The philosophy of pattern cladism has been variously explained by reference to the work of Louis Agassiz. The present study analyzes Agassiz's attempt to combine an empirical approach to the study of nature with an idealistic philosophy. From this emerges the problem of empiricism and of the isomorphy between the order of nature and human thinking. The analysis of the writings of Louis Agassiz serves as the basis for discussion of the reality of natural groups as postulated by (...) pattern cladists. (shrink)
The reputations of scientists among their contemporaries depend not only on accomplishment, but also on interactions affected by influence and personality. The historical lore of most fields of scientific endeavor preserve these reputations, often through the identification of founders, innovators, and prolific workers whose contributions are considered fundamental to progress in the field. Historians frequently rely on the historical lore of scientists to guide their studies of the development of ideas, exhibiting justifiable caution in reassessing reputations in the light of (...) current knowledge. However, the transmission of historical lore can obscure the relative importance of accomplishment, influence and personality in shaping contemporary reputations, leaving the historian to either accept reputations at face value or attempt to reconstruct the context in which they were created. The science of taxonomy, because of its rules of priority, leaves a relatively accurate record of historical accomplishment through the persistence of taxa in catalogues and faunal guides. These records allow the modern historian an unbiased means to assess the relative accomplishments of historical figures and therefore a means to critically reassess reputations independent of personality and influence. In the historical lore of North American ichthyology, Louis Agassiz at Harvard and Spencer Baird at the Smithsonian emerge as central figures in the early development of the field during the mid-1800s, contributing not only through the quality and quantity of their science, but also through their roles as institutional leaders and mentors to workers who followed. Charles Girard, originally a student of Agassiz's and later a coworker with Baird, receives little notice in the history of ichthyology, and his reputation is that of a minor player in the initial description of the North American fish fauna, and one whose work appears to have been flawed or even careless when compared to his contemporaries. However, a review of both contemporary and modern taxonomic works reveals that Girard's productivity far exceeded that of either Agassiz or Baird. Furthermore, an examination of the tendency of Girard and his contemporaries to introduce synonymous names into the literature, which might reflect careless or uncritical work, suggests that Girard was among the more accomplished workers of his era, including Agassiz and Baird. Girard's low ranking in the folklore of North American ichthyology, therefore, can not be attributed to discernible shortcomings in his scientific work, but rather to a public and private campaign of criticism waged by Agassiz after Girard's departure from Harvard. While Agassiz's dispute with Girard stemmed from their personal interactions, he expressed them as criticisms of Girard's work, and thus helped shape Girard's scientific reputation as it has been transmitted through the lore of ichthyology. This case study reveals how scientific reputation may not always rest on accomplishment, but can be influenced by personal interactions obscured by time but nonetheless important to history. (shrink)
Harris and Brokmeyer met in 1858 at the St. Louis Mercantile Library, where Harris was offering a public lecture. Brokmeyer convinced Harris of the significance of Hegel’s system, and its relevance to the historical trends of American society. They immediately joined forces, attracting a number of other youthful followers with intellectual ambitions, many of whom were, like Harris, teachers in the public schools. The nascent Hegelian movement was temporarily stalled when Brokmeyer went off to serve as a Colonel in (...) the Union Army during the Civil War, but it rebounded in full force upon his return with the formation of the St. Louis Philosophical Society in 1866, and the launching of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, the official organ of the Society, in 1867. (shrink)
Reviews: William S. Lewis, Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism ; Louis Althusser, Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 1978—1987 ; Alain Badiou, Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy ; Alain Badiou, Metapolitics ; Slavoj Žižek , Lacan: The Silent Partners.
