Étienne Gilson

Étienne Gilson (French: [ʒilsɔ̃]; 13 June 1884 – 19 September 1978) was a French philosopher and historian of philosophy. A scholar of medieval philosophy, he originally specialised in the thought of Descartes, yet also philosophized in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, although he did not consider himself a Neo-Thomist philosopher. In 1946 he attained the distinction of being elected an "Immortal" (member) of the Académie française. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[2]

Étienne Gilson
Born13 June 1884
Paris, France
Died19 September 1978 (aged 94)
Auxerre, France
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Collège de France
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Theology, metaphysics, politics, literature, history of philosophy
Notable ideas
The Thomistic distinction between being and essence
Coining the term "mathematicism"[1]


Born in Paris into a Roman Catholic family originally from Burgundy, Gilson attended the minor seminary at Notre-Dame-des-Champs, then finished his secondary education at the Lycée Henri IV. After finishing his military service, during which he began to read René Descartes, he studied for his licence (bachelor's degree), focusing on the influence of scholasticism on Cartesian thought. After studying at the Sorbonne under Victor Delbos (1862–1916), and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and at the Collège de France under Henri Bergson, he finished his degree in Philosophy in 1906. In 1908 he married Thérèse Ravisé of Melun, and he taught in the high schools of Bourg-en-Bresse, Rochefort, Tours, Saint-Quentin and Angers.

In 1913, while employed in teaching at the University of Lille, he defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Paris on "Liberty in Descartes and Theology". His career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, as he was drafted into the French Army as a sergeant. He served on the front and took part in the battle of Verdun as second lieutenant. He was captured in February 1916 and spent two years in captivity. During this time he devoted himself to new areas of study, including the Russian language and St. Bonaventure. He was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in action.

In 1919, he became professor of the history of Philosophy at the University of Strasbourg. From 1921 to 1932, he taught the history of medieval philosophy at the University of Paris. As an internationally renowned thinker, Gilson was first, along with Jacques Maritain, to receive an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in 1930.[3]

He also taught for three years at Harvard. At the invitation of the Congregation of St. Basil, he set up the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto in conjunction with St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto, which hosts an annual Étienne Gilson Lecture. He was elected to the Académie française in 1946.

With the death of his wife, Thérèse Ravisé, on 12 November 1949 Gilson endured a considerable emotional shock.[4]

In 1951, he relinquished his chair to Martial Gueroult at the Collège de France to devote himself completely to the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies until 1968. He knew the Jesuit theologian and cardinal Henri de Lubac. Their correspondence has been published. Although Gilson was primarily a historian of philosophy, he was also at the forefront of the 20th century revival of Thomism, along with Jacques Maritain. His work has received critical praise from Richard McKeon.


Gilson undertook to analyze Thomism from a historical perspective. To Gilson, Thomism is certainly not identical with scholasticism in the pejorative sense, but indeed rather a revolt against it.[5] Gilson considered the philosophy of his own era to be deteriorating into a science which would signal humanity's abdication of the right to judge and rule nature, humanity made a mere part of nature, which in turn would give the green light for the most reckless of social adventures to play havoc with human lives and institutions. Against "systems" of philosophy, Gilson was convinced that it was the revival of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas that opens the way out of that danger zone.

In his time Gilson was the leading scholar of the history of medieval philosophy as well as a highly regarded philosopher in his own right. His works continue to be reprinted and studied today — perhaps alone among "Thomist" philosophers, his work and reputation have not suffered from the general decline of interest in and regard for medieval philosophy since the 1960s.



