In mid-August I wrote a post with some pretty tough criticisms of Jacques Maritain’s political thought (“Some Critical Comments on Maritain’s Political Philosophy”). Last week Leonard Ferry offered a response in the comments box. Ferry writes:
The chief criticism articulated is becoming increasingly common, but that should not blind readers to the fact that it is rather unfair to Maritain. Tracey Rowland, Marc Guerra, and now Joseph Trabbic have made similar criticisms about Maritain’s advocacy of democracy. There are at least two problems with the criticisms. First, Maritain distinguishes between democratic practice and democratic philosophy. What he advocates is the latter, not the former (though, to be fair, it is not always clear that he is doing so, and his enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of him). Second, it is worth pointing out that, though Aquinas clearly does not endorse democratic practice, his preference for a mixed regime does point to a strong claim for the need to incorporate what I take to be at the heart of Maritain’s advocacy of a “democratic philosophy”.
This is a thoughtful response. I would like to hear more about Maritain’s distinction between democratic practice and democratic philosophy and how this rebuts the criticisms that Rowland, Guerra, and I have made, and about what constitutes the heart of Maritain’s advocacy of a democratic philosophy. This would help to advance the debate.