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The Cahiers pour l’Analyse were published by a group calling themselves the Cercle d’Épistémologie [Circle of Epistemology]. In the twentieth-century French tradition of epistemology represented chiefly by Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem, epistemology is defined as the theory of science. An inaugural statement in Volume 1 of the Cahiers defines epistemology as the ‘history and theory of the discourse of Science’.

In his 1972 Que-sais je? volume L’Épistémologie Robert Blanché defines epistemology as ‘the theory of science’.1 The term is generally used to describe the theories of knowledge pursued by Locke, Leibniz, Hume and Kant, insofar as they involve reflection on the methods for acquiring and guaranteeing objective knowledge. In a 1972 piece entitled ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, Georges Canguilhem observed the English term’s recent provenance, noting it was first used in James Frederick Ferrier’s Institutes of Metaphysics (1854), a work in which, according to Canguilhem, ‘the word epistemology was invented in order to have something to oppose to ontology’.2 Canguilhem remarks that ‘chronologically, the history of science owes nothing to the philosophical discipline that appears to have acquired the name epistemology in 1854’. The French tradition of epistemology to which Canguilhem belongs, along with Blanché, Cavaillès and Bachelard, specifically treats epistemology as the theory of science, and as intrinsically connected with the history of science. We know objects through science, so epistemology must be the theory of science and its emergence. It is this particular tradition of epistemology that feeds into the Cahiers pour l’Analyse.

According to Bachelard, science makes progress independently of philosophical enquiries into knowledge, and the task of epistemology is not to make a priori limitations upon knowledge, but to help the sciences break free from non-scientific ideas. Epistemology critically examines major ruptures in the history of science, and attempts to remove obstacles to further scientific progress. In its negative aspect, it performs what Bachelard calls a psychoanalysis of knowledge, while in its positive aspect, it makes way for a ‘recurrence’ or ‘recursion’ of the paths by which scientific knowledge has been established. ‘From the viewpoint of modern science that which is negative belongs to a psychoanalysis of knowledge; it must be checked if it tends to reappear. On the contrary, whatever remains positive from the past will become operative again in modern thought’.3 It is in this latter procedure of recursion that the normative dimension of Bachelardian epistemology is to be found. ‘Historians of science have to take ideas as facts. Epistemologists have to take facts as ideas and place them within a system of thought’.4 Bachelard talks of the ‘educative necessity of developing a recurrent history, a history which can be clarified by means of the finality of the present, a history which starts from the certainties of the present and then discovers in the past the progressive formations of the truth’.5 The ‘superiority’ of one scientific hypothesis over another is never a mere question of fact, nor simply characteristic of a historical movement. ‘It is science’s destiny that rational values impose themselves. They impose themselves historically. The history of science is led by a kind of autonomous necessity’.6

Although Bachelard and Cavaillès both hold to a ‘militant mathematicism’ about the need for formalisation in science, both distinguish their approaches from logical positivism.7 Even in the case of the epistemology of mathematics itself, recursion is necessary. ‘Mathematical reasoning’, Cavaillès says, ‘is internally coherent in a way that cannot be rushed. It is by nature progressive’.8 It involves ‘perpetual revision, in which some things are eliminated, and others elaborated.’9 As Canguilhem puts it, in contrast to logical positivism, Bachelard and Cavaillès hold that ‘mathematics has epistemological content, whether actual or potential, and that progress in mathematics adds to that content’.10 For Bachelard, this is true of each of the sciences, and the task of epistemology is to reconstruct their progressive formation.

