Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Gérard Vallée
In the work of Joseph Maréchal, S.J. (1878-1944) there are several approaches to a proof of the existence of God. These approaches occur in the course of Maréchal's carrying out of a larger philosophical task, to vindicate the possibility of a realist metaphysics on the grounds of speculative reason, and to show a "critical" justification of this metaphysics, against those who deny its possibility or label it "dogmatic''. Here and there in the execution of this larger task, in Le point de départ de la métaphysique and in several shorter writings, Maréchal's approaches to God-proof appear in bits and pieces, with an occasional fuller development. The first purpose of this dissertation is to connect these bits and pieces, which requires an interpretation of Maréchal's thought on the subject. The interpretation is based on an investigation of two approaches to God-proof which are largely original to Maréchal, namely an approach through intellectual finality and an approach through the first principle of speculative thought of identity or non-contradiction). We examine also Maréchal's interpretation of the "five ways" of St. Thomas Aquinas, which according to Maréchal represent the type of all valid demonstration of God's existence. From this investigation it is found that a common core of argumentation links all of the "ways" of St. Thomas and is found in Maréchal approaches from intellectual finality and the first principle as well. This common core comprises two elements: the discernment, in a finite reality, of an imperfect intrinsic intelligibility; and the application to this reality of a requirement of perfect intelligibility, which Maréchal considers the most basic requirement of objective thought as such. Maréchal equates imperfect intrinsic intelligibility with what is usually called "contingency"; thus the common core of argumentation is called a "proof from contingency". We agree with Maréchal that this "proof from contingency" is the logical core of all of St. Thomas' "ways", and we find it to be also the core of the original ways presented by Maréchal. In addition, we find those ways -- intellectual finality and the first principle -- to be tacitly operative in the "ways" of St. Thomas.
A second purpose of this study is to demonstrate the capacity of Maréchal's analysis of God-proof, an analysis we regard as particularly penetrating, to illuminate the meaning of other attempted God-proofs, to assist in the task of interpreting and evaluating them. For this purpose we apply Maréchal's analysis, such as we have interpreted it, to some other proofs. Two proofs, Kant's Beweisgrund proof of I763 and St. Anselm's proof in the Proslogion, are selected. We argue that Kant's proof shared some crucial points with Maréchal but ultimately failed because, unlike Maréchal's, it rested on a "static" rather than a "dynamic" and "finalistic" conception of speculative knowledge. We argue that St. Anselm's proof is not the "ontological argument" according to the principal meaning of that phrase in modern philosophy. We find that it shares with Maréchal's argument the most important features: a dynamic and finalistic quality and a purely discursive (non-intuitive) starting point and procedure, centering upon the mind's need to affirm an infinitely intelligible being in order to satisfy its internal finality. Although in Maréchal the crucial points of the argument are more explicit, there is between Anselm and Maréchal a radical unity of intention.
We judge Maréchal approaches to God-proof, his pivotal insights and the use he makes of them, to be adequate to the demands of philosophical reason and harmonious with the further demands of a properly "religious" conception of God.
Cashore, Joseph Michael, "The Proof of God's Existence in the Work of Joseph Maréchal" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3250.