Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet

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Blanc de Saint-Bonnet
Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet.jpg
Bust of Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet
Born Antoine-Joseph-Elisée-Adolphe Blanc de Saint-Bonnet
(1815-01-28)28 January 1815
Died 8 June 1880(1880-06-08) (aged 65)
Nationality French
School Ultramontanism, Royalism

Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet (28 January 1815 – 2 June 1880) was a French philosopher,[1] whose ideas were a precursor to modern sociology.

Saint-Bonnet, who is not well known today, left his mark on his time and influenced writers such as Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, Léon Bloy and Charles Baudelaire. He was considered in conservative circles as the continuator of Joseph de Maistre. He also gave his mark to the social catholic school, from René de La Tour du Pin (Vers un ordre social chrétien) and Henri Delassus (Vérités sociales et erreurs démocratiques), to Jean Ousset (Pour qu'il règne) and Pierre Virion (Le Christ qui est Roi de France).


Son of a family of the old Lyon bourgeoisie, he was the pupil of Abbé Noirot, professor of philosophy at the Lycée de Lyon, who oriented his thought towards ontologism. During his law studies in Paris, where he stayed from 1836 to 1839, he frequented Edgar Quinet and Pierre-Simon Ballanche, whose influence he underwent, then separated from them for the sake of complete truth, placing himself definitively in the movement of Christian philosophy.

It was at this time that he became known with his three-volume work De l'Unité spirituelle ou de la société et de son but au-delà du temps ("On Spiritual Unity or Society and its Purpose Beyond Time"), which was first published in 1841 at the age of twenty-six. The author then asserts his method which reconciles reason and revelation. Victor Cousin was enthusiastic about the young philosopher and Narcisse-Achille de Salvandy, Minister of Public Instruction, awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor in 1844. The success was so great that these three volumes had to be republished in 1845.

In these years, which saw the death of his father and the long illness of his mother, Blanc de Saint-Bonnet conceived the project of his book La Douleur, his best known work and the only one regularly reprinted. In the midst of these cruel ordeals, he was led to seek the secret of the problem of suffering, the explanation of which he thought he could find in the phenomenon of the fall of man. He launches again into the audacious attempt to unite philosophy and religion.

From now on, the idea of original sin will be the dominant note of his thought. He sees in it the only satisfactory explanation, for reason, of the state of the world in which we live: evil, work, property, authority, society can only be explained by the fact of the fall. It is this very fact that will provide the title of his last work published by his sister long after his death.

In 1851, he reacted to the 1848 revolution by publishing La Restauration française, in which he addressed economic and social issues with a relevance that his political opponents would recognize. This sociologist asserted himself to be anti-liberal in both economics and politics. He was opposed to industrialism and democracy: he condemned both socialism and liberalism. He advocated a social renovation based on the real nature of man.

Blanc de Saint-Bonnet also took part in the "Querelle des classiques" launched by Abbé Jean-Joseph Gaume by printing a memoir entitled De l'Affaiblissement de la raison in 1853. He spoke out in favor of a more extensive use of the Christian classics and defended literary studies, which he believed to be threatened by the invasion of mathematics and the physical sciences. The first part of the opuscule looks at the question of reason and the way to use it. It will be the philosophical starting point on which the author will develop the future theses of the infallibility and the legitimacy.

In L'Infaillibilité (1861) Saint-Bonnet exposes the conception he has of reason and concludes that it has a certain natural infallibility. From it, he establishes the necessity and the appropriateness of the pontifical infallibility, a dogma which will be proclaimed only at the Vatican Council (1870–1871).

His work on reason continued with the publication of La Raison five years later. With only sixty copies printed, this bibliophilic rarity, which was never put on the market, is nevertheless, from the philosophical point of view, Blanc de Saint-Bonnet's major work. He takes up again, but with considerable developments, all that he had summarized in L'Affaiblissement de la raison. The work is preceded by a long thesis on "the Infinite and the Infinitesimal". It contains, in the second part, a critical study of the cogito ergo sum of René Descartes and ends with a search for the possible basis of our knowledge outside the "thinking self".

Blanc de Saint-Bonnet did not neglect the political question: in 1872, he had La Restauration française reprinted and published a year later La Légitimité, a treatise that had been announced for twenty years. The setbacks suffered by France in 1870 are for the author attributable to the error of liberalism. The sociological point of view dominates but supported on metaphysical bases: he exposes the "golden laws of the society", the "real bases of our liberties" and, finally, the "means of governing" proper to the temporal and spiritual societies which have mission to lead the world.

