Christian Humanism: The Crisis of Modernity

Our secular society.
(Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, a 13th century Catholic Church in Maastricht, Netherlands, that is now a luxurious bookstore. Image by FaceMePLS / CC BY 2.0 / Desaturated from original)

Jacques Maritain begins his essay “Christian Humanism” telling us how the ideas in the mind of just a few men mold an epoch. That’s the power of philosophy which I have been learning that exists, and which I have ignored all my life.

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What Things Themselves?

Please, look at the world instead!
(Gorilla Selfie, by Anthony Poynton)

I will not pretend here that I fully understand Existentialism, Phenomenology or Thomism — I am just a student climbing the first steps of a long, long ladder. But ignorance works well as a first filter. The blunt intellectual knife which is all I have to work with, for the moment, impedes a complex elaboration of thought that might justify all sorts of absurdities. So it is navigating (or drowning) amidst this ignorance that I ask this question: Why do the most subjective philosophies try to disguise themselves as objective? They do not look at the world; they look at themselves.

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The Objectivist Maritain

“I am not a neo-Thomist. All in all, I would rather be a paleo-Thomist than a neo-Thomist.
I am, or at least I hope I am, a Thomist.”

Jacques Maritain, “Existence and the Existent”, Introduction.
(The Temptation of St Thomas Aquinas, by Bernardo Daddi, 1338.)

Of course Jacques Maritain was not an Objectivist; he was a Thomist. But to be a Thomist, I learned, is to partake of at least the first (and, arguably, the most important) axiom of Objectivism: “Existence exists”. This makes my life much easier, now that I decided to present a non-existent paper on him at an upcoming conference.

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