Henri Grenier’s Social Critiques

Henri Grenier gives a pair of interesting back-to-back critiques. The first is of socialism:

Socialism, in declaring even an attenuated kind of war on private ownership, is concerned only with the acquisition of an abundance of material goods, and thus has no solicitude for his higher goods, or for his liberty; for it teaches that man must be completely subject to civil society in order that he require an abundance of material goods.

Grenier is right about this, and it is to his credit that he sees it through the force of the rhetoric that tends to hide the fact. Consider FDR’s first principle in this light “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence”. As defensible as the idea might be when taken in certain ways, FDR took it as a proof that the right to material goods was more fundamental than those rights to higher goods.

It’s interesting that the critique of socialism is followed by a critique of “economic liberalism”, which Americans call libertarianism.

According to the order of nature, men are destined because of the needs of individuals, to live in a society in order that they might mutually assist one another in the pursuit of the temporal happiness in this life. But, in according to economic liberalism, men should not render assistance to one another, but, in accordance with the law of free competition, the highly skilled and and talented should surpass and overcome the weak, and hence may acquire goods in great abundance, whereas others must live in indigence.

This “overcoming the weak” is not part of the intention, of course, but is simply accepted as a natural result, and no doubt there is some attempt to justify it by saying that it will ultimately lead to more prosperity and even to a more disciplined and virtuous society, as Adam Smith thought.



  1. Mason said,

    October 9, 2011 at 7:50 am

    What is the source of the comments from Grenier?

    • October 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Book IV (sometimes called volume III since the second part has two parts) of his “Thomistic Philosophy” pp 450- 456. For my money, it’s the best of the manuals from the old manual period (Grenier was the dean of philosophy at Laval before DeKoninck, and is one of the few real influences that one can find for CDK’s Thomism).

      They have his volume of metaphysics online here , and you can buy all the volumes here.

      • Mason said,

        October 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

        Thanks James. I have the 2nd and 3rd books of the 3-book 1948/49 edition. I haven’t read them, pending finding a decent copy, at a decent price, of the 1st book. Does anyone know why the 1950 edition is a 4-book set? Perhaps there is an explanatory preface.

      • October 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm

        The first book is the weakest and can be skipped. The Leonine revival did not do logic. All the books are masterpieces of clarity, and the moral volume makes it clear that Grenier had a good deal of real personal insight and prudence.

      • May 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

        I’ve become really interested in Grenier. I would be interested in any details you have been able to pick up on him. Especially anything that you know about his relation to De Koninck. From whom did you hear about Grenier? Thanks in advance.

      • May 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

        I found him by accident maybe 10 or 15 years ago. By the time I got to him, as far as I can tell, he had faded from living memory, and only fit into a history that made him a faceless villain (He suffered both from the Manualist backlash and the Quiet Revolution, and either hit would have been fatal). Sadly, all I know about him is what one can figure out from the title page of the book, and an acquaintance with what both he and Dekoninck taught.

        That said, when I first found him I had the sense of having found the answer key to Thomistic thought (leaving aside the book on logic, which suffers from the usual neglect of material logic and dialectic, the APo and Topics, etc.) I still go back to him. His account of the transcendence of being requires a book-length treatment, and his moral philosophy shows a keen insight into human action. His precision and clarity are difficulty not to envy. I’ve since lost a taste for him now – he suffers from the usual Cajetanist thomism that values refutation over synthesis, and trades in monstrous distinctions that I doubt the human mind is capable of discerning. But all this might amount to nothing more than my sober judgment that he doesn’t think like me.

      • May 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

        I have been reading the volume on moral philosophy, which I find very good indeed. The section on personalism reads like a précis of De Koninck.

        On the web I have only been able to find a tiny curriculum vitae here: http://stthomasdaquin.free.fr/auteurs.html

        A brief discussion of his anti-personalism, which mentions De Koninck as well, but doesn’t clarify their relationship, here: http://erudit.org/revue/mensaf/2005/v6/n1/1024255ar.pdf

        And this weird memoir that compares Msgr Dionne to David and Grenier to Goliath (p.8): http://docteurangelique.free.fr/livresformatweb/theses/autre_thomas_daquin.pdf

  2. Mason said,

    February 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    For Grenier and O’Hanley fans, here is an early commentary on the book (actually a response by Rev. G. P. Monaghan, PhD, to a critic of the book).


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