  • The Philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, edited by G. A. Elrington, translated by Edward Bullough (Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1924)
  • The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy, translated by A. H. C. Downes (London: Sheed and Ward, 1936)
  • Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1939)
  • The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, translated by A. H. C. Downes (London: Sheed and Ward, 1940)
  • The Philosophy of St Bonaventure, translated by Illtyd Trethowan and F. J. Sheed (London: Sheed and Ward, 1940)
  • History of Philosophy and Philosophical Education, Marquette University Press, 1948.
  • Dante the Philosopher, translated by David Moore (London: Sheed and Ward, 1952)
  • Choir of Muses, translated by Maisie Ward (London: Sheed and Ward, 1953)
  • History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (London: Sheed and Ward, 1955)
  • The Christian Philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, translated by L. K. Shook (London: Gollancz, 1957)
  • The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine translated by L. E. M. Lynch (New York: Random House, 1960)
  • Heloise and Abelard (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1960)
  • The Arts of the Beautiful (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965)
  • The Terrors of the Year Two Thousand, University of St. Michael's College, 1984.
  • Christian Philosophy: An Introduction, translated by Armand Maurer (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1993)

Gilson's "Painting and Reality" was also published in English.

See also


  1. ^ Gilson, Étienne. The Unity of Philosophical Experience. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1999, p. 133.
  2. ^ "Nomination Database". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  3. ^ Piero Viotto, Grandi amicizie: i Maritain e i loro contemporanei, 38, https://books.google.com/books?id=aonOg8KLOdIC&pg=PA38 Accessed 28 February 2016. Jean Leclercq, Di grazia in grazia: memorie, 60. https://books.google.com/books?id=jxKnMfTj81AC&pg=PA60 Accessed 28 February 2016
  4. ^ Biography of Étienne Gilson’s Intellectual Life
  5. ^ The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 1956, pp. 366–367

Further reading

  • Biographical sketch (in French) Academie Francaise
  • Étienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 1956, ISBN 0-268-00801-9
  • Charles J. O'Neill (ed.), An Étienne Gilson Tribute, The Marquette University Press, 1959.
  • Antonio Livi, Étienne Gilson: filosofia cristiana e idea del limite critico, Ediciones Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, 1970
  • Laurence K. Shook, Etienne Gilson, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1984, ISBN 0-88844-706-X
  • Henri Gouhier, Étienne Gilson : trois essais, Vrin, 1993, p. 75
  • Francesca Aran Murphy, Art and intellect in the philosophy of Etienne Gilson, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 2004, ISBN 0-8262-1536-X
1884 in France

Events from the year 1884 in France.

1978 in France

Events from the year 1978 in France.


Avicennism is a school in Islamic philosophy which was established by Avicenna. He developed his philosophy throughout the course of his life after being deeply moved and concerned by the Metaphysics of Aristotle and studying it for over a year. According to Henry Corbin and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, there are two kind of Avicennism: Islamic or Iranian Avicennism, and Latin Avicennism. According to Nasr, the Latin Avicennism was based on the former philosophical works of Avicenna. This school followed the Peripatetic school of philosophy and tried to describe the structure of reality with a rational system of thinking. In the twelfth century AD, It became influential in Europe, particularly in Oxford and Paris, and affected some notable philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon and Duns Scotus. While the Latin Avicennism was weak in comparison with Latin Averroism, according to Étienne Gilson there was a "Avicennising Augustinism". On the other hand, Islamic Avicennism is based on his later works which is known as "The oriental philosophy" (حکمت المشرقیین). Therefore, philosophy in the eastern Islamic civilization providing became close to gnosis and tried to provide a vision of a spiritual universe. This approach paved the road for the Iranian school of Illuminationism (حکمت الاشراق) by Suhrawardi.Henry Corbin referred to divergences between Iranian Avicennism and Latin Avicennism. Besides he showed that we can see three different schools in Avicennism, which he called Avicennising Augustinism, Latin Avicennism and Iranian Avicennism.

Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".

Centre for Medieval Studies, Toronto

The Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS) is a research centre at the University of Toronto in Canada dedicated to the history, thought, and artistic expression of the cultures that flourished during the Middle Ages.

