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  • 5/31/2004

Maurice Blondel

Maurice Blondel was born in Dijon, France in 1861, entered the ةcole Normale Supérieure in 1881, and passed the aggregation in 1886. Like many in his generation, he was profoundly affected by the tensions in French life, particularly those between the French academic establishment and Catholicism. Blondel defended his thesis, L’action in 1893, at the Sorbonne. His thesis, which argues for the inescapability of the "religious problem", brought him into the heart of theological and philosophical controversy of his time, First, Blondel was refused an university position on the grounds of having taken an improperly religious position in his philosophy, finally receiving a Professorship in Aix in 1897. After his difficulties with the philosophers, Blondel found himself under attack by conservative neo-thomist theologians for having rationalized theology, and ultimately by the group L’Action Francaise, as a "modernist". Blondel wrote the Letter on Apologetics in 1896 andHistory and Dogmain 1903 precisely to address these problems, not least the great gap between Catholic thought and Modern philosophy and social existence.
Blondel refused to republish L’action (1893), intending to rework it in light of a larger, more rigorous project that was to become his metaphysical trilogy. In the meantime, he published numerous articles upon Modern Philosophy and Church Fathers, and took part in the Modernist controversy, taking a position that was neither Modernist nor Veterist, but rather stressed the role of a living tradition. In 1905, Blondel purchased the journalAnnales de la Philosophie Chrétienne, and set up Lucien Laberthonière as editor, and engaged himself in argument against L’Action Francaise and its authors. In 1919, Blondel’s wife, Rose, died, and in 1927, his vision degenerated, leaving him nearly blind, necessitating his retirement, able to work only by dictation. From 1934 to 1937, however, he published the five volumes,La Pensée (2 vol.),L’être et les êtres, andL’action (2 vol.) of the metaphysical trilogy, followed byL’Esprit chrétien, only two volumes of which were completely finished at his death in 1949.

Blondel’s importance has largely been in theological and Catholic philosophical circles in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Quebec. Among many other important authors in the 20th Century, Blondel is responsible for the "new theology" that played such a great role in the deliberations and arguments of the Second Vatican Council.

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