The Peasant of the Garonne
Publication Date: January 14, 2013
At eighty-five, Jacques Maritain, the most distinguished Catholic philosopher of the twentieth century, has written what he offers as his last book, and it turns out to be a shocker. The "peasant," as Maritain calls himself in the title, is a man who calls a spade a spade; and a storm of controversy descended immediately on the book's publication in France, as both Right and Left reeled from the force of Maritain's criticism.
The Peasant of the Garonne is a sharp attack on the "new philosophy," hoping to cool off the fever for change that Maritain believes is imperiling the church's traditional spirituality and even the substance of doctrine. There is sardonic humor in his treatment of Teilhardians, phenomenologists, existentialists, new-style biblical critics, and clerical Freudians, but Maritain is deeply serious in warning that their capitulation to fashionable trends represents a kind of "kneeling before the world."
Jacques Maritain was born in Paris in 1882 and studied at the Sorbonne, where he met his future wife, Raissa; both entered the Catholic Church under the influence of Leon Bloy in 1906. He became professor at the Institut Catholique de Paris in 1914, and in 1948 he was appointed professor of philosophy at Princeton University. He also taught at the Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto, the University of Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame. After World War II, he accepted the post of French ambassador to the Vatican, and headed the French delegation to UNESCO.
"Maritain's reflections on the place of the Church in the modern world have set off a bitter debate . . ." —Time
"Probably the most reasonable defense yet written of a moderate viable traditionalism." —Leslie Dewart, author of The Future of Belief