In eighteenth-century French natural history, the notion of preformation was not only a model for a small preexisting embryo that gradually extended its shape through the influx of particles, but also for an order that coordinated the dynamic relation between organic parts. Preformation depended therefore also on a hidden order behind the continuity of visible forms. Louis Bourguet, Charles Bonnet, and Georges Cuvier distinguished three organizational levels: First, the synchronic or functional order of organic systems; second, the diachronic order (...) of the initiation of mechanical processes; and third, the hierarchical order that regulates the interaction of organic parts. In this essay, I reconstruct and compare the three organizational levels in the writings of Bourguet, Bonnet and Cuvier, relate their models of organic unity to the principle of perfection, and contrast these models with Georges Buffon's critique of system theories. (shrink)
Historians of science have only just begun to sample the wealth of different approaches to the study of animal behavior undertaken in the twentieth century. To date, more attention has been given to Lorenzian ethology and American behaviorism than to other work and traditions, but different approaches are equally worthy of the historian's attention, reflecting not only the broader range of questions that could be asked about animal behavior and the "animal mind" but also the different contexts in which these (...) questions were important. One such approach is that represented by the work of the French zoologist Louis Boutan (1859-1934). This paper explores the intellectual and cultural history of Boutan's work on animal language and the animal mind, and contextualizes the place of animal behavior studies within late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century French biology. I explore the ways in which Boutan addressed the philosophical issue of whether language was necessary for abstract thought and show how he shifted from the idea that animals were endowed with a purely affective language to the notion that of they were capable of "rudimentary" reasoning. I argue that the scientific and broader socio-cultural contexts in which Boutan operated played a role in this transition. Then I show how Boutan's linguistic and psychological experiments with a gibbon and children provide insights into his conception of "naturalness." Although Boutan reared his gibbon at home and studied it in the controlled environment of his laboratory, he continued to identify its behavior as "natural." I specifically demonstrate the importance of the milieu of the French Third Republic in shaping Boutan's understanding not only of animal intelligence and child education, but also his definition of nature. Finally, I argue that Boutan's studies on the primate mind provide us with a lens through which we can examine the co-invention of animal and child psychology in early-twentieth-century France. (shrink)
Louis de La Forge and the Development of Occasionalism: Continuous Creation and the Activity of the Soul STEVEN NADLER THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE CONSERVATION is a dangerous one. It is not theologi- cally dangerous, at least not in itself. From the thirteenth century onwards, and particularly with the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas, the notion of the continuous divine sustenance of the world of created things was, if not univer- sally accepted, a nonetheless common feature of theological orthodoxy, Chris- (...) tian and otherwise. Rather, the danger is philosophical in nature . The philosophical problem I am concerned with is not some logical incoherence at the heart of the doctrine; nor does it lie in any objections that can be raised against the arguments that, historically, have been given for the thesis that God, as a causa secundum esse, must continually act in order to conserve the world in being. The question I address -- and it is a pressing one for any seventeenth-century Cartesianmis whether the doctrine of divine conservation establishes too much. I believe that, under certain circumstances, it does, and that the ultimate ramifications of the doctrine for natural causality must be unacceptable to an orthodox Cartesian such as Louis de La Forge , perhaps the most strict follower of Descartes of the.. (shrink)
This essay reconstructs the intellectual development of the philosopher of history Louis O. Mink Jr, in order to illuminate the philosophical background to in American historical epistemology. From around 1970, Mink was a prominent and influential defender of the view that historical narratives were imaginative constructions rather than representations of past actuality. This has since been understood as a characteristically postmodern view. Mink's wider sensibility, however, is better described as modernist than postmodernist. The crucial context for his philosophy was (...) a hostility to going back to his graduate years at Yale, and his epistemological views were of a piece with a defence of historical understanding as both distinctive and valuable. In both respects Mink was influenced by the philosophy of R. G. Collingwood, while he was himself an important influence on Hayden White. Mink's case therefore helps bridge the gap between interwar and later twentieth-century versions of Anglophone historical contructivism, while drawing attention to some cultural contexts in which the development of both modernist and postmodernist views of historiography must be understood. (shrink)
En este trabajo se cuestiona la opinión dada a menudo de acuerdo con la que la economía política se separa de la moralidad en los escritos de Adam Smith y su escuela. Según esta vieja idea, fuertemente defendida en el libro de Louis Dumont, From MandeVille to Marx los grandes economistas clásicos ingleses pensaron que en el espacio económico los hombres podían seguir exclusivamente su propio interés sin ninguna referencia a las reglas morales. Se muestra que esto es estrictamente (...) lo contrario de lo que en realidad dijeron. Así, en La riqueza de las naciones, Smith escribe que en el sistema de la libertad natural que propugna: "Todo hombre, mientras que no viole las leyes de justicia, es totalmente libre de perseguir su propio interés"- Aparentemente Dumont no conoce esta doctrina o no sabe que para Smith la "justicia" es una de las cuatro virtudes cardinales y que las reglas que prescribe son las más precisas y la parte más importante de la moralidad, sin las que una sociedad pacífica y próspera no puede existir. De ahí que se critiquen algunas otras opiniones populares que Dumont recoge también de acuerdo con las que se supone que los economistas clásicos ingleses han creído que el interés del individuo nunca se contradice con el interés público y que el Estado nunca debería intervenir. 5e concluye con Lionel Robbins "Identificar tales doctrinas con las ideas declaradas y fácilmente accesibles de los economistas clásicos constituye un signo cierto de ignorancia o maldad". (shrink)
On August 19, 1297, a young man of royal heritage died in the household of the Count of Provence and King of Naples at Brignoles, a short distance from Marseille. The young man was Louis of Anjou, a Franciscan friar and Bishop of Toulouse, who had renounced his inheritance and claim to the Kingdom of Naples to pursue a religious vocation. Only twenty-three years old when he died, Louis nevertheless had long been inspired by Franciscan spirituality, and less (...) than eight months before had realized his dream of professing vows within the Order of Friars Minor at the same time that he submitted to consecration as Bishop of Toulouse. In March of the following year, Peter of John Olivi, a native son of .. (shrink)
Principal aspects of Louis de Broglie's conception of science are here considered: requirement of clear representations in space and time, allowing a real “world-picture,” a search for causal laws behind statistical rules and the, final submission to experiment, which can only be questionned by theoretical imagination.