Canguilhem questions whether the epistemology defended by Bachelard depends on an implicit transcendental theory of knowledge. In ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’, Canguilhem asks how Bachelard is able to ‘fill in the vocabulary of a rationalist epistemology, without making reference to an ontological theory of reason, or without reference to a transcendental theory of categories’.11 In his Introduction to Husserl’s ‘Origin of Geometry’ (1962), Jacques Derrida puts a similar challenge to Cavaillès, claiming that the ‘dialectical genesis’ of the concept described by Cavaillès presupposes a ‘movement of sense’ more adequately accounted for by Husserl’s later phenomenology, where the development of science is grounded in a ‘life-world’.12 In ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, Canguilhem also suggests that ‘the use of epistemological recursion as a historical method is not universally valid’, and is most appropriate for the fields in which Bachelard initially developed the concept, mathematical physics and nuclear chemistry. He argues that alongside the epistemological breaks studied by Bachelard, there also exist epistemological ‘fractures’, according to which the effect of an epistemic change is not felt until later. He gives the example of Darwinism: the fracture caused by Darwinism ‘is barely perceptible in the early post-Darwin years, and to the extent that it is visible at all it is only as a result of subsequent cataclysms: the rise of genetics and molecular biology’.13

Louis Althusser was influenced by French epistemology, borrowing and transforming many ideas from this tradition in his own assessment of the ‘sciences’ of historical and dialectical materialism. Althusser’s also cited Spinoza’s theory of knowledge as a major resource for his own materialist epistemology, wherein the production of knowledge is the result of subjecting ‘imaginary’ (in Althusserian terms: ‘ideological’) ideas to the rational processes of the understanding. Spinoza was a hero for many French philosophers of science in the interwar years, Léon Brunschvicg, Bachelard, and Cavaillès chief among them. Althusser’s ‘Spinozism’ and his ‘materialist epistemology’ are arguably two names for the same theoretical problematic. ‘If we never were structuralists’, Althusser was to recall, it’s because ‘we were guilty of an equally powerful and compromising passion: we were Spinozists’. Spinoza offered an uncompromising critique of the ‘central category of imaginary illusion’, the ideological foundation of ‘bourgeois philosophy since the fourteenth century’, namely ‘the Subject’ - and he did so not only by rejecting Descartes but by pre-empting Hegel, who ‘criticized all theses of subjectivity’ while nevertheless retaining a place for the subject both in the ‘becoming-Subject of Substance’ and in the ‘the interiority of the Telos of the process without a subject, which by virtue of the negation of the negation, realizes the designs and destiny of the Idea. Thus Spinoza showed us the secret alliance between Subject and Goal which “mystifies” the Hegelian dialectic.’14

For Althusser, one of the chief purposes of epistemology is to provide orientation in the midst of scientific crises. In his ‘Cours de philosophie pour les scientifiques’, he discusses how scientists ‘live’ the breaks and crises of their sciences. ‘Everyone knows famous examples of scientific “crises”: the crisis of irrational numbers in Greek mathematics, the crisis of modern physics at the end of the nineteenth century, the crisis triggered in modern mathematics and mathematical logic by early set theory (between Cantorian theory and that of Zermelo, 1900-08)’. Althusser asks: ‘how do scientists or scholars [savants] live these crises’? Whereas some scientists ‘live’ the crisis by ‘becoming “philosophers”, and exploiting it in order to put in place philosophical or religious ideologies’, for others, ‘the crisis is the effect, within science, of the bad philosophy of scientists which, until then, reigned over science’, and which needs to be replaced with a ‘good’ philosophy of science.15 Althusser claims that dialectical materialism should be reformulated as a materialist epistemology of science. Such an epistemology, he insists, maintains a properly ‘historical and dialectical’ understanding of the opposition between science and ideology, ‘since it is only if the truth has been “discovered” and “acquired”, and then alone, that the scientist can look back from this established position towards the prehistory of his science, and declare that it consists in part or whole of error, of a “tissue of errors” (Bachelard), even if he recognizes within it partial truths which he exempts or anticipations which he retains (for example: Classical Political Economy, utopian socialism). But this very exemption is only possible because the partial truths and anticipations of its prehistory are now recognized and identified as such, on the basis of the finally discovered and established truth.’16

