Maurice Blondel on the Supernatural in Human Action

Sacrament and Superstition


Author: Cathal Doherty
How do sacraments differ from superstition? For Enlightenment philosophers such as Kant, both are merely natural actions claiming a supernatural effect, an accusation that has long been ignored in Catholic theology. In Maurice Blondel on the Supernatural in Human Action: Sacrament and Superstition, however, Cathal Doherty SJ reverses this accusation through a theological appropriation of Blondel's philosophy of action, arguing not only that sacraments have no truck with superstition but that the 'Enlightened' are themselves guilty of that which they most abhor, superstitious action. Doherty then uses Blondel's philosophical insights as a heuristic and corrective to putative sacramental theologies that would reduce the spiritual or supernatural efficacy of sacraments to the mere human effort of perception or symbolic interpretation.

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Cathal Doherty SJ is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. Specializing in sacraments, he completed doctorates in theoretical linguistics (University of California, 1993) and Catholic theology (Boston College, 2015).
"(...) Doherty demonstrates the continued relevance of Blondel's work for contemporary theological debates, and helpfully brings Blondel's philosophical rehabilitation of praxis to bear on sacramental theology." - Nomi Pritz-Benett, University of Edinburgh, in: The Expository Times Volume 129.9 (2018).



Chapter One: The Enlightenment Critique of the Christian Religion: the ‘Scandal’ of Particularity & Superstition

Chapter Two: Blondel’s Rehabilitation of Particularity & Response to Kantian Formalism

Chapter Three: From Self-Determination to the Superstition of the Enlightenment

Chapter Four: The Supernatural as Hypothetical Necessity

Chapter Five: The Philosophical Exigencies of the Supernatural: Revelation, Mediator, Sacramental Practice

Chapter Six: Supernatural and Sacramental Realism: Divine Agency as Real

Chapter Seven: Superstition in Sacramental Theology: Chauvet’s ‘Symbol and Sacrament’

Chapter Eight: The Philosophy of Action & the Theology of Ecclesial Tradition and Sacrament



All interested in sacramental and dogmatic theology, Catholic ressourcement theology, as well as philosophy of religion, the relation between philosophy and theology and Maurice Blondel’s thought, both graduates and undergraduates.