The centre was founded in 1964, with Bertie Wilkinson as its first director. Its foundation was announced in Speculum:

The intention of the Center is to make available to students various approaches to the Middle Ages in programs of studies not available in existing departments. The purpose of the Center is the training of scholars who know the Middle Ages in depth as well as in breadth. The courses of study will freely cross limits of traditional disciplines and departments, but they will be limited to the Middle Ages. By concentrating on a single period, the student will be able to acquire in some depth the basic linguistic and technical skills necessary for teaching and research in mediaeval studies; these include palaeography, diplomatics, and vernacular languages, in which the Center is strong. He will also be able to read widely in the period. His research will follow the material of his subject in order to gain a better understanding of the cross currents and variations in the cultures, interests, and beliefs of the Middle Ages.

The centre had originated in a Medieval Club that met at Hart House. It was inspired by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS), which had been founded in 1929 by Étienne Gilson. In turn, it was one of the inspirations for the University of Leeds Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies.The Centre's logo was designed by Allan Fleming, while he was head of graphic design at University of Toronto Press, from 1968–76.The Centre is now located in the Lillian Massey Building, part of Victoria University, Toronto.

Henry Corbin

Henry Corbin (14 April 1903 – 7 October 1978) was a philosopher, theologian, Iranologist and professor of Islamic Studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris, France.

Corbin was born in Paris in April 1903. Although he was Protestant by birth, he was educated in the Catholic tradition and at the age of 19 received a certificate in Scholastic philosophy from the Catholic Institute of Paris. Three years later he took his "licence de philosophie" under the Thomist Étienne Gilson. In 1928 he encountered Louis Massignon, director of Islamic studies at the Sorbonne, and it was he who introduced Corbin to the writings of Suhrawardi, the 12th century Persian mystic and philosopher whose work was to profoundly affect the course of Corbin's life. Years later Corbin said "through my meeting with Suhrawardi, my spiritual destiny for the passage through this world was sealed. Platonism, expressed in terms of the Zoroastrian angelology of ancient Persia, illuminated the path that I was seeking."

Corbin is responsible for redirecting the study of Islamic philosophy as a whole. In his Histoire de la philosophie islamique (1964), he disproved in his research the common view that philosophy among the Muslims came to an end after Ibn Rushd.

Jean Jolivet

Jean Jolivet (9 January 1925 – 8 March 2018) was a French philosopher and medievalist.Jolivet was an authority on Medieval philosophy and honorary director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. He is co-director of the publication series "Études de philosophie médiévale" (founded by Étienne Gilson) for the Vrin Library of philosophy. Jolivet has been an influential mentor for, and collaborator with, Constant Mews, particularly in relation to Peter Abelard.

John F. X. Knasas

John Francis Xavier Knasas (born 1948) is an American philosopher. He is a leading existential Thomist in the Neo-Thomist movement, best known for engaging such thinkers as Bernard Lonergan, Alasdair MacIntyre and Jeremy Wilkins in disputes over human cognition to affirm a Thomistic epistemology of direct realism and defending the thought of Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson and Fr. Joseph Owens. He holds the Bishop Wendelin J. Nold Endowed Chair as Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and earned his doctorate at the University of Toronto, under the direction of Fr. Joseph Owens.

Joseph S. O'Leary

Joseph Stephen O’Leary is an Irish Roman Catholic theologian. Born in Cork, 1949, he studied literature and theology at Maynooth College (BA 1969; DD 1976). He also studied at the Gregorian University, Rome (1972-3) and in Paris (1977–79). Ordained for the Diocese of Cork and Ross in 1973, he was a chaplain at University College Cork (1980–81). He taught theology at the University of Notre Dame (1981–82) and Duquesne University (1982–83) before moving to Japan in August, 1983. He worked as a researcher at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nanzan University, Nagoya (1985–86), where he later held the Roche Chair for Interreligious Research (2015–16). He taught in the Faculty of Letters at Sophia University, Tokyo, from 1988 to 2015.

Other assignments include teaching philosophy and theology in the Philippines in 1986–87, the Lady Donnellan Lecturership at Trinity College Dublin, in the spring of 1991, the Chaire Étienne Gilson at the Institut Catholique de Paris, March, 2011, and visiting fellowships at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 1997 and the Humboldt Universität, Berlin (with the Romano Guardini Stiftung) in 2012.

