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Hébert, Marcel


Philosopher, proponent of a religious symbolism that denied personality in God; b. Bar-le-Duc, France, April 22, 1851; d. Paris, Feb. 12, 1916. As a priest, educated at Saint-Sulpice, he wrote on modern philosophical questions, Kant, Schopenhauer, Voltaire, and Renan. During his subsequent religious evolution his two most famous works were Souvenirs d' Assise (1899) and the article "La Dernière idole" (1902). Attacking the Thomistic proof for the existence of God along broadly Kantian lines, he rejected personality in God, which he saw as merely a way of affirming the reality and objectivity of "the Ideal, the Divine, the Absolute." God seemed to him the category of the Ideal, immanent and unknowable. For refusing to retract the ideas in Souvenirs, he was suspended from priestly functions. In 1903 he gave up the soutane and went to Brussels, where he dedicated himself to the Belgian workers' party and to "the religion of the human conscience." He held that certainty in a future life was not part of religious belief, but he died "with hope." Hébert was a man of winning personality and of mystic rather than strictly speculative temperament, whose importance lies in his position as perhaps the first philosopher to appear within the phenomenon of modernism.

Bibliography: j. riviÈre, Le Modernisme dans l'Église (Paris 1929). a. houtin, Un Prêtre symboliste, Marcel Hébert (Paris 1925) includes bibliography of his writings.

[j. j. heaney]

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