Jacques Maritain and the Philosophy of Cooperation

Lawrence Dewan

in Wisdom, Law, and Virtue

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227969
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237210 | DOI:

Series: Moral Philosophy and Moral Theology

Jacques Maritain and the               Philosophy of Cooperation

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In Man and the State, Jacques Maritain notes that with the Universal Declaration of Rights published by the United Nations in 1948, men “mutually opposed in their theoretical conceptions” have been able to come to a merely practical agreement regarding a list of human rights. This “last refuge of intellectual agreement among men” invites the philosopher to propose its true justification. The justification Maritain proposes is the doctrine of natural law. Maritain describes natural law in a two-phase presentation. First, there is the ontological element, and second the gnoseological element. The former is the normality of functioning of human nature. Regarding the second element, gnoseological, Maritain asserts that natural law is “known to human reason not in terms of conceptual and rational knowledge,” 6 but “through inclination.” This chapter argues that although at a secondary level the doctrine of knowledge through inclination has an important role in our conception of practical knowledge, including natural law, as the basic doctrine of natural law it obscures unduly the cognitional nature of that law. Maritain represented himself as giving a more faithful rendering of Thomas Aquinas's conception of natural law than was usually presented; and he regarded St. Thomas as the one man who, in spite of certain inevitable limitations of his age, had adequately grasped the nature of natural law. The chapter aims to criticize Maritain in the light of St. Thomas.

Keywords: Thomas Aquinas; natural law; Jacques Maritain; practical knowledge; human nature

Chapter.  3279 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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