In a careful exposition of French Marxism, William Lewis places Althusser and his thought alongside the pre- and post-war French communist intellectual climate: the result is an excellent and unique work. Part theoretical treatise on some of Althusser's more complicated and less explored ideas, part intellectual history, Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism is, in total, an important text for philosophy, French and francophone studies, political thought, cultural studies, marxist thought, and several other disciplines interested in the (...) intellectual life and times of the twientieth century. (shrink)
An account of the contributions of Louis de Broglie to the quantum theory of measurement processes is presented. It being impracticable to cover all research work done by de Broglie and his School about this matter, stress is put on the refutation of von Neumann's theorem, on the alternative description arising from the double solution theory, and on some critical analysis of the usually accepted formalism.
Anne Devarieux | : En allant de Maine de Biran à Louis Lavelle, nous allons d’une métaphysique de l’expérience intérieure qui définit l’être du moi comme un volo donné dans le sentiment actuel de sa puissance propre, à une ontologie déclinant les puissances plurielles du moi, à l’intérieur d’une dialectique de la puissance et de l’acte (théorie de la participation). Mais tous deux ont pensé l’intériorité comme un mouvement absolu, secret et irréductible à toute représentation. Attentif à l’évolution de (...) la pensée de Maine de Biran, Louis Lavelle semble avoir développé toutes les potentialités cachées du moi biranien. Un tel mouvement permet d’éclairer la place de Maine de Biran dans l’histoire du spiritualisme français, et de ses héritiers, qu’il s’agisse d’Henri Bergson ou de Michel Henry. | : Going from Maine de Biran to Louis Lavelle, we can feel the distance between a metaphysics of inner experience which defines the being of the ego as a volo, given in the present sense of its own power, and an ontology asserting the plural virtual powers of the ego, within a dialectic of the power and the act (theory of participation). However, both have thought interiority as an absolute and secret motion, irreducible to any representation. Attentive to the evolution of Maine de Biran’s thought, Louis Lavelle seems to have developed all the hidden potential of the Biranian theory of the self. Such a movement can illuminate the place of Biran in the history of French spiritualism, and of his heirs, whether it be Henri Bergson or Michel Henry. (shrink)
The development of Louis Mink's philosophy of history is traced beginning with his classic essay "The Autonomy of Historical Understanding" and culminating in "Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument". Mink's thoughts on history during this period were marked by an everdeepening interest in the textuality and intertextuality of historical accounts, in the modes of representation which historians adopt and use to produce their "reality effects," and in the effort to mediate between what he was to call the New Rhetorical (...) Relativism and the claim that histories are in some sense true. Mink's response to Hempel's "The Function of General Laws in History," the beginning of Mink's consideration of narrative in "The Autonomy of Historical Understanding" and later in "History and Fiction as Modes of Comprehension," his association with Hayden White, his critique of a paper by Arno Mayer, and the beginning of Mink's final thoughts in "History and Narrative" and "Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument" are considered in elaborating the development of Mink's philosophy of history. (shrink)
As an accompaniment to the translation into English of Louis Althusser's 'Letter to the Central Committee of the PCF, March 18th, 1966', this note provides the historical and theoretical context necessary to understand Althusser's 'anti-humanist' interventions into French Communist Party policy decisions during the mid-1960s. Because nowhere else in Althusser's published writings do we see as clearly the political stakes involved in his philosophical project, nor the way in which this project evolved from a 'theoreticist' pursuit into a more (...) practical one, the note also argues that the letter is of importance to Althusser scholars, to historians of Marxist thought, and to those interested in the relevance of Althusser's work to contemporary Marxist philosophy. (shrink)