Joseph O’Leary is editorial assistant to The Japan Mission Journal, which often publishes articles of interreligious interest, and is a regular participant in the Tokyo Buddhist Discussion Group. He frequently attends academic conferences, including the quadrennial Origenianum and Gregory of Nyssa conferences, the Oxford Patristic Conference, the biennial Enrico Castelli conference in philosophy of religion (University of Rome La Sapienza), the International James Joyce Symposium, the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures, the International Association for Buddhist Studies, and many conferences held at Cerisy-la-Salle in Normandy.

With Richard Kearney and William Desmond, O'Leary was named one of "three Irish Philosophers plying their trade abroad" in Irish Times (2003).

List of Catholic philosophers and theologians

This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works. The names are ordered by date of birth in order to give a rough sense of influence between thinkers.

List of metaphysicians

This is a list of metaphysicians, philosophers who specialize in metaphysics. See also Lists of philosophers.

List of philosophers of religion

This is a list of philosophers of religion.



Peter Abelard

Jacob Abendana

Joseph ben Abraham

Isaac Alfasi

Babasaheb Ambedkar

Jacob Anatoli

Anselm of Canterbury

St. Thomas Aquinas

Benedict Ashley, OP

Augustine of Hippo


AJ Ayer


Jedaiah ben Abraham Bedersi

Walter Benjamin


Sergei Bulgakov

Cardinal Thomas Cajetan, OP

Isaac Canpanton

Isaac Cardoso

Isaac Orobio de Castro

G. K. Chesterton

Stephen R.L. Clark


William Lane Craig

Brian Davies

Joseph Solomon Delmedigo

Charles De Koninck

Jacques Derrida

Mircea Eliade

Aaron ben Elijah


Shem-Tov ibn Falaquera

José Faur

Antony Flew


Pavel Florensky

Solomon ibn Gabirol

Hai Gaon

Saadia Gaon

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP



Étienne Gilson

Fethullah Gulen

Eugene Halliday

Johann Georg Hamann

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

John Hick

David Hume

William James

Jeshua ben Judah

Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus

Immanuel Kant

Søren Kierkegaard

David Kimhi

Isaac ibn Latif

Yeshayahu Leibowitz

Leon of Modena

Aleksei Losev

Salomon Maimon


Jacques Maritain

Ralph McInerny

Guru Nanak

Elia del Medigo

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

J.P. Moreland

David ibn Merwan al-Mukkamas

Moses Narboni

Robert Cummings Neville

David Nieto

Friedrich Nietzsche


William Paley

Bahya ibn Paquda

Whitall Perry

Alvin Plantinga

Robert M. Price

Yiḥyah Qafiḥ

Vasily Rozanov

Friedrich Schleiermacher

Frithjof Schuon

John Duns Scotus

Adi Shankara

Isaac ben Sheshet

Hoter ben Shlomo

Huston Smith


Vladimir Solovyov

Baruch Spinoza

Walter Terence Stace

Melville Y. Stewart

John of St. Thomas (John Poinsot)

Emanuel Swedenborg

Richard Swinburne

Samuel ibn Tibbon

Paul Tillich

Lao Tzu

Joseph ibn Tzaddik

Said Nursi





Muhammad Alief Roslan


Hossein Nasr

Maurice de Gandillac

Maurice de Gandillac (14 February 1906 – 20 April 2006) was a French philosopher. He was born in Koléa, French Algeria and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

He wrote his thesis under Étienne Gilson on the Renaissance philosopher Nicholas of Cusa. In 1946 he was appointed professor in the history of medieval and Renaissance philosophy at the Sorbonne.

He supervised the doctoral dissertations of numerous students, including Louis Althusser, Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida.


Neo-scholasticism (also known as neo-scholastic Thomism or neo-Thomism because of the great influence of the writings of Thomas Aquinas on the movement), is a revival and development of medieval scholasticism in Roman Catholic theology and philosophy which began in the second half of the 19th century.

