Medieval philosophy is often presented as the outcome of a large scale encounter between the Christian tradition and the Greek philosophical one. This picture, however, inappropriately tends to leave out the active role played by the medieval authors themselves and their institutional contexts. The theme of the mental language provides us with an interesting case study in such matters. The paper first introduces a few technical notions—'theme', 'tradition', 'textual chain' and 'textual borrowing'—, and then focuses on precise passages about mental (...) language from Anselm of Canterbury, Albert the Great and William of Ockham. All three authors in effect identify some relevant Augustinian idea (that of 'mental word', most saliently) with some traditional philosophical one (such as that of 'concept' or that of 'logos endiathetos'). But the gist of the operation widely varies along the line and the tradition encounter is staged in each case with specific goals and interests in view. The use of ancient authoritative texts with respect to mental language is thus shown to be radically transformed from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. (shrink)
The Dominican theologian Albert the Great was one of the first to investigate into the system of the world on the basis of an acquaintance with the entire Aristotelian corpus, which he read under the influence of Islamic philosophers. The present study aims to understand the core of Albert's natural philosophy. Albert's emblematic phrase, “every work of nature is the work of intelligence” , expresses the conviction that natural things are produced by the intellects that move the (...) celestial bodies, just as houses are made by architects moving their instruments. Albert tried to fathom the secret of generation of natural things with his novel notion of “formative power” , which flows from the celestial intellects into the sublunary elements. His conception of the natural world represents an alternative to the dominant medieval view on the relationship between the artificial and the natural. (shrink)
This essay attempts to describe the neo-Lamarckian atmosphere that was dominant in French biology for more than a century. Firstly, we demonstrate that there were not one but at least two French neo-Lamarckian traditions. This implies, therefore, that it is possible to propose a clear definition of a (neo) Lamarckian conception, and by using it, to distinguish these two traditions. We will see that these two conceptions were not dominant at the same time. The first French neo-Lamarckism (1879-1931) was structured (...) by a very mechanic view of natural processes. The main representatives of this first period were scientists such as Alfred Giard (1846-1908), Gaston Bonnier (1853-1922) and Félix Le Dantec (1869-1917). The second Lamarckism - much more vitalist in its inspiration - started to develop under the supervision of people such as Albert Vandel (1894-1980) and Pierre-Paul Grassé (1895-1985). Secondly, this essay suggests that the philosophical inclinations of these neo-Lamarckisms reactivated a very ancient and strong dichotomy of French thought. One part of this dichotomy is a material, physicalist tradition, which started with René Descartes but developed extensively during the 18th and 19th centuries. The other is a spiritual and vitalist reaction to the first one, which also had a very long history, though it is most closely associated with the work of Henri Bergson. Through Claude Bernard, the first neo-Lamarckians tried to construct a mechanical and determinist form of evolutionary theory which was, in effect, a Cartesian theory. The second wave of neo-Lamarckians wanted to reconsider the autonomy and reactivity of life forms, in contrast to purely physical systems. (shrink)
In December 1924 when Simone de Beauvoir almost certainly wrote her essay analyzing Claude Bernard's "Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine," a classic text in the philosophy of science, she was a 16 yr old student in a senior-level philosophy class at a private Catholic girls' school. Given the popular conception of existentialism as anti science, Beauvoir's early interest in science, reflected in her baccalaureate successes as well as her paper on Bernard, may be surprising. But her enthusiasm (...) for Bernard is unmistakable. We have identified three themes in Beauvoir's essay that reappear in her later work, including the valuing of philosophical doubt. (shrink)
Im Roman „Der Fremde“, dem Drama „Caligula“ und insbesondere dem Essay „Der Mythos des Sisyphos“ entwickelt Albert Camus eine erste Fassung einer „Logik des Absurden“. Die menschliche Existenz sei geprägt durch ein Spannungsverhältnis zwischen unserem Streben nach Sinn und einer dieses Streben fortwährend enttäuschenden Welt. Auf die Erkenntnis dieser Tatsache darf man Camus zufolge weder mit Selbstmord noch mit dem Aufgeben des Strebens nach Sinn reagieren. Vielmehr fordert er eine Haltung der beständigen Auflehnung. In meinem Artikel gehe ich der (...) Frage nach, wie schlüssig diese frühe „Logik des Absurden“ ist. Es wird sich zeigen, dass Camus’ Thesen in dem von ihm intendierten für alle Menschen gültigen und objektiven Sinn kaum haltbar sind. Ihr großes Potential entfalten sie erst, wenn man sie psychologisch wendet. Camus skizziert einen plausiblen Weg, wie wir trotz der beständigen Unerfülltheit unseres Strebens nach Sinn ein Leben in Glück und Würde führen können. (shrink)
