Jacques Maritain

French philosopher

Jacques Maritain (18 November 188228 April 1973) was a French Catholic philosopher, and was one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Jacques Maritain (circa 1930)


  • Whereas the intelligence of God is both the cause and the measure of the truth of things, things are both the cause and the measure of the truth of our intelligence.
    • Theonas: Conversations of a Sage (1921). Sheed & Ward, 1933, p. 9.
  • The philosopher says that God's knowledge is the measure of things, and that things are the measure of man's knowledge.
    • Theonas: Conversations of a Sage (1921). Sheed & Ward, 1933, p. 77.
  • What we need is not truths that serve us but a truth we may serve.
    • Degrees of Knowledge (1932, Notre Dame Translation), p. 4.
  • It is enough that things exist for God to be unavoidable. Let us but grant to a bit of moss or the smallest ant its due nature as an ontological reality, and we can no longer escape the terrifying hand that made us.
    • Degrees of Knowledge (1932, Notre Dame Translation), p. 116.
  • Things are opaque to us, and we are opaque to ourselves.
    • Degrees of Knowledge (1932, Notre Dame Translation), p. 117.
  • To be free is of the essence of every intellectual being.
    • Freedom in the Modern World, (1933, Notre Dame Edition), p. 6.
  • Western humanism has religious and transcendent sources without which it is incomprehensible to itself.
    • Integral Humanism, (1936, Notre Dame Edition), p. 154.
  • Nothing is more vain than to seek to unite men by a philosophic minimum.
    • Integral Humanism, (1936, Notre Dame Edition), p. 262.
  • There is nothing man desires more than a heroic life: there is nothing less common to men than heroism.
    • True Humanism (1938), p. xi.
  • In loving things and the being in them man should rather draw things up to the human level than reduce humanity to their measure.
    • True Humanism (1938), p. xv.
  • If it is correct to say that there will always be rightist temperaments and leftist temperaments, it is nevertheless also correct to say that political philosophy is neither rightist nor leftist; it must simply be true.
    • The Twilight of Civilization (1939). London: Sheed & Ward, 1946, p. 41.
  • In so far as we are individuals, each of us is a fragment of a species, a part of this universe, a single dot in the immense network of forces and influences, cosmic, ethnic, historic, whose laws we obey. We are subject to the determination of the physical world. But each man is also a person, he is not subject to the stars and atoms; for he subsists entirely with the very subsistence of his spiritual soul, and the latter is in him a principle of creative unity, of independence and of freedom.
    • Scholasticism and Politics (1940)
  • There is room neither for the poet nor for the contemplator in an egalitarian world.
    • Ransoming the Time (1941), p. 14.
  • The supernatural light of the spirit is the only night from which the spirit can emerge alive.
    • Ransoming the Time (1941), p. 288.
  • A community of free men cannot exist if its spiritual base is not solely law.
    • Christianity and Democracy (1943), p. 43.
  • Not only does the democratic state of mind stem from the inspiration of the Gospel, but it cannot exist without it.
    • Christianity and Democracy (1943), p. 49.
  • In each of us there dwells a mystery, and that mystery is the human personality.
    • The Rights of Man and Natural Law (1943), p. 2.
  • Thus society is born, as something required by nature, and (because this nature is human nature) as something accomplished through a work of reason and will, and freely consented to. Man is a political animal, which means that the human person craves political life, communal life, not only with regard to the family community, but with regard to the civil community.
    • The Rights of Man (1945). London: Geoffrey Bles, pp. 7–8.
  • The truth of practical intellect is understood not as conformity to an extramental being but as conformity to a right desire; the end is no longer to know what is, but to bring into existence that which is not yet.
    • “Action: the Perfection of Human Life,” Sewanee Review, LVI (Winter, 1948), pp. 3-4.
  • The equality of rights of all citizens is the basic tenet of modern democratic societies.
    • Man and the State (1951), p. 179.
  • Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment. Here we have the first internal inconsistency of contemporary atheism: it proclaims that all religion must necessarily vanish away, and it is itself a religious phenomena.
    • The Range of Reason (1952). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 106.
  • To redeem creation the saint wages war on the entire fabric of creation, with the bare weapons of truth and love.
    • The Range of Reason (1952), p. 109.
  • With all his sincerity and devotion, the authentic, absolute atheist is after all only an abortive saint, and at the same time, a mistaken revolutionist.
    • The Range of Reason (1952), p. 113.
  • The first step to be taken by everyone who wishes to act morally is to decide not to act according to the general customs and doings of his fellow-men.
    • The Range of Reason (1952), p. 137.
  • The hope of the coming of a new Christian era in our civilization is to my mind a hope for a distant future, a very distant future.
    • The Range of Reason (1952), p. 217.
  • It is not possible to escape from the results of the irruption of faith into the structures of our knowledge.
    • Science and Wisdom (1954), p. 109.
  • The act of philosophizing involves the character of the philosopher.
    • Science and Wisdom (1954), p. 207.
  • To philosophize man must put his whole soul into play, in much the same manner that to run he must use his heart and lungs.
    • An Essay on Christian Philosophy (1955), p. 17.
  • In point of fact, Western philosophy has never set itself free of Christianity: wherever Christianity did not have a hand in the construction of modern philosophy it served instead as a stumbling block.
    • An Essay on Christian Philosophy (1955), p. 51.
  • A great philosopher in the wrong is like a beacon on the reefs which says to seamen: steer clear of me.
    • On the Use of Philosophy (1961), p. 5.
  • For to love is to give what one is, his very being, in the most absolute, the most brazenly metaphysical, the least phenomenalizable sense of this word.
    • The Peasant of the Garonne (1968), p 9.
  • It is impossible for a Christian to be a relativist.
    • The Peasant of the Garonne (1968), p. 89.
  • It has never been recommended to confuse "loving" with "seeking to please"… ...Salome pleased Herod's guests; I can hardly believe she was burning with love for them. As for poor John the Baptist... ...she certainly did not envelop him in her love.
    • The Peasant of the Garonne (1968), p. 91.
  • The day when efficacy would prevail over truth will never come for the Church, for then the gates of hell would have prevailed against her.
    • The Peasant of the Garonne (1968), p. 94.
  • When one's function is to teach the loftiest wisdom, it is difficult to resist the temptation to believe that until you have spoken, nothing has been said.
    • The Peasant of the Garonne (1968), pp. 147-148.
  • We have just seen that perfection and contemplation imply each other by reason of love which is at once the essence of perfecton and “the source, the execize and the end” of contemplation. One can also show this mutual implication by the stressing the fact that under the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the state proper to perfection and to contemplation all at once. Saint Thomas teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation, because we are too weak all by ourselves always to use as we should even the theological virtues and the infused moral virtues. […] For, as saint Bonavenure tell us, “the gifts immediately dispose one to contemplation”.
    • Liturgy and contemplation, chapter VI, p. 20[1]


  1. Jacques Maritain; Raissa Maritain. Liturgy and contemplation. Aeterna Press. ISBN 97817855165955 Invalid ISBN. 
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