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v2.1 Reference

Maritain and America

Jacques Maritain was one of the leading French and Thomist philosophers of the twentieth century. He was particularly fond of America and its political experiment in liberal democracy. He taught at four American universities and came to know the young republic first hand. Maritain and America explores the engagement of his thought with the American political experiment in representative democracy and the culture of liberal individualism that it has fostered.

The book begins with a consideration of the sources for the American founding—English common law, Protestant Christianity, Lockean natural rights theory—and then proceeds to examine the American political order from the perspective of various philosophers in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas. These scholars are concerned with, among other things, the relationship of natural law and natural rights, understandings of the common good, and achieving unity in a pluralist society. One set of essays discusses America's unique settlements between faith and reason and between church and state. Another set explores the philosophy of personalism, one of the most notable projects that Thomists, such as Maritain, have undertaken in order to provide a metaphysical understanding of the human person that can both provide a foundation for natural rights and yet be open to a transcendent order of goodness. Other scholars take up the task of developing a theory of tolerance (in the context of a pluralist society) that is grounded in a common quest for wisdom and truth. The final section applies Thomistic ethics in the context of contemporary American society.

Maritain and America makes a valuable contribution to the quest for a true and integral humanism that can help sustain the American experiment in modern, liberal democracy.

The contributors are: +Martin Andic, professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts;
John A. Cuddeback, associate professor of philosophy, Christendom College; James G. Hanink, professor of philosophy, Loyola Marymount University; William Joensen, associate professor of philosophy, Loras College; Robert P. Kraynak, professor of political science, Colgate University; John F. Morris, associate professor of philosophy, Rockhurst University; +Ralph Nelson, professor of political science, University of Windsor; Mathew Pugh, associate professor of philosophy, Providence College; Alice Ramos, professor of philosophy, St. John's University; Teresa Reed, dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Marymount University; Francis Slade, professor emeritus of political science, St. Francis College; Eric O. Springstead, interim senior pastor, Georgetown Presbyterian Church;
John G. Trapani Jr., professor of philosophy, Walsh University; Timothy Valentine, S.J., chaplain, US Military Academy; and Henk E. S. Woldring, professor of political philosophy, Free University, Amsterdam.


Christopher M. Cullen, S.J., is associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University and associate director of Fordham's Center for Medieval Studies. He is the author of Bonaventure. Joseph Allan Clair is currently enrolled in the doctoral program in the religion department at Princeton University. His doctoral research topic is the political thought of Augustine of Hippo.


"[The book] gently initiates the beginner into some of the central themes of Maritain's thought, while at the same time providing enough substance to satisfy seasoned Maritain scholars. . . . [O]verall, these essays constitute an important contribution to the field of Maritain studies. University professors who are thinking about offering a seminar on Maritain's philosophical project, or even a more general survey of Christianity and democracy, will want to think seriously about assigning this work as a textbook for the course. Meanwhile, scholars who regularly engage issues such as church-state

American Maritain Association
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