Out of a Kantian chrysalis? A Maritainian critique of Marechal

Ronald Dean McCamy, Marquette University


In the year 1924, Jacques Maritain and Fr. Joseph Marechal engaged in a public dialogue in which they compared and contrasted their respective understandings of Thomistic philosophy in relation to the Kantian critique. This began when Maritain publicly noted and critiqued the recently published first three Cahiers of Marechal's Le Point de Depart de la Metaphysique. This critique appeared in a lengthy footnote in his article, "La Vie Propre de l'Intelligence et l'Erreur Idealiste," in the Revue Thomiste. Meritain's objection to Marechal's Kantian rapproachement was that its manner of objectivating the phenomenal contents of consciousness unsatisfactorily undermined the cognitive role of the concept in Thomism. A specific concern was Marechal's manner of referring to the active investment of the quantitative content of the phantasm with the intellect's own speculative unity of being. Marechal's reply to Maritain was a conciliatory assurance that his forthcoming Cahier V would demonstrate the agreement of the two men on basic issues. While Maritain did not directly engage Marechal in any further correspondence after the publication of Cahier V, he did revise his initial footnote critique. The latter appeared in revised form in Reflexions sur l'Intelligense as a summary negative appraisal of Marechal's transcendental project. Clearly, Maritain had not been persuaded by the content of Cahier V. This dissertation examines the correspondence between Maritain and Marechal, with an eye to the validity of the former's stated objections. We conclude that Maritain's concerns were in fact valid, and that he was ultimately the more faithful to the thought of St. Thomas. Our method has been to begin by addressing the contemporary relevance and the philosophical context of the issues at stake between Maritain and Marechal. We then proceed to examine Maritain's first footnote critique against the backdrop of the larger textual setting in which it appears. Marechal's reply with Maritain's further comments are then analyzed in "Note a propos des Cahiers du R. P. Marechal," in the Revue Thomiste. We then look to Marechal's Cahier V, with Maritain's specific objections in mind. In this way we are able to evaluate Marechal's claim to basic Thomistic accord with Maritain. Thus, the most significant texts for our purpose are primarily those which are directly related to the 1924 correspondence. We draw only secondarily upon the later works of either of these Catholic philosophers.

Recommended Citation

McCamy, Ronald Dean, "Out of a Kantian chrysalis? A Maritainian critique of Marechal" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9634274.