Agenda de la pensée contemporaine
(cet article est paru dans le N°19 - Sommaire hiver 2010-2011 )
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N°19 - Summaries
WHEN SCHOLARSHIP SUBTLY SERVES SUBVERSION
The new edition of Molière’s complete works in the Pléiade collection features an introduction by Georges Forestier and Claude Bourqui, proposing a new reading of the works that challenges some of the myths that have grown up around Molière’s life and work. The image of the tortured artist who drew on his fears to express them on stage gives way to that of a worldly author with a perfect grasp of the social codes of his day, who played with his audience, holding up a mirror in which his spectators could recognise and laugh at themselves. This Molière is an urbane figure, but also an impresario, unlike the dramatic poets Racine and Corneille. The texts highlights the importance of his exchanges with his audience and his search for an effective form of theatricality and music, in which writing is not so much a form of expression as a verbal technique destined to be enacted.
ON FORGETTING AND ITS OPPOSITE
Attempts have occasionally been made to engender collective amnesia by means of decrees, in the name of (provisory) harmony between people. Jean-Michel Rey looks back at various moments in history when the act of forgetting, experienced as the closure of a given incident, resulted from the deliberate policy that forgetting a past evil guaranteed a future good. There is no disguising the similarity of this practice to a form of revisionism that results not so much in the rewriting of history as its destruction. If one considers that the opposite of forgetting is not memory, but justice, the practice of non-reconciliation and non-forgetting is the sole means of allowing people to live together without dishonesty.
A NON-PHILOSOPHICAL HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Why should a history of philosophy be non-philosophical ? Patrick Hochart takes two presentations by the French philosopher Jacques Brunschwig, presenting his working method as the point of departure to explore this question. Brunschwig’s method is to be understood first of all in terms of his rejection of all forms of ‘conflict of interpretations’, or polemics opposing contradictory interpretations, which often mask pre-existing preconceptions about the text, thereby inevitably slanting readings of it. Such conflicts are also apparent in the field of the history of philosophy, shifting the Kampfplatz of philosophy to the field of the history of philosophy by extending it by other means. The aim is, then, to be in a position to evoke philosophy without drawing on it, and explore the history of philosophy by means of ‘problematology’ - a field which sets out to define the precise nature of the problem while doing its best to avoid producing or proving theses.
FIVE ENCOUNTERS AT ORIEL COLLEGE, OXFORD
Pierre Pachet offers a set of unpublished sketches of people present at the 1979 Oxford seminar that gave rise to the book Science and Speculation. Jacques Brunschwig, one of the organisers, ‘felt himself [there] to be in a world where his precision, his sense of detail, his mischievous sense of discretion, and his humour were appreciated’. The portraits should be read as a homage to the humanity and basic decency of the ‘English’ tradition of philosophical dialogue – in other words, a homage to Jacques Brunschwig himself.
HISTORIAN AND PHILOSOPHER
Philippe Raynaud knew Jacques Brunschwig less well than most of the contributors to this volume ; yet their connection was nonetheless unique, due especially to Jacques Brunschwig’s particular relationship with Greek philosophy, on which he wrote a number of short pieces, as admirable as they were discreet.
JACQUES BRUNSCHWIG, THE PERFORMER
It would be a mistake to see Jacques Brunschwig as a disciple of English-language analytic philosophy, with no concern for structure or systematicity. The key event in his intellectual development was the quarrel between Gueroult and Alquié on method in the history of philosophy. Marwan Rashed offers a close reading of several texts written by Jacques Brunschwig from the late 1970s onwards, drawing a subtle yet rigorous conclusion equal to the subtlety and rigour of Brunschwig himself. Music and performance play a key role. The conclusion sums up the essence of the argument in a twofold postulate : ‘totality is a regulatory ideal, which only exists like a piece of music - in other words, it slips away from the truth of judgement of its own accord. On the other hand, greater or lesser portions of the system - but never the system - lend themselves to our analyses, and on a deeper level, these analyses - inevitably fragmentary - draw on his ‘aesthetic’ totality as much as they give the system a degree of solidity.’
THE COLOUR AND TEMPO OF THE DEAD. THE GREEKS, CLASSICAL MUSIC, AND PHILOSOPHY
Anissa Castel-Bouchouchi draws on Jacques Brunschwig’s relationship with philosophy, music, and Greece as the homeland of the mind to raise the fundamental question of interpretation, as a means of focusing attention on the different postures the activity induces. The way a musician performs a piece seems to differ in every way from a philosopher’s interpretations, even though both take place within the same context of a particular relationship with the dead. The musician miraculously recreates the tempo of the dead - better yet, he gives voice once more to the great composers ; the philosopher, on the other hand, tends to acquire the ‘colour of the dead’, striving not to bring them back to life, but rather to positively accept that in them which is truly dead. Resurrection of the dead vs. mortification of the living : philosophers are indeed those who teach us how to die, but as the author elegantly points out with reference to Jacques Brunschwig, Hellenists and music-lovers are also those whose interpretations - of a dead language or a musical score - teach us how not to die too soon.
THE HIGGS BOSON, OR THE ART OF EXPLAINING THE REAL BY THE IMPOSSIBLE
Our everyday experience suggests that mass is an intrinsic property of all material objects. Etienne Klein explores what is perhaps an over-hastily established certainty and reminds us that the only way that physics has progressed since Galileo’s time is by constantly questioning its own certainties. Exploring the nature of mass could lead to a considerable shift in our understanding of the subject. Two hypotheses are possible : either mass is an intrinsic primary property of all objects and all elementary particles, or it is a secondary property arising from the interaction of particles devoid of mass with Higgs bosons, present in the quantum vacuum. Physicists are now hoping to find the Higgs boson with the help of the LHC, once again illustrating the challenges of modern physics : explaining the real by the impossible - in other words, by laws whose very exactitude appears to contradict our primary observations.
Linguistics has studied the question of numbers, but within its various branches, morphology has so far taught us very little about them. Numbers are so familiar that they are easily overlooked, yet they are key components of a fundamental act of language : counting. The present book studies ‘number’ words, particularly cardinals, from a purely morphological point of view, enabling the author to highlight a new paradox : while grammatical description usually categorises numbers as determinants, it does not allow for the fact that cardinals have a further role beyond that of simple determinants, since they are a base for the construction of derivatives, particularly ordinals. Sophie Saulnier invites the reader to explore the hypothesis of numbers as a new lexical category that is sui generis.
THE LULLABY AND THE BUGLE. (LITERATURE, TYRANNY, EXPRESSION)
‘All cry together in the insufficiency of the cry, animals gifted with speech. Commotion of the now, once humans appeared. Decidedly, how to see the utility of their divisions ? The grammar, syntax, and morphology of the multitude are needed on the black, fertile literary soil for the secondary horde, with its jailbird-children, to produce the holy reciprocity described in Hölderlin, the child ‘with silver at his temples’. We are still waiting for a technique for living through the grey mornings of tolerance that avoids the blinding reality of conflict.’