In these pages a significant effort is undertaken to bridge the perennial gap between Marxist-Leninist theory and practice. Maria Antonietta Macciocchi is particularly suited to this task. She has been a member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) for over twenty years. She participated in the underground during World War II and has served as a foreign correspondent for L'Unità. In 1968, eager to re-establish contact with the Italian working class, Macciocchi accepted the Party's proposal that she become a candidate (...) from parliament from Naples. Before departing from Paris where she had been serving as L'Unità's correspondent she suggested to her friend Louis Althusser that they conduct a political correspondence. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to an analysis of the intellectual itinerary of Louis de Broglie, from the discovery of wave mechanics, until today. Essential attention is paid to the fact that this itinerary is far from being linear, since after a first attempt to develop his own views on wave mechanics through the theory of singular waves, Louis de Broglie abandoned it for twenty five years, under the influence of the Copenhagen School (even embracing the conceptions of the (...) latter), until the beginning of the fifties, when he definitively came back to his primary theory. This evolution of the Louis de Broglie's views on wave mechanics is told here and explained through an analysis of the evolution of all of quantum mechanics and, more generally, the dominating conceptions of theoretical physics in our century.This paper is written in a quite personal form, which is not exactly one to which the readers of scientific journals are accustomed, because it reproduces, in fact, the preface of a book (to be published) of Louis de Broglie, which is precisely devoted to the fundamental problems of quantum mechanics and closely linked to the second turnabout of the author. (shrink)
This article addresses a peculiar form of marginalization in that the marginalized text it discusses originates not in the margin but at the very center of political power. Generally ignored, sometimes quoted as an illustration, Louis XIV's Mémoires for the Instruction of the Dauphin is today rarely read and even more rarely submitted to close reading. The article discusses the reasons for this marginalization and why the text deserves more scholarly attention, including the thorny question what exactly it would (...) mean to take it seriously. I suggest that the oscillating focus of the Mémoires?shifting between the labor of state-craft and the enchantment of royal mastery, between expert analysis and god-given intuition, between (modern) instrumentalism and a (pre-modern) logic of royal glory?makes it a unique historical source for exploring constitutive tensions at the heart of absolutism. (shrink)
On the eve of the Carolingian revival of learning, Wigbod compiled for Charlemagne a commentary on Genesis that was encyclopedic in scope. A decade or two later, not long before the year 811, Claudius of Turin prepared another exhaustive commentary on Genesis at the request of Louis the Pious. Like Wigbod's, the commentary on Genesis of Claudius of Turin reveals much about the literary and exegetical interests of its author and his patrons, the methods of its compiler, and the (...) sources he used. The commentaries supplied by these two scholars illustrate how biblical interpretation developed in the first decades of the Carolingian period. (shrink)
Ce texte a déjà paru le 23 août 2014 sur Langues de feu – les traducteurs et l'esprit des langues. Tours de Babel et glossolalies. Nous remercions Claire Placial de nous avoir autorisé à le reproduire ici. A paru au début 2013 une nouvelle traduction de l'Iliade par Jean-Louis Backès. Ce billet arrive, si dire se peut pour l'Iliade, après la bataille, et notamment après l'article de Jean-Yves Masson dans le Magazine littéraire, et la publication dans La République des (...) livres, le site de Pierre (...) - Études grecques et latines – Nouvel article. (shrink)
In 1994, Joyce Trebilcot retired from teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, where she had founded the Women's Studies Program and had been a member of the Philosophy Department since 1970. In the Fall of 1994 I participated on a SWIP conference panel on her book Dyke Ideas conference; I used that occasion also to reminisce and place her work in the context of her life as a SWIP activist. What follows is adapted from that presentation.