The present account aims to contribute to a better characterization of the state and the dynamics of embryological knowledge at the dawn of the molecular revolution in biology. In this study, Albert Dalcq (1893-1973) was chosen as a representative of a generation of embryologists who found themselves at the junction of two very different approaches to the study of life: the first, focusing on global properties of organisms; the second focusing on the characterization of basic molecular constituents. Though clearly (...) belonging to the organismic tradition, Dalcq was already blending his experimental and explanatory practices with biochemical aspects by the 1930s. Principally based on published sources, the present analysis focuses on the conceptual definitions, modifications and interrelations on which Dalcq's explanation of development rested. Among these are variant process concepts such as gradients and fields, which are often thought to have strongly holistic implications. I will argue that Dalcq's version of these concepts was compatible with a more reductionist treatment of embryos than was accepted by most embryologists as late as the 1950s, pointing to some extent toward the recent molecular characterization of gradients by molecular geneticists such as Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard. Moreover, I will show how the embryological research program of Dalcq and his pupil Jean Brachet has been largely instrumental in the development of molecular biology in Belgium. (shrink)
El súbito consenso que se ha producido en nuestros días alrededor de la importancia de la noción democracia no se ha acompañado de una reflexión filosófica sobre su sentido moderno. La obra filosófica de Claude Lefort ha contribuido a llenar este vacío teórico. Para Lefort, el sentido de la democracia moderna no puede revelarse, como ha supuesto la ciencia política, a través de la descripción del funcionamiento de sus instituciones, sino puede estudiarse mediante la exploración de su dimensión simbólica. (...) En efecto, la fundación y el destino de la democracia son inseparables de la indeterminación de sus fundamentos y de la infigurabilidad del poder, de la ley y del saber. Origen y destino que bien pueden ser rastreados a la luz del contraste entre la sociedad democrática y la sociedad totalitaria. El presente ensayo se ocupa de contrastar la dimensión simbólica de ambas formas de sociedad. Palabras clave: Democracia; totalitarismo; dimensión simbólica; político; Claude Lefort Democracy and totalitarianism: The Symbolic Dimension of the Political according to Claude LefortThe sudden consensus prevailing nowadays on the importance of the concept of democracy has not been accompanied by a philosophical reflection on its modern sense. Claude Lefort’s philosophical work has helped to fill this theoretical vacuum. According to Lefort, the sense of modern democracy cannot be disclosed, as political science has assumed, just by describing the operation of its institutions. Rather, it may be studied by exploring its symbolic dimension. In fact, democracy’s origin and fate are inseparable from the indeterminacy of its foundation and the non-figurable nature of power, law and knowledge. Such an origin and fate may indeed be tracked in light of the contrast between the democratic society and the totalitarian one. This essay aims to contrast the symbolic dimension of both forms of society. Keywords : Democracy; totalitarianism; symbolic dimension; political; Claude Lefort. (shrink)
This paper compares Pierre Hadot’s work on the history of philosophy as a way of life to the work of Albert Camus. I will argue that in the early work of Camus, up to and including the publication of The Myth of Sisyphus, there is evidence to support the notions that, firstly, Camus also identified these historical moments as obstacles to the practice of ascesis, and secondly, that he proceeded by orienting his own work toward overcoming these obstacles, and (...) thus toward a modern rehabilitation of ascesis. Moreover, in contrast to Hadot’s Platonism, Camus located the source of this practice in the pre-philosophical stage of Athenian tragedy. This points to a further contrast between these two figures, which has historical and cultural precedents, in the distinction between this pre-Platonic form of ascesis - favoured by Camus - and the latter Christian form of asceticism - favoured by Hadot, with the status of Platonic ascesis rendered in terms of prefiguring this Christian form of asceticism. (shrink)
Research in modern biology has largely been developed according to two main ways of inquiry, as they were outlined by Charles Darwin and Claude Bernard. Each stands for a specific approach to the living corresponding to two different methodological rules: the principle of natural selection and the principle of causation.
Each time patients and their families are asked to make a decision about resuscitation, they are also asked to engage the political, social, and cultural concerns that have shaped its history. That history is exemplified in the career of Claude S. Beck, arguably the most influential researcher and teacher of resuscitation in the twentieth century. Careful review of Beck’s work discloses that the development and popularization of the techniques of resuscitation proceeded through a multiplication of definitions of death. CPR (...) consequently remains unique among medical treatments, because it is indicated precisely when a person dies, depending always on how each event of death becomes defined practically by patients, families, and medical professionals present at the time. It is therefore as an occasion to manage a surplus of definitions of death, and not as an occasion to determine the physiological efficacy of resuscitation, that one should approach analysis of contemporary challenges in decision-making about resuscitation. (shrink)
Fifty years ago when Jacques Hadamard set out to explore how mathematicians invent new ideas, he considered the creative experiences of some of the greatest thinkers of his generation, such as George Polya, Claude Le;vi-Strauss, and Albert Einstein. It appeared that inspiration could strike anytime, particularly after an individual had worked hard on a problem for days and then turned attention to another activity. In exploring this phenomenon, Hadamard produced one of the most famous and cogent cases for (...) the existence of unconscious mental processes in mathematical invention and other forms of creativity. Written before the explosion of research in computers and cognitive science, his book, originally titled The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field , remains an important tool for exploring the increasingly complex problem of mental life. The roots of creativity for Hadamard lie not in consciousness, but in the long unconscious work of incubation, and in the unconscious aesthetic selection of ideas that thereby pass into consciousness. His discussion of this process comprises a wide range of topics, including the use of mental images or symbols, visualized or auditory words, "meaningless" words, logic, and intuition. Among the important documents collected is a letter from Albert Einstein analyzing his own mechanism of thought. (shrink)