In his The Order of Things (1966) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) Michel Foucault adopted the term ‘episteme’ to describe the general system of fundamental rules (the ‘historical a priori’) that govern the production of knowledge and discourse during a given epoch. An ‘episteme is not a form of knowledge or type of rationality which, crossing the boundaries of the most varied sciences, manifests the sovereign unity of a subject, a spirit, or a period; it is the totality of relations that can be discovered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the level of discursive regularities.’17 Foucault later came to define an episteme as ‘the strategic apparatus which permits of separating out from among all the statements which are possible those that will be acceptable within, I won’t say a scientific theory, but a field of scientificity, and which it is possible to say are true or false. The episteme is the “apparatus” which makes possible the separation, not of the true from the false, but of what may from what may not be characterised as scientific.’18

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

In the Introduction to the first volume, Jacques-Alain Miller writes that ‘epistemology in our sense is defined as the history and theory of the discourse of Science [la science]’ (CpA 1.Introduction:2).

In ‘Science et la vérité’ (CpA 1.1), Lacan takes up an epistemological point of departure. ‘A certain reduction is necessary that is sometimes long in completion, but always decisive in the birth of a science; such a reduction truly constitutes its object. Epistemology takes upon itself the job of defining this in each and every case, without having proven, at least to my mind, equal to the task’ (CpA 1.1:7; E 855). Following Alexandre Koyré, Lacan argues that the birth of science in the seventeenth century has an ‘absolute’ sense, superseding what formerly went under the title of ‘science’, and altering what comes after. Galileo is the one who performs the epistemological break, reconstituting human perception of the universe by means of mathematical physics. But he says that ‘I do not believe that epistemology has fully accounted in this manner for the decisive change that, with physics paving the way, founded Science in the modern sense, a sense that is posited as absolute’, and that it must be augmented by a psychoanalytic approach to the subject of science. Lacan’s conception of the relation of psychoanalysis and epistemology proceeds on different principles to Bachelard’s account of the ‘psychoanalysis of science’. The contributors to the Cahiers pursue their work between these two approaches.

The first session of Serge Leclaire’s ‘Compter avec la psychanalyse’ opens with a remark by Jean-Claude Milner that Leclaire’s avowed aim to take clinical experience, rather than classic Freudian texts, as his point of departure, is itself perfectly in line with the most advanced Lacanian theory. In his own way, according to Milner, Leclaire too is presenting an epistemological enquiry, but one specifically targeted at the register of discourse in the analytic session (CpA 1.5:55). However, Leclaire does not himself characterise his approach as epistemological in his contributions to the Cahiers.

In ‘Réflexions sur la situation théorique des sciences sociales, et, spécialement, de la psychologie sociale’, Thomas Herbert [Michel Pêcheux], presents the Althusserian and Kantian approaches to epistemology as fundamentally opposed. ‘The actual conditions of the division of intellectual labour lead to two types of critical reflection, wherever an evaluation to decide the licit or illicit character of a practice that claims the status of science is found’ (CpA 2.6:139). On the one hand, there is the ‘internal critique’ made by the practitioners of the ‘science’ in question; on the other hand, there is the ‘external critique’ made from a philosophical standpoint. The internal critique of the sciences has to ‘refuse’ the kind of questions that characterise Kantian critical philosophy, which is the embodiment of external critique. Herbert sees philosophy as playing a purely negative, reactive, and ultimately ideological role in the history of sciences. Only a new form of intellectual labour or work - what Althusser calls the ‘work of Theory’ - can help to conquer the field of the social sciences for those sciences themselves.

Jacques Derrida questions the use of phonology as a model for the social sciences, on the grounds that ’the epistemological phonologism establishing a science as a master-model presupposes a linguistic and metaphysical phonologism that raises speech above writing’ (CpA 4.1: 8; trans. 103). In passing he mentions how the concept of truth transcends conceptions of epistemological circularity: the word and concept of truth ‘has sense only within logocentric closure and the metaphysics of presence. When it does not imply the possibility of an intuitive or judicative adequation, it nevertheless continues in aletheia to privilege the instance of a vision filled and satisfied by presence. It is the same reason that prevents the thought of writing from being contained within the interior of a science, or indeed an epistemological circle. It can have neither that ambition nor that modesty’ (CpA 4.1:18/337).

