Maurice Blondel

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Maurice Blondel
Born 2 November 1861
Died4 June 1949 (1949-06-05) (aged 87)
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School French spiritualism
Main interests
Philosophy of action
Christian philosophy
Notable ideas
Philosophy of action

Maurice Blondel (French:  [blɔ̃dɛl] ; 2 November 1861 – 4 June 1949) was a French philosopher, whose most influential works, notably L'Action, aimed at establishing the correct relationship between autonomous philosophical reasoning and Christian belief.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.



Blondel was born in Dijon in 1861. He came from a family who were traditionally connected to the legal profession, but chose early in life to follow a career in philosophy. In 1881, he gained admission to the École Normale Supérieure of Paris. In 1893 he finished his thesis "L'Action" (Action), a critical essay of life and of a science of the practice. He was at this time refused a teaching post (as would have been his due) because his philosophical conclusions were deemed to be too 'Christian' and, therefore, "compromising" of philosophical reason. In 1895, however, with the help of his former teacher Émile Boutroux, he became a Maître de Conférences at Lille, then shortly after at Aix-en-Provence, where he became a professor in 1897. He would remain in Aix-en-Provence for the rest of his career. [2]

Dijon Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Dijon is a city in eastern France, capital of the Côte-d'Or département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Émile Boutroux French philosopher and historian

Étienne Émile Marie Boutroux was an eminent 19th century French philosopher of science and religion, and an historian of philosophy. He was a firm opponent of materialism in science. He was a spiritual philosopher who defended the idea that religion and science are compatible at a time when the power of science was rising inexorably. His work is overshadowed in the English-speaking world by that of the more celebrated Henri Bergson. He was elected membership of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1898 and in 1912 to the Académie française.

In L'Action, Blondel developed a "philosophy of action" in which he applies the method of phenomenology. This leads him to the first order issue of "action", critiquing the Enlightenment enshrinement of thought, which he subsumes under the category of action. This leads him to discover the distinction between the willing will and the willed will. This distinction shows a real insufficiency between the two elements of the will. The problem of connaturility - that man cannot desire something which cannot be fulfilled - leads to investigating how the willing will can be fulfilled in the willed will. This insufficiency leads him to eventually hypothesize the supernatural as the only real possibility. He insists that this is as far as a philosopher can go, that the supernatural is the real end of man, and that the content of the supernatural is left to the realm of theology.

His subsequent works, the Letter on Apologetics and History and Dogma, were also connected to the philosophical problem of religion. They unleashed an enormous controversy at the time of publication. Pope Pius X's 1907 encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis targeted the 'Modernist' threat to Catholic thought, and Blondel's thought remained associated (perhaps tenuously) with the Modernists. Blondel, however, was never the target of Pascendi and he received letters, through the Archbishop of Aix, from numerous Popes affirming he was not under suspicion. [3] He did, however, have great influence on later Catholic thought, especially through ressourcement theologians such as Henri de Lubac. [4]

Pope Pius X Catholic Pope and saint

Pope Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was head of the Catholic Church from August 1903 to his death in 1914. Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting liturgical reforms and orthodox theology. He directed the production of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first comprehensive and systemic work of its kind.

Modernism in the Catholic Church liberal theological opinions

In a Catholic context Modernism is a loose gestalt of liberal theological opinions that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term came to prominence in Pope Pius X's 1907 encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, which synthesizes and condemns modernism as embracing every heresy. The movement was influenced by Protestant theologians and clergy, starting with the Tübingen School in the mid-19th century. Pius charged that it was prominent in French and British intellectual circles and, to a lesser extent, in Italy. The term is generally used by critics of rather than adherents to positions associated with it.

His wife died in 1919 and in 1927 he retired for health reasons. Between 1934 and 1937 he published a trilogy dedicated to thought, being and action. In 1935, he published an essay of concrete and integrale ontology "L'être et les êtres" (The Being and the Beings) and in 1946 he published "L'esprit chrétien" (The Christian Spirit).

Ontology study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Blondel died in Aix-en-Provence in 1949. He was the younger brother of historian Georges Blondel and a first cousin of physicist André Blondel.

Historian person who studies and writes about the past

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Georges Blondel was a French historian, specialising in the history of Germany and Austria before 1914. Born in 1856 in Dijon, France, Blondel received his doctorate in 1881 and in 1894 was named professor of letters at Lille University. He died in 1948 in Paris.After receiving his doctorate in 1881 and the rank of agrégé in 1883, he was appointed to a chair of law at Lyon in 1884 and 10 years later was named professor of letters at Lille. He later taught at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales and the Collège de France in Paris.

Commonly, "cousin" refers to a "first cousin", people whose most recent common ancestor is a grandparent. A first cousin used to be known as a cousin-german, though this term is rarely used today.


A nine-volume edition of the complete works of Blondel is being published. Two volumes (as of 2013) have been published.

See also

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  1. Sutton, Michael (1982). Nationalism, Positivism, and Catholicism. The Politics of Charles Maurras and French Catholics 1890-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0-521-22868-9. p. 124.
  2. Michael A Conway, 'Maurice Blondel and Ressourcement ', in Gabriel Flynn and Paul D. Murray, Ressourcement (Oxford: OUP, 2012), p70.
  3. Portier, William (Spring 2011). "Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology and the Triumph of Maurice Blondel" (PDF). Communio.
  4. Michael A Conway, 'Maurice Blondel and Ressourcement ', in Gabriel Flynn and Paul D. Murray, Ressourcement (Oxford: OUP, 2012), p70.

Further reading