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Gratry, Auguste Joseph Alphonse


French theologian and philosopher; b. Lille, March 30, 1805; d. Montreux, Feb. 7, 1872. Gratry was indifferent to religion until 1822, when he received a kind of illumination concerning the nothingness of worldly ambitions. His secondary education, begun at Tours, was completed at the Collège Henry IV. While studying at the Polytechnique (182627), he returned to the Sacraments; soon afterward, he went to study theology under the Abbé Bautain in Strasbourg (1828), and in 1834 he was ordained. Gratry returned to Paris in 1840 as director of the Collège Stanislas. Thence, he became chaplain at the École Normale (184651). He entered the Oratory in 1852 and was appointed professor of moral theology at the Sorbonne in 1863. In 1867, he was elected to the French Academy.

By reason of his many works, both apologetic (De la Connaissance de Dieu, 1855; Les Sources, 1862) and polemic (La Sophistique contemporaine, 1861; Les Sophistes et la critique, 1864), Gratry contributed to the renascence of christian philosophy. But while his avowed intention was to oppose both rational eclecticism and fideism with the Augustinian tradition of the Oratory, his thought is more poetic than precise, more prayerful than profound. He assigned an excessive role to emotion and to "heart" in the discovery of truth; in considering the knowledge of God, he appealed to "a sense of the infinite" that is superior to intellect. In politics and in morals (La Morale et la loi de l'histoire, 1868) he sought to associate Catholicism with the movement toward indefinite progress, wherein he saw the law of history operating.

See Also: spiritualism.

Bibliography: r. crippa, Enciclopedia filosofica (Venice-Rome 1957) 2:891892.

[r. jolivet]

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