In ‘La Pensée du Prince’ (CpA 6.2), François Regnault discusses how Machiavelli stood on the cusp of making an epistemological break in the ‘science of politics’. Machiavelli’s value lies in his having created a ‘place’ for a future science, rather than that science itself. ‘Nobody is capable of inhabiting [nicher] a break, not Descartes, not Machiavelli, not us, not I - one must be either before or after it’. Thus ‘in order to assign such a break to Machiavelli, one could also take up the formula M. Canguilhem applies to Galileo: he was in the true, he did not say the true’ (CpA 6.2:37).19 Machiavelli’s materialist politics, as it stands, remains ‘an epistemological project, the faithful philosophy of a science yet to come, the owl risen too soon, a monster’.

Epistemology is tackled most directly in several essays in Volume 9, devoted to the ‘Genealogy of Sciences’.

In CpA 9.1, the Cercle d’Épistémologie question Foucault as to the relation between his concept of episteme and Bachelard’s concept of the epistemological break. In his reply Foucault contends that Bachelardian theories of epistemic change need support from a theory of discursive change. The distinction between scientific and non-scientific is not pertinent to discourse and discursive formations in general, which are ‘epistemologically neutral’. ‘One cannot ask that their description be equivalent to a history of knowledges, a genesis of rationality, or the epistemology of science’ (CpA 9.2:33/325). Formal criteria may govern the question of a scientificity of science, but these criteria ‘can never account for its factual existence, that is, its historical appearance, the events, episodes, obstacles […] etc. that stamp its actual destiny’ (33/325). There are two conditions of possibility for a science: alongside the conditions of scientificity themselves, which are ‘internal to scientific discourse in general and cannot be defined other than through it’, there are the discursive formations, which have their own kind of consistency. Foucault criticises ‘epistemological extrapolations’, in which a science is ‘given the responsibility of explaining its own historicity’. Foucault acknowledges that in the history of a science such as mathematics ‘every episode of its historical development can be taken up again in the interior of its deductive system; its history can, in fact, be described as a movement of lateral extension, then of repetition and generalization at a higher level, such that each moment appears either as a special region or a definite degree of formalisation’ (36/327-28), but nevertheless an excessive attention to formalisation misses the level of discursive formations at work beneath internal epistemological breaks and ruptures. Foucault says that mathematics should not serve as a privileged model but rather as a ‘limit-case’. ‘All sciences (even ones as highly formalised as mathematics) presuppose a space of historicity that does not coincide with the interaction of its forms’ (36/328).

Francois Regnault’s ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’ (CpA 9.4) is the most elaborate paper on epistemology in the Cahiers. According to Regnault, Plato’s analyses of the notions of the One and Being in the Parmenides can be marshalled in the service of a ‘dialectic’ of epistemologies, where epistemology is understood as the theory of science. Plato presents a series of hypotheses about the status of the One: does the One exist, or not? Is it one or multiple? Given these possibilities, what follows for the One, and for ‘the Others’ (or ‘difference’)? Taking up Francis Cornford’s identification of eight basic Hypotheses (since the One can be taken in absolute or relative senses), Regnault argues that if the concept of science is substituted for Plato’s One, every possible epistemological position regarding science can be assigned a Hypothesis.

For instance, for Regnault, Hypothesis I of the Parmenides (The Absolute One is) is dialectically related to Hypothesis V (If the Absolute One is, what follows for the others?’): ‘If unity is posited in its absoluteness, without exterior, there is no place for the epistemological discourse that is correlative to it’, and so epistemology must either be ‘identified’ with science (as ‘the science of science’, as in Bolzano’s epistemology), or must be posited in an ‘exterior’ to the unity, without any assignable features other than that of being a language (this is the case in logical positivism) (CpA 9.4:58). In the former case, and here Regnault cites Cavaillès, ‘science, if it is, is completely demonstration, that is to say, logic’.20 However, the very assigning of metalinguistic status to epistemology involves making it relative to a particular science. According to Cavaillès (Regnault follows him on this point), the problem with Bolzano’s version of the doctrine of science is that ‘scientific epistemology cannot, as is its ambition, directly constitute itself as primary, and must remain posterior to the analytic that gives content to its object and to the ontology it achieves in being’.21 Hence the irrecusable split between science and epistemology (which is posited in a merely external fashion by logical positivism).

