Étienne Henri Gilson

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gilson, Étienne Henri


Born June 13, 1884, in Paris. French religious philosopher, advocate of Thomism, historian of medieval philosophy.

In 1919–20, Gilson lectured in philosophy in Strasbourg, and from 1920 to 1932 in Paris. In 1929 he founded the Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto, Canada. In 1946 he became a member of the Academic Franchise. He has given lecture courses in many countries and is the founder and publisher of the journal Études de philosophie médievale (since 1922).

Gilson considers it the main task of philosophy to revive the medieval scholastic system of Thomas Aquinas as “the eternal philosophy” that solves the problem of existence. Gilson views modern philosophy, beginning with the Renaissance, as a continuous chain of delusions. The secret of Thomism, according to Gilson, lies in the attainment of harmony between philosophy and faith; the truths of science, philosophy, and theology say the same thing, but on different levels. However, since Gilson, in accordance with Thomist doctrine, limits rational cognition to the sphere of external experience and relegates the attainment of absolute truth to religious revelation, he ultimately affirms the primacy of faith over reason. Gilson seeks to reconstruct the world of medieval thought (in books about St. Bonaventure, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Duns Scotus, and other medieval thinkers, and especially in The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, 1932).


Le Thomisme. Paris, 1942.
Théologie et histoire de la spiritualité. Paris [1943].
Saint Thomas d’Aquin. Paris, 1925.
La Philosophic au moyen âge, 2nd ed. Paris, 1944.
Existentialisme chretien. Paris [1948].
L’Etre et I’essence. Paris, 1948.
Christianisme et philosophic. Paris, 1949.
Peinture et réalité. Paris, 1958.
Introduction a la philosophic chrétienne. Paris, 1960.
La Philosophic et la théologie. Paris, 1960.
La Societe de masse et sa culture. Paris, 1961.
Linguistique et philosophic. Paris, 1969.


Kuznetsov, V. N. Frantsuzskaia bunhuaznaia filosofiia XX veka. Moscow, 1970. Pages 202–11.
Maritain, J. [et al.]. Étienne Gilson, philosophe de la chrétienité. [Paris, 1949.]
Melanges offerts a Etienne Gilson. [Paris-Toronto, 1959.]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.