In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson, Francesca Aran Murphy tells the story of this French philosopher’s struggle to reconcile faith and reason. In his lifetime, Gilson often stood alone in presenting Saint Thomas Aquinas as a theologian, one whose philosophy came from his faith. Today, Gilson’s view is becoming the prevalent one. Murphy provides us with an intellectual biography of this Thomist leader throughout the stages of his scholarly development.
Murphy covers more than a half century of Gilson’s life while reminding readers of the political and social realities that confronted intellectuals of the early twentieth century. She shows the effects inner-church politics had on Gilson and his contemporaries such as Alfred Loisy, Lucien Lévy Bruhl, Charles Maurras, Henri de Lubac, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and Jacques Maritain, while also contextualizing Gilson’s own life and thoughts in relation to these philosophers and theologians.
These great thinkers, along with Gilson, continue to be sources of important intellectual debate among scholars, as do the political periods through which Gilson’s story threads—World Wars I and II, the rise and fall of Fascism, and the political upheavals of Europe. By placing Gilson’s twentieth-century Catholic life against a dramatic background of opposed political allegiances, clashing spiritualities, and warring ideas of philosophy, this book shows how rival factions each used their own interpretations of Thomas Aquinas to legitimate their conceptions of the Catholic Church. In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson, Murphy shows Gilson’s early openness to the artistic revolution of the Cubist and the Expressionist movements and how his love of art inspired his existential theology. She demonstrates the influence that Henri Bergson continued to have on Gilson and how Gilson tried to bring together the intellectual, Dominican side of Christianity with the charismatic, experiential Franciscan side.
Murphy concludes with a chapter on issues inspired by the Gilsonist tradition as developed by recent thinkers. This volume makes an original contribution to the study of Gilson, for the first time providing an organic and synthetic treatment of this major spiritual philosopher of modern times.