Charles De Koninck

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Charles De Koninck (29 July 1906 – 13 February 1965) was a Belgian-Canadian Thomist philosopher and theologian. As director of the Department of Philosophy at the Université Laval in Quebec, he had decisive influence on Catholic philosophy in French Canada and also influenced Catholic philosophers in English Canada and the United States. The author of many books and articles in French and English, he contributed to a variety of philosophical fields including natural philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and political philosophy, but he also wrote on theology, especially Mariology.

As the founder of the so-called Laval School of philosophy, De Koninck was the mentor of many philosophers, including Ralph McInerny, who published an English translation of De Koninck's collected works.


De Koninck was born in Torhout, Belgium, the son of Louis De Koninck and Marie Verplancke, both natives of Torhout. In 1914, De Koninck family emigrated to the United States, where Louis De Koninck worked as a builder and contractor in Detroit, Michigan.[1]

In 1921 Charles was sent back to Belgium to complete his education. In Belgium he first went to school in Ostende, where his main interests were mathematics, chemistry, and physics, but where he also read widely in Latin, Greek, Dutch, and English Literature.[2] He then studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, where he became a Thomist. After a spell at the University of Detroit, he returned to Louvain and earned a doctorate summa cum laude with a dissertation on the Sir Arthur Eddington's philosophy of science.[3]

In 1934, De Koninck went to the Université Laval in Quebec, where he became a full professor the following year, a position which he held for the rest of his life.[3] Between 1939 and 1956 he was dean of the faculty of philosophy at Laval.[4]

A member of the Royal Society of Canada, De Koninck and his family hosted and entertained many notables in their Quebec City residence, among them Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his fiery writer-artist wife, Consuelo Suncín during their five week stay in the province in the spring of 1942. The De Konincks' precocious eight-year-old son, Thomas De Koninck, whom Saint-Exupéry met, may have served as an inspiration for the extraterrestrial visitor of his most famous novella, The Little Prince.[5]

Common Good Controversy[edit]

Along with Henri Grenier and Louis Lachance, De Koninck was a prominent Thomist critic of personalism.[6] De Koninck's book On the Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists criticized personalist thinkers for claiming that the common good ought to be subordinate to the private good of persons. De Koninck did not name the personalists whom he had in mind, but Yves Simon and I. Th. Eschmann assumed that he was thinking of Jacques Maritain. Yves Simon agreed with De Koninck's rejection of the subordination of the common good to the person, but denied that it applied to Maritain. Eschmann, on the other hand, defended the subordination of the common good to the person and claimed that this was in fact taught by Maritain.[7]

Main books[edit]

  • Le cosmos, Québec, Pro Manuscripto, 1936.
  • Ego Sapientia, Montréal/Québec, Fides/Éditions de l'Université Laval, 1943 (translated in Spanish).
  • De la primauté du bien commun contre les personnalistes. Le principe de l'ordre nouveau, Montréal/Québec, Fides/Éditions de l'Université Laval, 1943.
  • La piété du Fils, 1954.
  • The Hollow Universe, London, Oxford University Press, 1960 (translated in Spanish and reedited at the Presses de l'Université Laval).
  • Le scandale de la médiation, Paris, Nouvelles Éditions latines, 1962.
  • Tout homme est mon prochain, Québec, Presses de l'Université Laval, 1964.



External links[edit]