The chain of further Hypotheses follows from Hypotheses I and V. Hypothesis II involves the conception of a ‘relative One’, in which the ‘others’ are all completely determined and integrated (Hypothesis IV). Hypothesis VI imagines what it would be like if the relative One did not exist, and what would happen to the Others (Hypothesis VIII). In this case, all epistemologies would be true, and none would be privileged (relative scepticism). If Hypothesis VII (the non-existence of the Absolute One) were true, absolute scepticism would follow (Hypothesis IX). Appealing to Hegel’s dialectic of Being and Nothingness at the outset of the Science of Logic, Regnault claims that Hypothesis IX (Nothingness) leads full circle back to Hypothesis I (the indeterminate One-Being). Regnault suggests that this dialectical exercise reveals a matrix in which all epistemologies can be located and determinately related to each other according to a circle. Regnault recently described his procedure in this article as the construction of a ’formal system’ of epistemologies.22

In ‘Action de la structure’ (CpA 9.6), Jacques-Alain Miller takes up Althusser’s statements about scientific crisis in ‘Cours de philosophie pour les scientifiques’, and Lacan’s remarks about the crises of scientists, in order to turn the notion of the epistemological break inside out. The foreclosive nature of science means that we must ‘rediscover the notion of the epistemological break from the other side’ (CpA 9.6:103). Epistemology must take account of the fact that breaks and ruptures in discourses, while they are in the process of happening, emerge in a state of overdetermination.

Miller’s references to Fichte and Schelling in the appended ‘Note on the Causes of Science’ (103-5) situate the epistemological analyses of the Cahiers within the context of a doctrine of science, thus reconnecting the French tradition of epistemology with the German systematic approach.

In ‘La formalisation en linguistique’, Antoine Culioli presents claims that linguistics has been hampered by an ‘epistemological empiricism’ (CpA 9.7:110), and needs to formalise its theory of representations.

In an article on Galileo’s metaphysics, Judith Miller confirms that the ‘dividing moment through which scientific physics came to be constituted deserves the name of an epistemological break in Bachelard’s sense of the term’ (CpA 9.9:138).

In ‘Subversion infinitésimale’ (CpA 9.8), Alain Badiou interprets the resistance to infinitesimals as a paradigmatic instance of the epistemological obstacles that ideology erects to hinder the development of a subversive science (CpA 9.8:126-128). Badiou formulates the ‘epistemological thesis’ that ‘in the history of mathematics, the marking of an infinity-point constitutes the transformation wherein are knotted together those (ideological) obstacles most difficult to reduce’ (128). Hegelian philosophy is determined to reject the ‘punctualisation’ of the infinite that finally emerged in the work of Cantor. ‘Epistemological prudence’ on the part of mathematicians came to conspire with ideological ‘repression’ on the part of philosophers, to ensure that the infinitely small or ‘almost nothing’ remained without a numerical mark of its own (129; cf. 121, 134).

In ‘Marque et manque: à propos du zéro’ (CpA 10.8), Badiou conducts an ’epistemology of logic’ (CpA 10.8:150), identifying the stratification of different levels in logical propositions. He contends that Jacques-Alain Miller’s concept of suture is based on illegitimate extrapolations from the theory of logic and mathematics, and that Miller’s logic of the signifier is a ‘metaphysics: a representation of representation, an intra-ideological process’ (151). The pseudo-scientific logic proposed by Miller and Lacan thus serves merely to ‘erase the epistemological break’ by which science distances itself from the domain of ideology. The epistemological break should rather be thought as a ‘de-suturation’ (161). The ‘epistemological upshot’ of his analysis is a reminder that the sciences must break with the questions that ideology puts to it, and use their own logic to formulate their internal limitations (173).

