Books About Etienne Gilson

Art and Intellect in Philosophy of Etienne Gilson (ERIC VOEGELIN INST SERIES)
by Francesca Aran Murphy.
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.

Etienne Gilson
by Laurence K. Shook.
This biography is the story of the distinguished Christian philosopher Etienne Gilson, based on a large collection of privileged correspondence, documents and personal recollections. It presents not only his immensely productive life as a writer, teacher and lecturer in France and North America but also something of the substance, nature and originality of his thought. It acknowledges one man's contribution to the welfare of mankind.

Son of a Parisian shopkeeper and his Burgundian wife, Gilson received a gentleman's education in private Paris schools, in the Lycee Henri iv, and in the Sorbonne during the second period when Emile Durckheim was inventing a new sociology, and Henri Bergson's lectures on creative evolution were attracting large crowds to the College de France.

Having studied successfully the revolutionary writings of Rene Descartes and modern French philosophy, Gilson became through private study a leading if eccentric authority on Christian medieval thought.

Gilson held university posts successively in Lille, Strasbourg and Paris, becoming the Sorbonne's inimitable historian of the philosophies of the middle ages. Named a delegate to international meetings in London, Naples and Cambridge (Massachusetts), and achieving thereby world-wide recognition, he refused invitations to move from Paris to another university. Encouraged, however, by French External Affairs he accepted special cultural missions in the Americas at Harvard, Toronto and Rio de Janeiro. In 1929 he founded in Toronto a research institute which later became the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Gilson's life had other facets. When World War i broke out he at first served his country as a sergeant drilling recruits. Despatched to Verdun as a machinegunner, he was promoted to lieutenant. In 1916 he fell prisoner, working out his frustrations by learning new languages (including Russian) and reading Bonaventure. In World War n he gave courses in the College de France throughout the occupation, refused to collaborate, and earned an honorary membership in the resistance. He subsequently represented France at post-war conferences at San Francisco (the United Nations), London (UNESCO) and The Hague. For two years he was a conseiller or senator in the French government.

A second lifetime facet was to accept special lecture series when they offered a challenge. Thus he delivered the Gifford Lectures in Aberdeen, the Henry James Lectures at Harvard, the Powell Lectures at Indiana, the inaugural series of ten lectures in the Mercier chair at Louvain and the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery, Washington. Gilson's most cherished of many awards was his election in 1946 into the Academie Francaise.