16 AUGUST 1930, Page 25

Spirit and Understanding.

An Introduction to Philosophy. By Jacques Maritain. Trans-

" I WILL pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the under- standing also," said St. Paul, at once the most sensible and most mystical of saints. His point of view is here identical with that of St. Thomas Aquinas ; and, we may add, of Pro- fessor Maritain, the great interpreter of St. Thomas to the modern world. M. Maritain has told us, however, that he dislikes the term " Neo-Thornist " as a description of his philosophy ; the thought of Aquinas has for him the eternal quality of real things, and does not require re-making in accordance with our impudent assumption that nothing which the past has produced is good enough for the twentieth century. Therefore, we pass by his publishers' reference to " the Neo-Thomist renaissance," and go straight to his vigorous, reverent and stimulating mind. The Introduction to Philosophy was intended to be the first of a series of seven volumes, which should cover the whole scholastic system and its relations with other great schools of thought. The series is still unwritten ; so this book, which has already passed through eleven editions in French, must be read and judged as a separate work. Mr. Watkin's admirable and lucid trans- lation makes this possible, and, indeed, pleasurable, to those who might shirk the difficulties of abstract thought presented in a foreign tongue.

Though scholastic philosophy, says M. Maritain, is essentially a Christian reading of reality, it is not here proposed for our acceptance " because it is Christian, but because it is demon- strably true." He desires to show its firm intellectual contours, its harmony with " those vital convictions in- stinctively acquired by every sane mind," the profoundly rational character which it inherited from that great realist Aristotle. Intellectually St. Thomas was one of the most tough-minded of philosophers, though spiritually his place is among the mystical saints : and those who hope to find in him some sanction for that hazy inunanentism which often does duty as " spiritual philosophy " will get no encourage, ment from M. Maritain's pages. Here everything is lucid, Latin and precise. " The natural and primitive judgment of the human reason " is held to be valid within its own system of reference. Intellect is " a truthful faculty " capable of apprehending those realities of the natural order which are the raw material of our experience. Since the simple and obvious facts of life are, and must be, the starting point from which philosophy ascends to the contemplation of those first principles which are their cause, it follows that :- " The greater the natural strength of a man's intelligence, the stronger should be his grasp of these natural certainties. He, therefore, who professes to condemn common sense shows not the

strength but the weakness of his understanding. . . Not a whimsy spun out of his own brain, but the entire universe with its enormous multitude and variety of data, must be the philo- sopher's teacher."

In such a statement as this we seem to see a bridge of light stretching from the twentieth century to the thirteenth, and uniting the minds of Whitehead and Aquinas. Yet this reasonable and intelligible light, like the light of dawn, does not expel mystery from the world which it illuminates, but rather in- creases our awe : for " science does not destroy the mystery of things, that in them which is still unknown and unfathomed, but on the contrary recognizes and delimits it ; even what it knows, it never knows completely." Thus, the universe of Thomism is a universe of graded, distinct, but genuinely existent realities. The world of common sense, which is the subject matter of science ; the world of first causes, which is the subject matter of philosophy ; the world of revelation, which is the subject matter of theology—each of these is true in its own right. Philosophy, standing mid-way between the worlds of common sense and of contemplation, arises from the first, and in its highest ascents brings us to the frontiers of the second ; since ontology, the intellect's exploration of Being as it is in itself, cannot stop short of the Being of all Beings, the first principle of all things, God. Natural theology, the demon- stration of that God's existence as " imposed with absolute necessity on the human reason," is, therefore, the last term of philosophy and the first of religion. Having brought his pupils step by step to this conclusion by the strenuous exercise of disciplined thought, M. Maritain may well claim to have achieved his declared object of putting philosophy in its proper place in Christian minds." ,