To read the philosopher Jean Greisch but also to listen to it is to be introduced into a conversation with multiple voices. We meet tutelary philosophers – Spinoza, Hegel and Kant -, but also colleagues, and who were sometimes friends, Paul Ricœur, Stanislas Breton, Michel Henry, Emmanuel Levinas, with whom theologians mingle: Romano Guardini, Karl Rahner, Claude Geffré… In this concert which intertwines faith and reason, Jean Greisch has been making his singular music heard for almost forty years.
When asked what he has learned from so many readings and encounters, a few seconds of reflection pass before he breaks the silence. “” The shortest path from self to self passes through others “, wrote Paul Ricœur, this is what I think I understood, says he. I can no longer share what comes from me and what is my response to what other people think. “
An appetite for knowledge and freedom
Nothing predisposed the little boy, born in 1942 into a working class family in the small village of Koerich in Luxembourg, to become a university teacher. From these roots planted in the east, he kept a clear Germanic accent and a seriousness in the work, as evidenced by the more than twenty books he has published (read the benchmarks).
An anecdote testifies to his early appetite for knowledge and freedom. As a child, Jean Greisch had received from his godmother a storybook, which his father had confiscated, judging that his reading would give him nightmares. The young boy then exercised a clever blackmail. “I refused to participate in the family liturgy that my parents organized during Advent time. On the third Sunday of my strike, my father gave in ”, he smiles, still proud of this success.
Ordained a priest in 1969, Jean Greisch almost became a theologian, but his meeting with fathers Dominique Dubarle and Stanislas Breton, philosopher at the Catholic Institute of Paris, oriented him differently. “It was at the end of the 1960s, I followed in the footsteps of Father Dubarle, who staunchly defended the independence of the faculty of philosophy. He believed that for the salvation of theology, it was better for it to have, in front of it, an independent faculty of philosophy. “
Faith and knowledge “two springs that keep mixing their waters”
Jean Greisch likes to take up again the idea of Bergson, reaffirmed by Derrida, that faith and knowledge, without being confused, are “Two springs (which) are constantly mixing their waters”. “Philosophy and theology must for that dialogue in equality”, he insists. In a very secularized French philosophical landscape, he sought to keep the question of God alive. “It seems to me impossible, and in a way even dangerous, that the philosophers abandon” the question of God ” (…) to theologians, he wrote in a journal article Mind in january 2013. It is not good that God is locked up in the sacristy cupboards. “
The philosopher would have many anecdotes to tell about the obstacles which arise when one refuses to lock oneself in a discipline, even a camp. “I suffered a lot, like Stanislas Breton, from the fact that people say : “You are Catholic, so we already know what you are thinking, or even we already know what you should be thinking. You have nothing to surprise me “”, he testifies.
This dreaded identity trap also works within the Christian community. “Sometimes it feels like you should wear a pin displaying your beliefs, regrets there. However, as Romano Guardini wrote, the Christian and Catholic worldview is not a stock of pre-established, pre-formatted, prefabricated options: it is the ability to look at the world through the eyes of Christ. “
Faced with the crisis of the Catholic world and the collapse of the humanist culture which it knew brilliant – “I am a fossil”, he slips, pensive but without bitterness -, Jean Greisch offers a “Spinozist reaction” : “Do not mourn, do not rejoice, but seek to understand. “ It evokes the figure of Abraham, to which he feels close, “Because of his wanderings in unknown lands”. “Faith is not just a cry, certainly not a passing mood. It is neither an ideology nor a utopia, he asks. It is a journey of recognition, in every sense of the word: an exploration where one is constantly bewildered and surprised. A journey that opens you to others and places you in the gratitude of a donation received. “
A life of research
1984-1995. Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Paris.
1986-2005. Member of the Laboratory of Phenomenology and Hermeneutics at the CNRS.
2009-2012. Holder of the Romano-Guardini Chair in Philosophy of Religion at Humboldt University in Berlin.
Among his works:
– The Hermeneutic Age of Reason, Deer, 1985.
– The Burning Bush and the lights of reason. The invention of the philosophy of religion, 3 volumes, Cerf, 2002-2004.
– Hear with another ear. The philosophical issues of biblical hermeneutics, Bayard, 2006.
– From “no-other” to “all other”. God and the absolute in the philosophical theologies of modernity, La Bruyère Prize of the French Academy (2013), PUF, 2012.
– Meeting with the truth, Hermann, 2017.
– Desire to understand, University Press of Leuven, 2019.
– The Tales of Minerva the owl philosopher, Ipagine, 14 bilingual tales published.