It is not from thought that faith passes over into the heart, it is from practice that it draws down a divine light for the spirit. God acts in this action and that is why the thought that follows the act is richer by an infinity than that which precedes it. It has entered into a new world where no philosophical speculation can lead it or follow it. -Maurice Blondel
The quote above, taken from the English translation of Blondel’s dissertation – Action(1893) Essay on a Critique of Life and a Science of practice, drives to the heart of Blondel’s philosophy. A philosophy that posits neither a priority of theory nor of practice but a seamless unity which finds itself always-already infused with God/grace/Being. John Milbank dubs Blondel’s philosophy a “supernatural pragmatics” stating that for Blondel the logic of every action demands the supernatural.
But just to back up, why bring up Blondel at all? One could state a number of reasons. Blondel was instrumental in shaping the nouvelle theologie. Yves Congar, one of the theologians of that tradition, referred to Blondel as “the philosopher of Vatican II.” No less significant was Blondel’s contribution to philosophy -Oliva Blanchette notes that before Blondel “action” had all but disappeared from the philosophical vocabularly. In fact his thesis proposal was initially refused on the grounds that “action” was not a matter of philosophy. (Oliva Blanchette Translator’s preface to Blondel’s Action(1893)
No less important than Blondel’s contributions was the hostility he met both from the religious and philosophical establishments. Berated as overly religous by many philosophers, and as intruding on the domain of the theology by many theologians, Blondel found himself besot on all sides. Because his philosophy stressed action as it did it also ran the risk of being written of as anti-intellectualism. It is this, perhaps most of all, that leads us to the crucial import of Blondel’s lesson. In a time when anti-intellectualism is an increasing reality -culturally, politically, economically – and when the intellectual traditions, especially the universities, appear disinterested in action, particularly as it relates to thought, Blondel’s philosophy is timely once again.
In what follows it is my intention to engage on this blog in a systematic study of Blondel’s thought, through his dissertation L’Action, with the hope of framing the discussion -for today- of a supernatural pragmatics, a deepening of every action/thought. Life is not intended to be a stupid fragmented acts, yet it is also not a structure entirely determined before we walk it. With every good act our thought deepens, and as it does we are able to act better and in more fullness. Thus the gateway to faith is not merely belief in a set of principles, but an ever-deepening practice and rule of life.
It is up to us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.