THE RATIONALE FOR CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHY ACCORDING TO MAURICE BLONDEL

Blanchette, Oliva - Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 USA

The idea of Catholic Philosophy strikes many as odd, if not as downright irreconcilable with a proper idea of philosophy or a proper idea of Catholicism. Philosophers who will have nothing to do with religion say that there can be no such thing as Catholic philosophy, not any more than there is Catholic mathematics or Catholic physics. Others who recognize a place for religion as well as philosophy and the fact that there once was a philosophy associated with religion in the Christian middle ages are willing to speak of a Christian Philosophy, but only for historical reasons, not any doctrinal or philosophical reasons. Catholic thinkers, on the other hand, or theologians, are often adamantly opposed to having philosophy interject itself into the sphere of the religious, especially when they think of that sphere as strictly supernatural. Only Blondel seems to have insisted on articulating a philosophy that was properly Catholic as well as a Catholic thought that was properly philosophical, that is, accessible to any rational agent, unless one wants to include Kierkegaard in this paradoxical way of thinking about the Infinite of supernatural religion, even if it be from a Lutheran perspective.

The rationale for this combining of philosophy and Catholic stems from Blondelís attempts to reopen the question of religion within French philosophy at the end of the 19th century, which was largely indifferent to religion at the time, if not outright anti-religious, and from his own personal attempt to think through the unity of his life as both a philosopher and a Catholic for the benefit of other philosophers in their quest to make sense of human destiny. To do this he developed a method for dealing with the precise point where philosophy and religion come together in human action or existence in keeping with the strictest philosophical exigencies as well as the strictest Catholic orthodoxy about the supernatural. Through this method he was able to unpack this precise existential point of confrontation and choice in the presence of God, so that he could show the necessity of adhering to the supernatural gift of God, if it were offered, even though on the part of God it would be totally gratuitous or beyond any natural exigency, a doctrine that he found clearly expressed only in the Catholic Church and that so many found scandalous from the standpoint of reason. He spoke of this philosophical method as a method of immanence for dealing with an infinite transcendence in human action without any confusion of the supernatural order with the natural order and without any unwarranted intrusion of reason into the mysteries of Christian religion such as one finds in Hegel.

With this method he was able to answer the objections of all who were opposed to combining Catholic and philosophy, whether from the irreligious left or from the fixated religious right, and to promote a new way of thinking the implications of modern philosophy through to their ultimate religious dimensions as well as to encourage Catholics to rethink their religious commitments and beliefs as they relate to human experience here and now within a tradition that goes all the way back to the original revelation of the God made man.