Norah Michener

Norah Willis Michener (1902 – January 12, 1987) was the wife of Roland Michener, the 20th Governor General of Canada. As the spouse of a Governor General, she held the title of Chatelaine of Rideau Hall.

She was born in Boissevain, Manitoba, but spent the greater part of her young years in Vancouver, B.C. She attended the University of British Columbia, from which she received her B.A. in philosophy in 1922. She later considered herself fortunate to have attended the University of British Columbia, which she described as having an "intellectually cosmopolitan atmosphere and a rare tolerance in matters of race, religion and colour".She met Roland Michener at a tea party hosted by a mutual friend, and a courtship began in 1925. On February 26, 1927, they were married. The couple had three daughters.After her marriage, she continued her studies in philosophy at the University of Toronto under George S. Brett and Fulton Anderson and at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies under Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson and Anton C. Pegis. She received her M.A. in 1937 and her Ph.D. in 1953, both from the University of Toronto.

In 1955, she published Maritain on the Nature of Man in a Christian Democracy, a study of Maritain's theory of the person and his political philosophy, based on her doctoral thesis. The philosopher Leslie Armour wrote in 1999, "Norah Michener [...] wrote an important book on his [Maritain's] philosophy of human nature." In 2003, Armour wrote, "In her perceptive study, Norah Michener argues that the theory of the intellect is the key to Maritain's philosophical anthropology. 'Man can through his intellect know—and hence intentionally become—all things.'"From 1933 onwards, Maritain gave lectures from time to time at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Norah Michener attended many of Maritain's lectures, and they also met socially or in relation to her thesis. She was philosophically astute and held in esteem by both Maritain and Gilson. On the rare occasions when both men were at the University of Toronto at the same time, she made it a point to invite them to her home.Norah Michener's dinners were memorable for the conversation as well as the food. It was her habit to propose a topic for discussion at table. In autumn 1952, the topic was Jean-Paul Sartre, who had recently given a lecture in Toronto. She invariably placed Gilson on her left and Maritain—the subject of her thesis—on her right. When, in 1956, she pseudonymously published Janet Peters' Personal Cookbook, the recipes for dessert included a gateau maritain and a gateau gilson.An advocate of strict and proper etiquette, she published a guide to formal etiquette for the wives of federal Members of Parliament. Nevertheless, during Roland and Norah Michener's term at Rideau Hall, protocol was relaxed in a number of ways. The most notable example was the dropping of the curtsey to the Governor General and his wife, reportedly because Maryon Pearson refused to defer in this way to people she had previously known as friends.A noted philanthropist, her efforts included the creation of a wildlife preserve in the Northwest Territories which was named in her honour. The Micheners also endowed a number of efforts in memory of their daughter Wendy, a noted Canadian journalist who died unexpectedly in 1969 at the age of 34. These included the Michener Award for public service journalism and an annual Wendy Michener Fund to support research in arts and humanities at York University.

She died at a Toronto hospital of Alzheimer's disease in 1987.

Peter Kreeft

Peter John Kreeft (; born 1937) is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King's College. He is the author of over a hundred books on Christian philosophy, theology and apologetics. He also formulated, together with Ronald K. Tacelli, "Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God".

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) is a research institute in the University of Toronto that is dedicated to advanced studies in the culture of the Middle Ages.

Res Philosophica

Res Philosophica (formerly The Modern Schoolman) is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering all major areas of philosophy from antiquity to the present. Established in 1925, it is one of the oldest philosophy publications in North America. The journal publishes both articles and reviews, and occasionally publishes special issues on specific topics. Contributors include Robert Audi, Lynne Rudder Baker, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Étienne Gilson, Jürgen Habermas, Norman Kretzmann, Bernard Lonergan, Jacques Maritain, Wildrid Parsons, Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Paul Draper, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. The Modern Schoolman is published by the philosophy department at Saint Louis University, in cooperation with the Philosophy Documentation Center.

In 2013, beginning with volume 90, The Modern Schoolman was relaunched as Res Philosophica.

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