Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Jacques Maritain

French Neo-Thomist Philosopher, Man of Letters

"Since man is endowed with intelligence and determines his own ends, it is up to him to put himself in tune with the ends necessarily demanded by his nature. This means that there is, by very virtue of human nature, an order or a disposition which human reason can discover and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that."

"A coward flees backward, away from new things. A man of courage flees forward, in the midst of new things."

"The office of the moral law is that of a pedagogue, to protect and educate us in the use of freedom. At the end of this period of instruction, we are enfranchised from every servitude, even from the servitude of law, since Love made us one in spirit with the wisdom that is the source of Law."

"The sole philosophy open to those who doubt the possibility of truth is absolute silence - even mental."

"We don't love qualities, we love persons, sometimes for their defects as well as for their qualities."

"The fundamental rights, like the right to existence and life; the right to personal freedom or to conduct one’s own life as master of oneself and of one’s acts, responsible for them before God and the law of the community; the right to the pursuit of the perfection of moral and rational human life; the right to keep one’s body whole; the right to private ownership of material goods, which is a safeguard of the liberties of the individual; the right to marry according to one’s choice and to raise a family which will be assured of the liberties due it; the right of association, the respect for human dignity in each individual, whether or not he represents an economic value for society - all these rights are rooted in the vocation of the person (a spiritual and free agent) to the order of absolute values and to a destiny superior to time."

"At each epoch of history the world was in a hopeless state, and at each epoch of history the world muddled through; at each epoch the world was lost, and at each epoch it was saved."

"Freedom of investigation is a fundamental natural right, for man’s very nature is to seek the truth."

"The search for causes is indeed the business of philosophers."

"This divination of the spiritual in the things of sense, and which expresses itself I the things of sense, is precisely what we call Poetry. Metaphysics too pursues a spiritual prey, but in a very different formal object. Whereas metaphysics stands in the line of knowledge and of the contemplation of truth, poetry stands in the line of making and of the delight procured by beauty. The difference is an all-important one, and one that it would be harmful to disregard. Metaphysics snatches at the spiritual in an idea, by the most abstract intellection; poetry reaches it in the flesh, by the very point of the sense sharpened through intelligence... Metaphysics gives chase to essences and definitions, poetry to any flash of existence glittering by the way, and any reflection of an invisible order. Metaphysics isolates mystery in order to know it; poetry, thanks to the balances it constructs, handles and utilizes mystery as an unknown force."

"With respect to God and truth, one has not the right to choose according to his own whim any path whatsoever, he must choose the true path, in so far as it is in his power to know."

"What makes man most unhappy is to be deprived not of that which he had, but of that which he did not have, and did not really know."

"To believe in God must mean to live in such a manner that life could not possibly be lived if God did not exist."

"life begins here upon earth, and the soul of man lives and breathes where it loves; and love, in living faith, has strength enough to make the soul of man experience unity with God – two natures in a single spirit and love."

"Having given up God so as to be self-sufficient, man has lost track of his soul. He looks in vain for himself; he turns the universe upside down trying to find himself, he finds masks, and behind the masks, death."

"We are bound together by a more primitive and fundamental unity than any unity of thought and doctrine; we all have the same human nature and, considered in their extra-mental reality, the same primordial tendencies."

"Our whole being subsists in virtue of the subsistence of the spiritual soul which is in us a principle of creative unity, independence and liberty."

"Chance cannot possibly be the origin of things. For it presupposes an encounter of causal series... Chance, that is to say, necessarily implies preordination. to hold that the universe can be explained by a primordial chance is self-contradictory."

"Religion, like everything great and noble and demanding within us, increases the tension in mankind; and together with the tension, suffering; and with the suffering, spiritual effort; and with the spiritual effort, joy."

"A single idea, if it is right, saves us the labor of an infinity of experiences. "

"We don't love qualities; we love a person; sometimes by reason of their defects as well as their qualities. "

"We do not need a truth to serve us, we need a truth that we can serve."

"Authority and power are two different things: power is the force by means of which you can oblige others to obey you. Authority is the right to direct and command, to be listened to or obeyed by others. Authority requests power. Power without authority is tyranny."

"Nothing is more human than for man to desire naturally things impossible to his nature. It is, indeed, the property of a nature which is not closed up in matter like the nature of physical things, but which is intellectual or infinitized by the spirit. It is the property of a metaphysical nature. Such desires reach for the infinite, because the intellect thirsts for being and being is infinite."

"Poetic experience is distinct in nature from mystical experience. Because poetry emanates from the free creativity of the spirit, it is from the very start oriented toward expression, and terminates in a word proffered, it wants to speak; whereas mystical because it emanates from the deepest longing of the spirit bent on knowing, tends of itself toward silence and internal fruition. Poetic experience is busy with the created world and the enigmatic and innumerable relations of existents with one another, not with the Principle of Being."

"Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. "

"Poetry proceeds from the totality of man, sense, imagination, intellect, love, desire, instinct, blood and spirit together. "