This book is a collection of previously published essays by Louis Loeb. The first three essays focus primarily on advancing the general interpretive claim that Descartes’s main epistemological goal is achieving unshakable beliefs. While essays 5–10 address many topics in Humean interpretation, they all contribute in various ways to supporting Loeb’s claim that Hume’s primary epistemological goal is achieving stable beliefs. Essay 12 compares the naturalisms of Hume and Reid. All of the collected essays are excellent. Such excellence is (...) not surprising, for Loeb is an influential interpreter of early modern philosophy, justly renowned for the ingenuity of his readings. Spanning the last. (shrink)
Louis Althusser, May 1968 and the Fluctuations of Ideology By examining the various statements made by Louis Althusser of his position on the student movement of May 69, the article seeks to reveal the remarkably complex and theoretically apposite character of his assessment. e article thus goes against usual interpretations of this issue. In particular, it points to the interest of the concepts of revolt and of mass ideological revolution, which were introduced in his writing of the period. (...) By demonstrating that Althusser’s analysis of the function and status of ideology in the revolts of May validates the theses which he advanced in For Marx about the notion of overdetermination, the author’s intention is to assess the role played by this paradigmatic spectrum in the overall reconstruction of the problematic of ideology which Althusser was to formulate in the famous manuscript entitled On Reproduction. e principal interest of this manuscript is that, for the first time, it establishes a rigorously materialist conception of ideology and of the concrete mode of existence of ideas. (shrink)
In this guest column, the author argues, first, that being at the place of an event does not guarantee that one understands what is going on and, second, that something's happening with or to me does not guarantee that I understand what has occurred. He shows that it is generally assumed that the best descriptions of oneself are those given by oneself and, further, generally felt that allowing for the possibility that better descriptions than one's own have been produced by (...) others is comparable to surrendering a civil right. He concludes instead that allowing for that possibility is commendable and shows its application to an aspect of the life of Louis XVI that historians and ideologists of revolution have widely ridiculed. (shrink)
Why We Talk is a complex, ambitious, original, thought-provoking, and sometimes frustrating book. In it, Jean-Louis Dessalles argues that the critical spur to the development of human language—language’s true biological function—was political. It wasn’t political in any of the senses hitherto floated in the literature, though: language didn’t evolve because it fostered group cohesion or cooperation, or facilitated mind-reading or manipulation. Instead, language originally served more or less the same function as ritualized displays of aggression and submission in many (...) social animals: among early Homo (maybe erectus, maybe only sapiens—p. 333), one’s gifts in the area of gab conferred status (recall Socrates’ gripes about the Sophists) and with higher status came, basically, more and better kids, both for the loquacious themselves and for anyone smart enough to ally himself with them. (shrink)
Robert Sauzet présente à partir d'un document inédit le livre de raison d'un notaire nîmois du siècle de Louis XIV, Étienne Borrelly la vie quotidienne d'une partie des Français. Ce manuscrit assure la richesse de l'ouvrage. En effet, le texte rédigé par Étienne Borrelly tout au long de sa vie devient vite, de simple livre de famille, un recueil traitant indifféremment de politique nationale ou internationale, d'événements locaux aussi divers que les intempéries météorologiques et ..
Inspired by Louis Althusser’s polemic that Marxism is a science and not a philosophy, we enquire about the nature of this ‘scientificity’ of Marxism. The result is a clarification that Marxism is a social theory within the discourse of hermeneutics. Drawing on William Dilthey’s categorisation of human science as Geisteswissenschaft, which essentially is an interpretive science when differentiated from Naturwissenschaft, we point out that Marxism should be understood and used as a socio-hermeneutic theory. We highlight that at the pinnacle (...) of his intellectual development that resulted in Das Kapital, Marx produced a scientific principle for interpreting historical social formations and the human condition, particularly during the capitalist epoch. The description of the scientific character of this hermeneutic principle, set against what Althusser attempted, and motivated by the quest for a contemporaneous application of Marxist theory, is the mission of our paper. It is a contribution to the Philosophy of Social Science. (shrink)
