Emmanuel Mounier

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Photo from the 1930s: Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier (born March 1, 1905 in Grenoble , † March 23, 1950 in Châtenay-Malabry near Paris ) was a French philosopher and founder of the magazine Esprit . He is considered the main exponent of French personalism and the father of the personalist revolution .

Personal and professional development

Mounier grew up as the son of a pharmacist in a Catholic family. After dropping an initiated at the request of his father to study medicine, studied Mounier from 1924 to 1927 at the University of Grenoble philosophy . He became a member of the ACJF (Association catholique de la jeunesse française) and the St. Vincent Conference (organization for the support of people who are affected by social misery). Through his work in the Vincentian Conference, he got to know the need in the slums of Grenoble, which impressed him deeply. As a staunch Catholic, Mounier combined philosophical thinking with realistic, responsible, socially critical Christianity, while at the same time showing himself to be a staunch opponent of capitalism, Nazism and fascism.

He completed his philosophy studies at the Sorbonne in Paris from 1927-28 . After completing his studies, he taught at the Sainte-Marie School in Neuilly from 1930 to 1931 and at the Saint-Omer High School from 1931 to 1932 . During this period (1931) Mounier published his first book "La Pensée de Charles Péguy ", which was created in collaboration with Marcel Péguy and Georges Izard. In the period from 1933 to 1939 Mounier taught at the French high school in Brussels and in 1935 married Paulette Leclercq.

In October 1932, at the age of 27, Mounier and some friends founded the magazine Esprit , in the sense of Comenius , as a “personalistic magazine in the fight against established disorder” and thus inspired the intellectual movement of personalism . He headed the editorial department of “Esprit” and was from then on considered the “spiritual father” of the personalistic movement.

During the Second World War he was assigned to the Alpine hunters in September 1939. However, Mounier was stationed near Grenoble, where he remained during the armed conflict between France and Germany. After Germany's victory in 1940, he was taken prisoner in Germany for three weeks.

After his release in 1940, he took over the editing of the magazine "Esprit" again, joined the underground movement, whose magazine Carnets he now also edited, and from 1940 to 1941 gave philosophy lessons with the Lazarists of Lyon and at the Robin- School in Vienne . On August 25, 1941, the editorial staff of "Esprit" stopped work because the magazine was banned by the Vichy regime .

Mounier was then arrested on January 15, 1942 by order of the Vichy regime because he was considered one of the spiritual leaders of the Combat resistance group (see also the magazine of the same name ). Since this resistance group consisted of left-wing Catholics and right-wing socialists, it was viewed as a threat to internal order and was broken up by arrests. For Mounier this now followed: he was taken to the prison in Clermont-Ferrand (January 21, 1942), conditional release (February 21, 1942), arrested again in Lyon (April 29, 1942) and transferred to Vals (May 2, 1942) ), where he eventually went on a hunger strike for twelve days. From July 7, 1942 to October 30, 1942, when he was acquitted after more than 9 months of martyrdom, he was imprisoned in Saint-Paul prison in Lyon. During the time of his imprisonment he wrote the book "Traité du caractère", which was published in 1946.

In the period after his release from prison, up to the liberation from the Vichy regime, he lived with his family under the maiden name of his wife (Leclercq) in Dieulefit, in the Drôme department . The Beauvallon guest house, which Mounier moved into with his wife and three daughters and from where he established ties to the Resistance of Lyon, soon became a new meeting place for the Esprit circle.

In 1944 Mounier returned to Paris and in December of the same year he brought out the first issue of a new series of the magazine "Esprit". He moved back into his house in Châtenay, which, as before, was the center of meetings of his old companions and friends. In addition to Mounier, Jean Lacroix , René Biot , Paul-Ludwig Landsberg , Nikolai Berdjajew , Jacques Maritain as well as Gabriel Marcel , Louis Lavelle and Louis Meylan worked on the magazine .

In parallel to numerous activities and initiatives in France, Mounier undertook many trips in the last and most productive years of his life, among others to Belgium , Berlin , Denmark , the French occupation zone of Germany, French Equatorial Africa , Great Britain , Italy , Norway , Austria , to Poland , Sweden and Switzerland .

In 1948 he founded the exchange organization Comité français d'échanges avec l'Allemagne nouvelle in Paris with the participation of numerous French intellectuals such as Alfred Grosser . The committee existed until 1967 and continued to pursue the goals of the Resistance, namely the creation of a European federation including Germany , through the magazine Allemagne and numerous lectures by Germans at the Paris Sorbonne. By encouraging a public German-French exchange of ideas, the “Comité français d'échanges avec l'Allemagne nouvelle” exerted a certain influence on Western European politics in the 1950s and 1960s.

On March 22, 1950, Mounier died of heart failure in Châtenay-Malabry.


Emmanuel Mounier's significance for philosophy is to have given the movement of personalism , starting from France, a foundation ( The Personalist Manifesto ) and a mouthpiece (The Esprit magazine ). Without dogmatism loyal to the Church, he tried to carry on the basic Christian principles and to live by his own example, convinced that there are certain basic truths about human existence that are not new but eternal and that must be defended against ignorance and reductionism . Mounier's personalism is thus directed against the ruling (state) ideologies of his time and intended as a “signal to collect” possibilities of a historical way out (see Third Way ). With his personalism he wants to lead humanity to a true enlightenment. His manifesto is an expressly practical philosophy that aims to change people and thus social conditions through persuasiveness.

Personalism had a strong influence on Jacques Maritain in France and on Romano Guardini in Germany .


  • Manifeste au service du personnalisme (Series: Collection Esprit) Fernand Aulier, Editions Montaigne, Paris 1936
    • German: The personalistic manifesto. Jean-Christophe, Zurich 1936
  • Qu'est-ce que le personnalisme? Paris 1947
  • Personalism and the personalistic movement, in: DIE UMSCHAU. International Review , Volume 1, Issue 2, Mainz 1946
  • Personalist and Community Revolution, in: Collected Works. Sigueme, Salamanca 1990
  • Existential Philosophy and Activism, in Mercury. German journal for European thinking , Ed. Hans Paeschke et al., Vol. 1, issue 5, 1947, pp. 679–696
  • Introduction to existential philosophies. Rauch, Bad Salzig 1949
  • Thoughts for an apocalyptic time. in: Lancelot. The messenger from France. Monthly. Edited by Gerhard Heller & Hans Paeschke. G. Lingenbrink, Rastatt. No. 8, 1947, pp. 3-24

Secondary literature

Web links