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A former colleague said:


It is noticeable that French students on average can construct better arguments than their peers thanks to these teenage philosophy lessons.

I was going to say that I had few French students, but one of the brightest wrote these quite elegant essays - but almost devoid of evidence. Then, checking something else, I came across this from Perry Anderson, former editor of New Left Review; writing about the intellectual scene in France in the late 60s:

Viewed comparatively, the striking feature of the human sciences and philosophy that counted in this period was the extent to which they came to be written increasingly as virtuoso exercises of style, drawing on the resources and licences of artistic rather than academic forms. Lacan's Ecrits, closer to Mallarmé than Freud in their syntax, or Derrida's Glas, with its double-columned interlacing of Genet and Hegel, represent extreme forms of this strategy. But Foucault's oracular gestures, mingling echoes of Artaud and Bossuet, Lévi-Strauss's Wagnerian constructions, Barthes's eclectic coquetries, belong to the same register.

To understand this development, one has to remember the formative role of rhetoric, seeping through the dissertation, in the upper levels of the French educational system in which all these thinkers - khâgneux and normaliens virtually to a man - were trained, as a potential hyphen between literature and philosophy. Even Bourdieu, whose work took as one of its leading targets just this rhetorical tradition, could not escape his own version of its cadences; far less such as Althusser, against whose obscurities the sociologist railed. The potential cost of a literary conception of intellectual disciplines is obvious enough: arguments freed from logic, propositions from evidence."


Fortunately now there is Michel Onfray, whose works, like those on Freud, Nietzsche and Camus, have massive amounts of evidence, meticulously researched. Though even he is given to rhetorical flourishes which would have been alien to British philosophers - until some succumbed to French intellectual fashion.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jun 20th, 2013 at 02:33:25 PM EST

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