RésuméPrésentation de la correspondance inédite entre Bertrand Russell et Louis Couturat, proba‐blement la plus remarquable qui nous reste de Russell tant par son ampleur que par son contenu. Ľauteur en expose ici les thèmes les plus importants, concernant en particulier les fondements de la géométrie et la logique mathématique, et les met en relation avec les positions philosophiques respectives de Russell et de Couturat.SummaryIntroduction to the unpublished correspondance between Bertrand Russell and Louis Couturat – probably the most remarkable (...) that remains from Russell, as tar as its richness and its content is concerned. The author exposes the most important themes concerning mainly the foundations of geometry and of mathematical logic which she relates with the respective philosophical positions of Russell and Couturat.ZusammenfassungEs wird der noch unveröffentlichte Briefwechsel zwischen Bertrand Russell und Louis Couturat vorgestellt. Was Russell betrifft, so dürfte es sich sowohl in bezug auf den Umfang als auch in bezug auf den Gehalt um das Bemerlcenswerteste handeln, was er uns zurückgelassen hat. Die Autorin stellt die wichtigsten Themen dar, die im besonderen die Grundlagen der Geometrie sowie der mathematischen Logik berühren, und sie setzt diese in Beziehung zu der von Russell und Couturat eingenommenen philosophischen Positionen. (shrink)
In this paper, I investigate Louis de La Forge's argument against body–body causation. His general strategy exploits the impossibility of bodies communicating their movement by transfer of motion. I call this the ‘non-transfer’ argument . NT allows La Forge both to reinterpret continuous creation in an occasionalistic fashion and to support his non-occasionalistic view concerning mind–body union. First, I present how NT emerges in Descartes’ own texts. Second, I show how La Forge recasts it to draw an occasionalistic account (...) of body–body interactions, and I discuss how La Forge supports NT with continuous creation. Third, I conclude by suggesting that this further step of his argument does not undermine his non-occasionalistic account of mind–body union. (shrink)
This review studies the representation of director Louis Malle's experiences as a child in the Holocaust in the film Au Revoir les enfants. The film blurs the lines between the controversial categories of Holocaust participants as victims, bystanders, and perpetrators. This ambiguity and overlapping of roles in the film presents the question of treatment of Holocaust memory.
This article stages a new encounter between rhetoric and the philosophy of Karl Marx. We argue that the configuration of two major tropes in Marx’s 1852 pamphlet The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte renders explicit the operative but implicit logics of Marxian historical materialism. Our reading therefore makes available a novel and untimely dimension of Marx’s conceptual labor where we least expect to find it: in a text that has been largely, but not exclusively, understood as a history of (...) counterrevolution that was meant to intervene within its own context in particular ways. While we do not wish to lose sight of that context, our aim is to demonstrate that The Eighteenth Brumaire is suggestive of the.. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to examine the extent of the critiques that La Beaumelle gives to Voltaire in the annotated edition of the Siècle de Louis XIV, published in 1753, and his response in the Supplément au Siècle de Louis XIV, published a few months later. This, on the other hand, sheds some light on a number of tensions in the Voltaire’s historiographical project. It is shown that in the historical and historiographical works of the philosopher, (...) there are different methodology criteria and that the joint between them is problematic. (shrink)
In 1803 Louis Poinsot published a textbook on statics, in which he made clear that the subject dealt not only with forces but also with 'couples' (his word), pairs of coplanar non-collinear forces equal in magnitude and direction but opposite in sense. His innovation was not understood or even welcomed by some contemporary mathematicians. Later he adapted his theory to put forward a new relationship between rectilinear and rotational motion in dynamics; its reception was more positive, although not always (...) appreciative of the generality. After summarising the creation of these two theories and noting their respective receptions, this paper considers his advocacy of spatial and geometrical thinking in mechanics and the fact that, despite its importance, historians of statics who cover his period usually ignore his theory of couples. (shrink)
This paper contrasts the London Olympics of 2012 with the St Louis Games of 1904 in the context of their cultural and historical context, especially the World’s Fair. What I suggest is that the 1904 World’s Fair, with its supporting academic congress at which Adolf von Harnack and Ernst Troeltsch lectured, played a modest part in the early phases of the deabsolutization of western culture, together with the Christianity upon which it was constructed. Despite the widespread patronizing and racialist (...) attitudes in St Louis, the sheer variety and breadth of cultures seen by millions demonstrated a cultural relativism that was emerging as a serious approach to anthropology and other branches of knowledge, including theology. The fruits of such a deabsolutization can perhaps be glimpsed in the gradual transformation of the absolutes of western religion through the twentieth century into the new universals of nationhood and sport, both of which clearly coalesce in the contemporary version of the Olympic Games. I conclude by suggesting that sport and national myths may be the only universals that will have the strength to survive into the future. Of the two, the modern Olympic ideal seems better suited to promoting harmony between peoples than most national myths. This article is based on a lecture given at the Catholic University of Leuven in December 2012. I would like to thank Professor Lieven Boeve and Johan Leemans for the invitation to speak. (shrink)