Oliva Blanchette of Natick Wins Catholic Book Award
A biography of French Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), written by Boston College Professor of Philosophy Oliva Blanchette of Natick, has been honored with a first place 2011 Catholic Book Award in the category of biography by the Catholic Press Association (CPA) of the US and Canada. The CPA called Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life “the first-ever, finest comprehensive, critical examination of the life and thought of Maurice Blondel. It recounts both his biographical history and philosophy, noting how this committed Catholic and critical philosopher engaged the thinkers of his era and had a tremendous impact on 20th century theology and philosophy.”
Reviewers have called Blanchette’s book a “masterpiece” and “the most comprehensive study of Maurice Blondel’s philosophical career and writings to appear in any language.”
Blondel is “my intellectual hero,” said Blanchette, who was first exposed to Blondel when he studied in Belgium in the 1950s. In his time, Blondel was a very controversial figure, said Blanchette. He had both secular and Catholic detractors who were opposed to his integration of religion and philosophy, or faith and reason. In his 1893 dissertation, Blondel argued for a philosophy of action that maintained that the supernatural, specifically Christian revelation, imbues human action with meaning and that religion must recognize the autonomy of human reason.
Blondel had a strong influence on 20th century theologians in Europe, such as Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac, as well as movements related to the Second Vatican Council, according to Blanchette, who in 1984 published the first and definitive English translation of Blondel’s dissertation,Action: Essay on a Critique of Life and a Science of Practice.
Blanchette has been a member of the Boston College faculty since 1964. He earned his doctorate from the University of Laval in Quebec. His teaching and research have been on topics such as philosophy of religion, metaphysics, ethics, Aquinas, Hegel and Kierkegaard, among many others. His additional publications include Philosophy of Being and The Perfection of the Universe According to Aquinas.