought of Thomas Aquinas. His interests spanned many aspects of philosophy, including aesthetics, political theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, education, liturgy and ecclesiology.

His acknowledged masterpiece is The Degrees of Knowledge (1932). In this work, Maritain expands on Thomistic thought and seeks to explain the links between philosophy, science and religion as branches of wisdom. Rather than being a close study of Thomism, this work expands on Thomistic ideas and puts them into the context of the modern world. In natural science, for example, he distinguishes between empirical knowledge of nature and philosophy of nature; the latter consists in the knowledge of essence, while the former is concerned with the knowledge of form.

In moral philosophy, Maritain expands on Aquinas, holding that no true conception of the human ultimate end is philosophically possible, and that moral philosophy therefore must be subordinated to moral theology. Later in his career, Maritain concentrated more strongly on theology, but throughout his life his Roman Catholic faith informed all of his works. He continues to be read widely today, with a worldwide reputation which is especially strong in France and North America.

Citing this article:
McInerny, Ralph. Maritain, Jacques (1882–1973), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K047-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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