Joseph de Maistre


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


Political philosopher, born in Savoy. Although a Catholic, he was for fifteen years a Freemason, and briefly supported the French Revolution. But in 1793 the French invasion forced him into exile first in Switzerland, then in Russia as ambassador for the king of Savoy where he remained without his family until 1817. All Maistre's writings derived from his hatred of the Revolution, but instead of a critique of particular events, he started from the form of thought that for him explained them, summarized in the notion of pride. This was a denial of the knowledge of final causes that had existed before the Fall of Adam and Eve, and which was afterwards available only in an instinctive form in the traditions of different societies, or in an individual form, in the consciences of the virtuous. The thinkers who had inspired the revolutionaries believed that they could do better by applying abstract reason, something which the history of the Revolution showed to be ridiculous. After the defeat of Napoleon, Maistre returned to Turin, and established contact with pro‐royalist circles in France. He rapidly became dissatisfied with the Restoration, and with the post‐revolutionary settlement. In 1819, he published Du pape in which he proposed the Church as the only possible sovereign, but this seems to have been more a matter of disappointment with the situation in Europe than something derived from his social philosophy.

Carl Slevin


Subjects: Arts and Humanities.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.