Predictive genetic testing may confront those affected with difficult life situations that they have not experienced before. These life situations may be interpreted as ‘absurd’. In this paper we present a case study of a predictive test situation, showing the perspective of a woman going through the process of deciding for or against taking the test, and struggling with feelings of alienation. To interpret her experiences, we refer to the concept of absurdity, developed by the French Philosopher Albert Camus. (...) Camus' writings on absurdity appear to resonate with patients' stories when they talk about their body and experiences of illness. In this paper we draw on Camus' philosophical essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, and compare the absurd experiences of Sisyphus with the interviewee's story. This comparison opens up a field of ethical reflection. We demonstrate that Camus' concept of absurdity offers a new and promising approach to understanding the fragility of patients' situations, especially in the field of predictive testing. We show that people affected might find new meaning through narratives that help them to reconstruct the absurd without totally overcoming it. In conclusion, we will draw out some normative consequences of our narrative approach. (shrink)
Friedrich Albert Lange (b. 1828, d. 1875) was a German philosopher, pedagogue, political activist, and journalist. He was one of the originators of neo-Kantianism and an important figure in the founding of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. He is also played a significant role in the German labour movement and in the development of social democratic thought. His book, THE HISTORY OF MATERIALISM, was a standard introduction to materialism and the history of philosophy well into the twentieth century.
In this paper, in response to Nicolson’s claim that South African liberation theology is non‐realist – or at least is non‐realist in its language – I suggest that Albert Nolan’s important book God in South Africa is not based on such an “exotic” philosophical basis but is a reflection using the populist Marxism of the anti‐apartheid struggle of the 1980s. The clue here is Nolan’s use of the Colonialism of a Special Type thesis, an integral part of ANC and (...) Communist Party discourse since the 1960s. Nolan himself has described his work as “historical materialist” in its philosophical language. Such a position seems far removed from non‐realism, although they certainly sound similar in Nolan’s God‐language.I then examine non‐realist theologian Don Cupitt’s model of “militant religious humanism” and conclude that a non‐realist liberation or political theology along these lines suffers too much from a sense of relativism or absurdity for it to be of use to those who use liberation theology. From this I try to suggest how a non‐realist liberation theology might be developed. In the end, however, I conclude that though such a theology could be constructed, it would probably not be effective: liberation theology requires a real God who really sides with the poor. (shrink)
Si le nom d’Albert Camus continue de s’imposer, aujourd’hui, comme une figure incontournable de la littérature et de la pensée françaises du XXe siècle, il n’en est pas moins demeuré une personnalité cosmopolite, sensible à ce que la culture ne s’accomplit véritablement qu’en l’absence de sectarisme, qu’en présence de l’autre — avec ou envers lui, peu importe. C’est aussi tout le sens de la collection « Exotopies » de l’Association portugaise des études françaises (A.P.E.F.) qu’inaugure ce volume : présenter (...) des travaux sur la langue et la culture françaises, mais d’un point de vue singulier, celui d’un autre pays. En lisant ce bouquet assez restreint, mais en même temps assez diversifié de travaux sur l’oeuvre d’Albert Camus, on relèvera donc qu’il ne s’agissait ni d’un hommage, ni d’une commémoration, si contraires au vif esprit de la littérature, mais de s’aviser de l’exceptionnelle variété et actualité de son oeuvre. En ce sens, il n’est de meilleure figure pour débuter cette collection à visée cosmopolite que celle d’Albert Camus, chez qui le geste d’écriture est totalement inscrit dans une vocation humaniste. Celle-ci ne s’entend pas dans un sens moraliste, mais dans un sens existentiel — sinon existentialiste —, qui veut que chacun se définisse par le souci qu’il a de l’autre, et que l’humanité s’apparaisse comme le perpetuum mobile de l’histoire, en même temps que son point fixe, son sens dernier. (shrink)
A common and enduring early modern intuition is that materialists reduce organisms in general and human beings in particular to automata. Wasn’t a famous book of the time entitled L’Homme-Machine? In fact, the machine is employed as an analogy, and there was a specifically materialist form of embodiment, in which the body is not reduced to an inanimate machine, but is conceived as an affective, flesh-and-blood entity. We discuss how mechanist and vitalist models of organism exist in a more complementary (...) relation than hitherto imagined, with conceptions of embodiment resulting from experimental physiology. From La Mettrie to Bernard, mechanism, body and embodiment are constantly overlapping, modifying and overdetermining one another; embodiment came to be scientifically addressed under the successive figures of vie organique and then milieu intérieur, thereby overcoming the often lamented divide between scientific image and living experience. (shrink)
This ar ti cle ex tends, from a philo soph i cal and an thro po log i cal point of view, the re cent dis - cus sions as to what is met a phoric. Lan guage phi - los o phers have con trib uted to the un der stand ing of the na ture and func tion of met a phors, but their com ments have been tra ..