For a second time in his career, Oliva Blanchette has made the most substantive English-language contribution to date to study of the French Catholic...moreFor a second time in his career, Oliva Blanchette has made the most substantive English-language contribution to date to study of the French Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel. Back in the 1980s, dissatisfied with the earlier translation of Blondel’s early masterwork Action (1893), Blanchette provided an improved version that long ago became the standard for Anglophone Blondel scholarship. The contribution he makes now with his present book is an intellectual biography, in the truest sense, of this seminal, difficult, and often overlooked thinker.
Every period and each piece are contextualized not only within the French intellectual scene, but also in within the scope of Blondel’s own life, vocation, teaching, and relationships. Blanchette brings Blondel to life as a human personality by making copious use not only of Blondel’s published correspondence, memoirs, interviews, and notebooks, but also materials from the Centre d’Archives de Maurice Blondel. We discover, just for one example, not only the multifarious contents of the courses Blondel taught, but also that he antedates Gilson (more typically credited with this) in introducing medieval thinkers to the French Philosophy curriculum. Blanchette also offers reasons why Blondel employed so many pseudonymous personae in commenting on his own work and combating his opponents. The turns, developments, decisions, setbacks, and triumphs of Blondel’s own philosophical vocation, his “intellectual apostolate,” are mapped out.
If one wants to study Maurice Blondel's thought, or even understand the French and Catholic milieux of philosophy from 1880-1950, this book is an essential purchase. Practically every important blondelian idea is explained or at least referenced and located within the larger scope and seep of his thought. (less)
Behemoth provides an excellent companion to Hobbes' masterwork Leviathan, not only because it sets out in a narrative form the processes of breakdown...moreBehemoth provides an excellent companion to Hobbes' masterwork Leviathan, not only because it sets out in a narrative form the processes of breakdown of one particular commonwealth, illustrating main principles of Hobbes' political theory and ethics, it thereby communicates bit by bit the sensibility informing and running through Hobbes' more philosophical and systematic works.
There is Thomas Hobbes, erstwhile scientist of human nature and of civil society, who aims to sweep away scholastic philosophy, invocation of previous authors, expounding of religious claims (at least of Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants) and supply a new "science of justice and equity," modeled as much as possible upon geometry and physics, "taught, from true principles and evident demonstration." But then, there is the yet more interesting Thomas Hobbes, who keenly depicts and analyses human motives, the play of political power, competition and claims, and chronicles these engagingly.
Hobbes has arranged his history of the English Civil Wars -- which runs from the reign of King Charles I, through the breakdown of political order spurred by the House of Commons, ending with the reinstatement of Charles II -- into the form of four dialogues. Although they contain many sections of question, followed by "so glad you asked that. . . " answers, there's also some genuine interplay between the two interlocutors -- asides, quips, raising and resolving challenges. Both speakers are marked by Hobbes' typically terse, cut-to-the-chase, well-readable style.
It is not surprising that Hobbes, a proponent of absolute monarchy, should place main blame for the political and thereby societal breakdown upon the House of Commons, dominated by Presbyterians wanting to curb or even eliminate the monarchy, to wrest England away religiously from the Anglican establishment, and to take full power for themselves. Still, he fairly dispassionately examines the unfolding of motives, actions, declarations of all sides, revealing fissures, temporary alliances, and openings for opportunists like Cromwell in the English body politic, noting a common feature to nearly all of those involved: "the method of ambition was constantly this: first to destroy, and then to consider what they should set up."(less)