Étienne Gilson (ātyĕn´ zhēlsôN´), 1884–1978, French philosopher and historian, b. Paris. He taught the history of medieval philosophy at the Sorbonne (1921–32) and then took the chair of medieval philosophy at the Collège de France. In 1929 he helped found the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies at Toronto, Canada. Although primarily a historian of philosophy, he was also one of the leaders of the Roman Catholic neo-Thomist movement. He was elected to the French Academy in 1946. Among his works are The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (1919, tr. 1924); The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine (1929, tr. 1960); The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy (2 vol., 1932, tr. 1936); God and Philosophy (1941); Being and Some Philosophers (1949); and The Philosopher and Theology (1960, tr. 1962).
See his Gilson Reader, ed. with an introd. by A. C. Pegis (1957).
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He held, with Augustine, that ‘the universe is a kind of unfolding, a distensio, which imitates in its flowing forth the eternal present and total simultaneity of the life of God’. Such a view of order and providence cannot be concerned with a more dispassionate estimate of the actual history of the Church and its restrictive attitude to the quest for truth.
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