In 1878, he continued his analysis, with Le Dix-huitième siècle ("The Eighteenth Century"), by refuting the anti-social doctrine of the "pure state of nature" advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and which, according to him, has become the source of all revolutionary work. He opposes the universal fact of original sin attested in all the traditions of humanity. He returns to the relationship between faith and reason. The ontological thesis is attenuated and gets closer to the Thomistic philosophy then reborn.

After a last family ordeal (the death of his daughter Marie Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, wife of the Viscount de Calonne, which occurred while he was looking forward to becoming a grandfather) he died himself on June 8, 1880. He left the manuscript of L'Amour et la chute, published eighteen years later by his sister Zénaïde Blanc de Saint-Bonnet.


  • L'Unité Spirituelle (1841; Pitois, 3 vol., 1845).
  • De la Douleur (1849; Club du Livre Rare, 1961; Les Editions de La Reconquête, 2012: with a review by Barbey d'Aurevilly and a letter by Léon Bloy).
  • La Restauration Française (1851; Laroche, 1872).
  • L'Affaiblissement de la Raison (1853).
  • Politique Réelle (1858; Editions du Trident, 1990).
  • L'Infaillibilité (1861; Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1956).
  • La Raison. Philosophie Fondamentale (1866).
  • La Légitimité (1873).
  • La Loi Électorale et les Deux Chambres (1875).
  • Le XVIIIe Siècle (1878).
  • Le Socialisme et la Société (1880; Presses Académiques, 1954).
  • L'Amour et la Chute (1898).


  1. Beum, Robert (1997). "Ultra-Royalism Revisited: An Annotated Bibliography," Modern Age, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 302.


  • Baranger, Yves (1973). Conceptions Politiques et Sociales de Blanc de Saint-Bonnet. Mémoire DES, Panthéon-Assas University.
  • Barbey d'Aurevilly, Jules (1880). Les Prophètes du Passé. Paris: Victor Palmé.
  • Barbey d'Aurevilly, Jules (1910). Joseph de Maistre, Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, Lacordaire, Gratry, Caro. Paris: Bloud.
  • Buche, Joseph (1904). Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, le Philosophe de la Douleur. Trévoux: Imprimerie Jules Jeannin.
  • Buche, Joseph (1935). L'École Mystique de Lyon, 1776-1847. Paris: Félix Alcan.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Burton, Richard (1993). "La Douleur est Donc un Bien: Baudelaire et Blanc de Saint-Bonnet," Lettres Romanes, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 243–255.
  • Calippe, Charles (1912). L'Attitude Sociale des Catholiques Français au XIXe Siècle: Les Progrès de la Doctrine. Paris: Bloud.
  • Chastenet, Jonathan Ruiz de (2008). "Le Sens Métaphysique de la Révolution chez Blanc de Saint-Bonnet." In: Le Livre Noir de la Révolution Française. Paris: Editions du Cerf.
  • Christoflour, Raymond (1954). "Blanc de Saint-Bonnet Prophète de la Douleur." In: Prophètes du XIXe Siècle. Paris: La Colombe.
  • Drouin, Jacques (1969). "Le Mot Révolution chez Blanc de Saint-Bonnet," Cahiers de Lexicologie, No. 15, pp. 27–34.
  • Dumas, Jean-Louis (1983). "Souveraineté et Légitimité chez Blanc de Saint-Bonnet," Cahiers de Philosophie Politique de l'Université de Caen, No. 4, pp. 219–234.
  • La Bigne de Villeneuve, Marcel de (1949). Un Grand Philosophe et Sociologue Méconnu: Blanc de Saint-Bonnet. Paris: Beauchesne.
  • Maton, Gabriel (1961). Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, Philosophe de l'Unité Spirituelle. Lyon: Vitte.
  • Néry, Alain (2005). "L'Aristocratie chez Blanc de Saint-Bonnet," Cahiers des Amis de Guy Augé, No. 9.
  • Rambaud, Camille (1898). Histoire des idées philosophiques: depuis le commencement du monde jusqu'à nos jours. Lyon: Impr. du Salut Public.
  • Vesins, Bernard de (1928). Blanc de Saint-Bonnet. Paris: Union des Corporations Françaises.
  • Visan, Vincent Biétrix de (1944). Un Grand Philosophe Lyonnais: Blanc de Saint-Bonnet. Lyon: A. Rey.

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