J. Maritain and N. Berdyaev on the Meaning of History

It appears I am on a philosophy of history kick this holiday season. I just read J. Maritain and N. Berdyaev on the Meaning of History and liked it. It is a comparison between Jacques Maritain and Nicolas Berdyaev’s Christian philosophy of history and their impact on the Christian views of history and of mankind’s future. It was written by Boris. L. Goubman of Tver State University.

Works covered include Amato J. Mounier and Maritain: a French Catholic Understanding of the Modern World. N.Y., 1975, Berdyaev N. Samopoznanie. M., 1991, Berdyaev N. Smysl istoriji. M., 1990, Berdyaev. N. Smysl tvorchestva  // Philosophia svobodi. Smysl tvorchestva. M., 1989, Berdyaev N. O naznacheniji cheloveka // O naznacheniji cheloveka. M., 1993, Maritain J. Humanisme integral. P., 1968, Maritain J. On the Philosophy of History. N.Y., 1957, Maritain J. Le paysan de la Garonne. P., 1966, Maritain J. Le personne et le bien commun // Oeuvres, 1940-1963. P., 1979, Maritain J. Religion et culture // Oeuvres, 1912-1939. P., 1975, Nicolas J.- H. Le Christ – centre et fin de l’histoire // Revue thomiste. 1981.

From the site:

Engaged in a prolific philosophical dialogue, both Jacques Maritain and Nicolas Berdyaev made a significant contribution to the formation of the twentieth century religious vision of history. Despite differences in the philosophical background of their doctrines and differences regarding various metaphysical issues, there is a striking similarity in their understanding of the meaning of history. No less interesting is the coincidence of their interpretation of particular phenomena of modernity and contemporary world. A nonbiased analyst of their doctrines may find an evidence of mutual influence in their treatment of different stages of history as well as in their analysis of the significance of contemporary political and cultural events. The affinity between their visions of history should be considered not only as a result of their mutual involvement in a common cultural and political situation, but also of their desire to find a new philosophical approach to the meaning of history without leaving the platform of religious belief.

Raised in a non-similar cultural and social milieu, Berdyaev and Maritain met at ecumenical discussions in Paris in 1925. After his expulsion from Russia, Berdyaev became quite popular in Europe and had a growing influence in the circles of Christian intellectuals permitting him to create contacts with a number of important Catholic and Protestant thinkers. Berdyaev thought that the inter-confessional discussions in the Boulevard Montparnasse organized by the Russian diaspora provided an opportunity for both Catholics and Protestants to get together and debate significant philosophical issues, creating the climate of mutual respect and recognition. This was a step forward, he believed, to the formation of a Christian philosophical milieu in the “non-religious desert” of early twentieth century Europe (Berdyaev 1991: 232). Despite confessional and philosophical discord regarding some issues, Berdyaev and Maritain felt certain sympathy to each other and found common approaches to some problems of mutual concern.

At the time they met, Maritain was an evident leader in the neo-Thomist movement. Although he pretended to be an orthodox follower of Aquinas, “a paleo-Thomist”, Berdyaev suspected him to be “a modernist under the guise of Thomism”. The Russian philosopher rightly remarked that Maritain was deeply interested in Aristotle and Aquinas, but at the same time his understanding of the world was deeply colored by a mystical gift. This mystical feeling was in reality at the origin of Maritain’s existential interpretation of Thomism and his decision to carry over from Bergson an emphasis on the role of intuition in human knowledge which was otherwise foreign to the Thomist project. It finally made possible a rapprochement between Berdyaev and Maritain. Their contacts were also facilitated by the mutual interest in the current cultural and social situation demanding new philosophical approaches to a variety of issues. Berdyaev thought that Maritain was very sensitive to “the new trends” in the area of cultural and social change. Among his main achievements was an ability to “adjust new problems to Thomism and Thomism to new problems” (Berdyaev 1991:237). Among the philosophical issues that attracted attention of both thinkers was the problem of man’s cultural creativity in history. This common ground was, of course, an essential premise of their prolific cooperation and philosophical dialogue paving the way to a certain common vision of a number of cultural, social, and political problems. Their collaboration in L’Esprit published by Emmanuel Mounier looks symptomatic in this respect.

Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=ericdigestsor-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0960563032&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrI found an interesting philosophy of history site today. Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future provides a summary of William McGaughey’s Five Epochs of Civilization, which splits history into four epochs each centered on a key communication technology. The fifth epoch is his prediction of the future. The ideas here are worth thinking about.

The site summarizes these epochs as:

Civilization I: This is the earliest form of civilized society beginning in the 4th millennium B.C. with the rise of Mesopotamian and Egyptian city-states and culminating in the four great empires – Roman, Parthian, Kushan, and Han Chinese – of the 2nd and early 3rd centuries A.D. Its age was characterized by by conflict between nomadic and agricultural societies and by wars and political empire-building. The technology of writing (originally, in ideographic form) supported its culture.

Civilization II: This is what civilized societies became after the philosophical and spiritual awakening of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. which was, in turn, related to the invention of alphabetic writing. Although this civilization was begun in a period dominated by political empires, it came into its own after the Huns and other nomads destroyed these empires between the 3rd and 6th centuries A.D. The dominant institution in society became religion. The three world religions – Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam – and other religious or philosophical systems such as Hinduism, Judaism, and Confucianism dominated human culture in the first 1,500 years of the Christian era.

Civilization III: This is the civilization of European secular culture which began with the Italian Renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. and continued through the first two decades of the 20th century A.D. Humanist literature and art as well as empirical science mounted a challenge to philosophically based religions. This civilization was predominantly commercial although secular education also played an important role. Society became organized in European-style nation states. The technology of printing supported its culture.

Civilization IV: This is the culture of news and entertainment that we have come to know in the late 20th century. Advertising drives commerce, and the media in which advertising takes place (especially television) become powerful institutions within society. Various electronic technologies such as the telephone, sound recordings, cinema, radio, and television support this culture which emphasizes the sensuous aspect of human personality.

Civilization V: All we know about this culture is that it is computer-based. Computers, which support two-way communication between man and machine, are quite unlike the technologies of mass communications. However, computer-based systems and applications are developing so rapidly that it is hard to predict what will come next.