Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier

French personalist philosopher
Date of Birth: 01.05.1905
Country: France

Biography of Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier was a French philosopher and personalist who dedicated his life to finding the "third way" between humanistic liberalism and Marxism. He was born on May 1, 1905, in Grenoble, France, into a peasant family. His father was a pharmacist, and his mother managed the household.

Emmanuel Mounier

Mounier studied philosophy at the University of Grenoble (Joseph Fourier University) from 1924 to 1927. He continued his education under the guidance of Jacques Chevalier, a Catholic philosopher, historian of philosophy, and psychologist. At the age of 22, on June 23, 1927, Emmanuel presented the results of his diploma research, titled "The Conflict between Anthropocentrism and Theocentrism in the Philosophy of Descartes." This work marked his first significant philosophical contribution.

Emmanuel Mounier

In 1927-1928, Mounier spent time at the Sorbonne in Paris, where many great scholars, philosophers, and writers worked. He had discussions with Henri Bergson, whose philosophy gained popularity in pre-revolutionary Russia. In November 1927, Mounier met Jacques Maritain, the founder of neotomism, and was accepted into the monarchist political organization "Action Française."

Emmanuel Mounier

In the early 1930s, Emmanuel founded and led the literary journal "Esprit," which expressed the ideas and interests of personalists and nonconformists of his time. During the presentation of "Esprit" in 1933, the journal's authors criticized the "compromising" of spiritual values practiced by the existing system and condemned money as a tool of exploitation. The journal opposed "individualistic materialism" and argued that it would lead to "capitalist jungles." It aimed to revive the community of personalities as an alternative to both liberal individualism and collectivism.

Initially interested in some guiding principles of the Vichy regime, Emmanuel eventually got in touch with the larger national liberation resistance movement called "Combat." In August 1941, "Esprit" was banned, and Mounier was arrested. After an exhausting hunger strike, he was released and found refuge in the Drôme department in southeastern France, where he continued his intellectual activities. After the war, Mounier traveled more and established new contacts. He participated in the Franco-German reconciliation process and the creation of a "true starting point for the reconstruction of Europe."

Mounier did not consider personalism, also known as "communitarian personalism," as a system or doctrine. Jean-Marie Domenach, a former editor of "Esprit," referred to it as a "philosophical matrix." Guy Coq, another member of the editorial board, described personalism as a common ground for Christians, Muslims, agnostics, Jews, and non-believers, a place for "contemplating the world that should be built."

Although inspired by his Christian faith, "Esprit" did not become just another Catholic publication. The journal encouraged believers and non-believers to come together, engage in discussions, and express their opinions. Emmanuel aimed to create a "brotherhood" based on shared values and tools that ensured pluralism of opinions and complete freedom to defend one's views.

Emmanuel Mounier passed away at the age of 45 on March 22, 1950, due to a heart attack. Thanks to "Esprit" and the translation of Mounier's books into several languages, the influence of personalism spread throughout Europe. The activities of "Esprit" were carried on by a new generation of philosophers, including Jean Lacroix and Gabriel Madinier.

According to Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor-in-chief of "L'Osservatore Romano," the newspaper of the Holy See, Mounier was the first to mention the "silence" of Pius XII regarding the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime. Thus, Mounier indirectly contributed to the "black legend" surrounding Pius XII.

It is said that Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement along with Dorothy Day, liked to repeat the following phrase everywhere:
"In France, there is a man named Emmanuel Mounier. He wrote a book called 'The Personalist Manifesto.' You should read this work."