Who Is Charles De Koninck?
Charles De Koninck (1906-1965) is one of the great philosophers of the last century. He taught and influenced many of the most consequential Catholic thinkers, teachers, and authors of our time. Yet his untimely death and a remarkable variety of largely untranslated writings across multiple disciplines have helped obscure the legacy of one of the most insightful thinkers of the 20th century. In the forty seven years since his death, De Koninck’s writings have unfortunately faded from view even as their relevance to contemporary intellectual life has intensified. The Charles De Koninck Project exists to put the entirety of his writings online and foster discussion about them.
Why Is De Koninck’s Thought Significant?
"Charles De Koninck, perhaps because of his untimely death, is not as well known to English-speaking readers as Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, but his work belongs to that same world-class scholarship as his notable contemporaries. It is almost an understatement to say that his contribution to the philosophy of science remains timely."
—Jude Dougherty, Editor of The Review of Metaphysics and Dean Emeritus of the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America
"Founder of the Laval school of Thomism, a school known for highlighting the importance of Aristotle for the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Charles De Koninck (1906-1965) is perhaps the least known scholar of the great twentieth-century revival of Thomism. His only notoriety came with his decisive intervention in the mid-century debates among Thomists over the nature of the common good, but much more of his writing is devoted to what used to be called the philosophy of nature. While many Thomists addressed questions about modern science only in passing, De Koninck devoted much of his career to a rearticulation of Aristotelian and Thomistic thought in relation to modern science."
—Thomas Hibbs, author, Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Culture, and Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University. This passage is from his 2009 review in First Things of Charles De Koninck's previously unpublished and untranslated works. Hibbs also fittingly mentioned De Koninck in his First Things review of Terence Malick's film The Tree of Life.
"De Koninck's views of evolution are of fundamental importance. His account of the relation between natural philosophy and natural science still awaits a serious appraisal by philosophers of science." —Ralph McInerny, 2009
"First and foremost, there was Charles De Koninck...the best Thomist I ever met. That, of course, means the best philosopher." —Ralph McInerny, 2006"His work is the work of wisdom. We may be sure that he would remind us that it is a borrowed wisdom, the expected fruit of fidelity to St. Thomas who has been named doctor communis. The writings of Charles De Koninck stand as a powerful argument for the timeliness of the doctrine of Aquinas." —Ralph McInerny, 1965
"He once wrote that his ambition was simply to be a faithful student of his master Thomas Aquinas. Discipleship seems to have either of two results. The disciple never emerges from what the master had accomplished and is content to retail it. Or... Thomas was followed because his starting points were the inevitable ones, and by acknowledging and seeing where they led, one could go far beyond the text of the master while at the same time claiming that what one said was simply an organic extension. It is only in this second way that a tradition can live." —Ralph McInerny, 2006
How Did the Charles De Koninck Project Start?
"I fell back in my chair and thanked God that I had studied under this man. But he is now all but unknown, his writings are difficult to find, and few had been translated. I conceived the project of the collected works as an instance of pietas and gratitude."—Ralph McInerny, 2009
A graduate student of De Koninck's at Laval University before becoming a renowned author and philosopher at the University of Notre Dame, Ralph McInerny edited and published The Writings of Charles De Koninck, Volume 1 and The Writings of Charles De Koninck, Volume 2 before his death in 2010. McInerny fittingly bequeathed the completion of the Charles De Koninck Project to David Quackenbush of Thomas Aquinas College.
Quackenbush, Executive Director of The Charles De Koninck Project, came up with the idea of collecting De Koninck's writings over two decades ago as a graduate student of McInerny's at Notre Dame. It was then that Quackenbush first put together the physical archive of De Koninck's writings now housed at The Jacques Maritain Center. The fruit of years of David Quackenbush's labor and study, the Charles De Koninck Project exists to complete Ralph Mcinerny's unfinished final project.
Thomas De Koninck’s Letter of Support
"The Charles De Koninck Project's online presence, the availability of the works for free, and the larger proposed community of discussion the center hopes to encourage are splendid initiatives, sure to do untold good to so many. The practical, organizational side of the project is also most promising.
So far as my father’s teaching and works are concerned, no one is more qualified than David Quackenbush is for such a task. He was the one who photocopied, long ago now, at Ralph McInerny’s request to me, with my total assent, the entire content of the Archives Charles-De Koninck here at Laval University in Quebec, for the benefit of the University of Notre Dame and of Thomas Aquinas College. (Ralph wrote that it was David's initiative and that he had, in fact, conceived the idea.) David later made a great deal of it accessible on the internet, again with my entire approval.
My father had told me that Ralph had been his best pupil and Ralph showed it in many ways, in his own work and otherwise, but not least in his last years, when he took on the task of publishing, at the Notre Dame Press, The Writings of Charles De Koninck, much of which he translated himself from the original French into English. He managed to see two volumes of it published before he died, with the third almost done.
There was no doubt between Ralph and myself that David would be the preeminent choice for carrying on that project, translations and editing included. It was Ralph’s strong wish that David continue his effort, and it is wholeheartedly mine now. I am utterly convinced that the new form he is grafting onto it is ideal for the present day and future generations.
You have, then, my total support and I shall be glad to give you any possible assistance you might see fit to ask of me for that great project.
With my very kindest regards,"
—Thomas De Koninck, 2012