Martin Luther, René Descartes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: This trio of reformers, per Maritain, were the heirs to the Scholastic legacy in all its order and clarity. Yet, their penchant for more clearly apprehending particulars than universals led to the squandering of that inheritance in an experiment of sweeping reform. The result is their dominance of modernity, in which, as Maritain says, they “govern all the problems which torment it.”
“We are bound to the past in the intellectual order as in every other, and if we were to forget that we are animals which are specifically political, we should be surprised to discover how historically we think, how traditional we are, even when we are claiming to make all things new.” –Jacques Maritain
Written with Maritain’s typical perspicacity, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau is fascinating both as biography and philosophy.
Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) was perhaps the greatest Catholic philosopher of the twentieth century. A convert, along with his wife Raïssa, from agnosticism to Catholicism, Maritain wrote extensively on metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, and the philosophy of history—all with the guiding inspiration of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.