'A Preface to Metaphysics: Seven Lectures on Being'
By Jacques Maritain (Author)
Despite its slender size, this book must rank among the most important works of its author. For it is a profound and subtle study of the foundation of metaphysics, the implications of being. Here and there the language seems unnecessarily difficult, as taking too much for granted from the reader. But in the main it can be followed by anyone who will take the trouble to attend carefully to its close-knit reasoning.
The introductory lecture explains why metaphysics cannot progress in the same sense as the experimental sciences, and the kind of progress we may expect in it. We were delighted • and, dare we add, a little surprised at the degree to which a Thomist of such strict observance admits development in the study and statement of Thomism. We believe, however, that the development will involve a wider departure, not indeed from the fundamental principles of scholasticism, but from the detailed views of St. Thomas, than M. Maritain would allow.
Maritain compares being as the object of metaphysics with the being studied by logic and by the sciences, and the being implied by common sense, and exposes modem errors incurred by confusion between the former and one or other of the latter. We are glad to notice that he speaks of the intuition of being. Too often in scholastic circles, intuition is regarded as an unintellectual emotion, and condemned accordingly. Here its intellectual nature is duly recognized. Abstraction is explained as an intensive visualization, in a most illuminating account of it.
The principles of identity, sufficient reason and finality are explained with equal lucidity. The discussion of the second of these principles leads M. Maritain to a searching criticism of the Moslem Unitarianism. It is not a question of forcing metaphysical conclusions to serve Catholic theology but the intrinsic harmony between truths.
The principle of finality is discussed at length, and the book concludes with the best explanation of chance we have met with. We think, however, that the author has not sufficiently dealt with the view that chance events are predetermined, not simply as he holds, by Divine Providence, but by inherent constitution of the universe and the relations it involves between the events of its history. Indeed, apart from human free will, we should have thought this was the case.
Many suppose being the most barren and empty of concepts. This book shows what a treasure of truths the metaphysician can extract from it bearing on the foundation, structure and crown of human knowledge.
Jacques Maritain (18 November 1882 – 28 April 1973) was a French Catholic philosopher. Raised as a Protestant, he became an agnostic before converting to Catholicism in 1906. An author of more than 60 books, he helped to revive St. Thomas Aquinas for modern times, and was influential in the development and drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pope Paul VI presented his "Message to Men of Thought and of Science" at the close of Vatican II to Maritain, his long-time friend and mentor. Maritain's interest and works spanned many aspects of philosophy, including aesthetics, political theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, the nature of education, liturgy and ecclesiology.