2.2.8 Jacques Maritain

Back to 2.2.7

Unit 2 Contents

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Before moving on to some of the other main principles in CST, we pause to learn about one of the greatest Catholic writers about society, economics and politics of the twentieth century.  This is Jacques Maritain, a Frenchman, who wrote from the 1920s to the 1960s and most of whose books were very widely read.  Before trying to digest a chapter from one of Maritain’s books, called The Person and the Common Good, read a bit about his life.

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Reading (3pp)

Bearing in mind the caution and critical mind that it is always necessary to bring to Wikipedia articles – because anyone can edit them, so their reliability is not guaranteed – read the first couple of sections in the Wikipedia entry on Maritain:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Maritain

Note

This refers to Maritain’s work in relation to human rights and his involvement in the drafting of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Unit 7 of this module gives attention to this.

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The next reading is a few pages from Chapter 4 in the book by Maritain mentioned above.  You might find this is the most demanding reading set in this unit, although it is not long. Maritain was a philosopher!  This said, the study you have just been doing of the concept of the common good should make this reading much easier to understand than it would be if you came to it immediately.

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Reading (5pp)

J. Maritain, The Person and the Common Good,

Chapter 4, ‘The Person and Society’, first eight paragraphs

This is up to the para. ending “…contribute to the realisation of this independence”.

Note

This is at the website of the Maritain Centre at the University of Notre Dame in the United States.  If you’d like to see what else is accessible there, go to http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/index.html.  One thing is a radio interview with Maritain from the late 1940s.

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EXERCISE

When looking at human dignity earlier (2.2.4), we saw that the Compendium presents CST as opposed to all ‘reductionist’ understandings of the human person.  I said:

[A]mong the reductionist views of humanity that CST opposes are radical individualism on one hand, a label that refers to views in which individuals are each seen as able to be fully human regardless of how others are doing, and radical collectivism on the other, according to which we are each no more than “a molecule within the social organism” (#125).

Looking again at the Maritain reading, make a few notes to answer the following two questions:

– In which paragraphs does Maritain make basically those same two points, although using different language?

– What are the two central concepts in the way he presents what he sees as the right understanding?

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE: Click here

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In the sixth paragraph of the reading, Maritain attempts to give a concrete description of what the common good means in practice.  It is not just the shared physical infrastructure of a society, nor only its inherited customs and institutions.  It is the good that exists as a people actually lives together, making use of that infrastructure and making real those traditions.  It is captured well in the phrase quoted at the end of that Response: it is “communion in good living”.

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End of 2.2.8

Go to 2.2.9 ‘Integral human development’ and ‘natural law’

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