Garrigou-Lagrange, Réginald Marie (1877–1964)

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Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange notably influenced the revival of Thomism in some European and American philosophical circles. He was born Gontran-Marie Garrigou-Lagrange at Auch, France. His first university studies were in the faculty of medicine at the University of Bordeaux. After two years, however, he chose to embrace the priesthood and on May 20, 1900, made his profession as a Dominican, receiving the name Réginald Marie.

In addition to the regular course of philosophy as a Dominican, he pursued graduate studies at the Sorbonne, where he had the opportunity to attend the lectures of Henri Bergson. In 1909 Garrigou-Lagrange entered into what proved to be a long career as professor at the international university of philosophical and theological studies in Rome, now called the Universitas Studiorum Pontificia S. Thomae Aquinatis in Urbe. He remained in this position until 1959. Although his courses were primarily in the theological faculty, it is significant that throughout his teaching life he lectured each week on the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas. Garrigou-Lagrange was also a founding member of the Academia Pontificia Academia Romanae S. Thomae Aquinatis.

An accurate view of the philosophical thought of Garrigou-Lagrange must take into account the fact that he was not simply a philosopher; his professional labors as well as his writings are preponderantly theological. However, because his concern was with the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, his work has a philosophical import on two counts. First of all, the Thomistic theological synthesis is characterized by its employment of the speculative resources of human intelligence. In this concentration on theology, then, Garrigou-Lagrange necessarily devoted himself to the exposition of the basic Thomistic philosophical positions. Second, from the beginning of his career Garrigou-Lagrange was faced with a challenge to the relevance and the validity of Thomism, or indeed of any metempirical assertions of the human mind. It is to this challenge that his purely philosophical labors and writings are principally addressed.

His first book, Le sens commun, la philosophie de l'être et les formules dogmatiques, is a rejoinder to the position taken by Édouard Le Roy in a series of articles (Revue de métaphysique et morale, 18991901). Le Roy alleged all expressions of truth by the human mind to be totally relative, mutable, and conditioned. Human thought is simply the expression of de facto acceptations, significant according to that natural and subjective orientation of the human mind which for Le Roy is the sens commun. Against this Bergsonian usage, Garrigou-Lagrange used the term sens commun to designate the commonly assumed character of the human mind, namely, its extramental orientation toward objectively existent and intelligible reality. He set himself the task of vindicating this realism, of defending the objective validity and transcendental range of human thought.

The basic themes of his position are readily discernible. The human intelligence has "being" as its connatural object. In its attainment of being the human mind surpasses sense knowledge, goes beyond mere phenomena. The first principles of human reasonidentity, contradiction, causality, and finalityare not mere subjective thought patterns; they are grounded in being. The human evaluation of the data of experience in virtue of such principles, then, has an ontological validity; the human mind is capable of assertions concerning the real that are objectively true and absolute. Because in its attainment of being the mind goes beyond mere phenomena, the principles of philosophical inquiry have a transcendental validity. Man is able, consequently, to achieve true judgments, not only about the entitative structure of experienced reality, but also about the nonexperienced but necessarily affirmed primary cause of the beings of experience. The connaturally realistic orientation of human intelligence, therefore, provides the capacity for objectively valid metaphysical evaluations of reality and even for a true natural theology.

Garrigou-Lagrange maintained that Thomas presented a philosophy of being that was an effectively enunciated and developed expression of the natural metaphysical orientation of human intelligence in which the sens commun has its scientifically articulated realization. Garrigou-Lagrange's principal philosophical contribution, then, was a forceful and clear exposition of the basic Thomistic insights. In his writings there is a clear and honest confrontation of Thomistic realism with both nominalist empiricism and Kantian subjectivism.

An evaluation of the work of Garrigou-Lagrange must place it in relation to the so-called Neo-Scholastic movement. Since his career began well after the early attempts to reassert Thomism, his writings are free of the alien influences present in the work of the restoration's pioneers. His chief concern, the basic critical problem of the validity of human intelligence, is a central issue in all Neo-Scholastic philosophy. In the light of subsequent developments among Neo-Scholastic philosophers, and even among Thomists, concerning the critical problem, the approach of Garrigou-Lagrange may be designated as somewhat simplified. He strove to set forth directly the positive statements of a philosophy of being against a philosophy of becoming, to manifest the human mind as a faculty of truth, not an amasser or coordinator of data. Later Thomists have sought by more reflective methods to show how being manifests itself in the very process of cognition as the evidential justification of human knowledge. Their efforts are a refinement of the task to which the efforts of Garrigou-Lagrange were directed. His work, then, was a necessary stage in a vital development. Because of his dedication to the thought of Thomas, he directed that development to a more fruitful use of Thomas's understanding of the problems of being and intelligence.

See also Bergson, Henri; Le Roy, Édouard; Thomas Aquinas, St.; Scotism; Thomism.


works by garrigou-lagrange


Le sens commun, la philosophie de l'être et les formules dogmatiques. Paris, 1909; 4th ed., Paris, 1936.

Dieu, son existence et sa nature. Paris, 1915; 6th ed., Paris, 1950. Vols. I and II translated by Dom Bede Rose as God, His Existence and His Nature, a Thomistic Solution of Certain Agnostic Antinomies. St. Louis, 1934.

Le réalisme du principe de finalité. Paris: Desclée, de Brouwer, 1932.

La synthèse Thomiste. Paris: de Brouwer, 1946. Translated by Dom Patrick Cummins as Reality, a Synthesis of Thomistic Thought. St. Louis: Herdner, 1950.


Angelicum. 14 (1937): 537. A complete bibliography of Garrigou-Lagrange's numerous articles through 1937.

Bulletin Thomiste. For the discussion of the critical problem among Thomists during the height of Garrigou-Lagrange's career, see the following: 3 (1932): 451ff.; 4 (1935): 400ff.; 5 (1938): 365ff.; 6 (19401942): 236ff.

Thomas C. O'Brien, O.P. (1967)