In the concluding article to Volume 10, Jacques Bouveresse describes Wittgenstein as taking a radically ‘opportunistic’ and ‘pragmatic’ attitude to mathematics, indifferent to every ‘theoretical’ problem, and ‘beyond all reference to epistemological instances’ (CpA 10.9:178; cf.CpA 10.9:206).

Select bibliography

  • Althusser, Louis. ‘Sur la Dialectique matérialiste’. La Pensée 110 (August 1963): 5-46. Reprinted in Pour Marx. Paris: Maspero, 1965. ‘On the Materialist Dialectic’. In For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books, 1969. Online at
  • ---. ‘Philosophy Course for Scientists’ (1967) in Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists, ed. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 1990.
  • ---. Essays in Self-Criticism, trans. Grahame Lock. London: NLB, 1976.
  • Bachelard, Gaston. Le Nouvel Esprit scientifique. Paris: Alcan, 1934. The New Scientific Spirit, trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Boston: Beacon, 1985.
  • ---. La Formation de l’esprit scientifique: Contribution à une psychanalyse de la connaissance objective. Paris: Vrin, 1938. The Formation of the Scientific Mind: A Contribution to a Psychoanalysis of Objective Knowledge, trans. Mary McAllester Jones. Manchester: Clinamen, 2002.
  • ---. La Philosophie du non: Essai d’une philosophie du nouvel esprit scientifique. Paris: Corti, 1940. The Philosophy of No: A Philosophy of the New Scientific Mind, trans. G. C. Waterston. New York: Orion, 1968.
  • ---. ‘The Role of Epistemology in the Sciences’, trans. Theodore Kisiel, in Joseph J. Kockelmans and Theodore J. Kisiel, eds. Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences: Essays and Translations. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970.
  • ---. ‘Epistemology and the History of the Sciences’ [1951], in Joseph Kockelmans and Theodore Kisiel, eds., Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 317-346.
  • Blanché, Robert. L’Épistémologie [Que sais-je?]. Paris: PUF, 1972.
  • Canguilhem, Georges. ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 66 (1963): 441-452.
  • ---. ‘La Signification de l’œuvre de Galilée et la leçon de l’homme’. Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 17: 68-69 (July-December 1964). Reprinted in his Études d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences. Paris: Vrin, 1968.
  • ---. Review of Foucault, Les Mots et les choses. Critique 242 (1966). ‘The Death of Man, or the Exhaustion of the Cogito’, trans. C. Porter. In The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, ed. Gary Gutting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • ---. Idéologie et rationalité dans l’histoire des sciences de la vie: Nouvelles études d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences. Paris: Vrin, 1977. Ideology and Rationality in the History of the Life Sciences, trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.
  • Cavaillès, Jean. Sur la logique et la théorie de la science [1942], prefaces by Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem and Charles Ehresmann. 2nd edition. Paris: Vrin, 2008.
  • Derrida, Jacques. Introduction à ‘L’origine de la géométrie’ de Husserl. Paris: PUF, 1962. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
  • Foucault, Michel. L’Archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard, 1969. The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1982.
  • ---. ‘The Confession of the Flesh’, in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 197.
  • Lecourt, Dominique. Marxism and epistemology: Bachelard, Canguilhem and Foucault, trans. Ben Brewster. London: NLB, 1975.
  • Regnault, François. ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une coupure épistémologique?’, unpublished lecture of 26 February 1968, for Louis Althusser’s ‘Philosophy Course for Scientists’. Notes on the lecture were published as ‘Définitions’, in Michel Pêcheux and Michel Fichant, Sur l’histoire des sciences. Paris: Maspero, 1969.
  • Wagner, Pierre, ed., Les philosophes et la science. Paris: Gallimard, 2002.


1. Robert Blanché, L’Épistémologie, 5.

2. Georges Canguilhem, ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, in Ideology and Rationality in the History of the Life Sciences,19n. According to Pierre Wagner, the term first entered the French language in 1901 in a translation of an article by Bertrand Russell, with the French term translating the English ‘epistemology’, itself a rendering of the original German Erkenntnistheorie, or ‘theory of knowledge’, in the context of nineteenth-century English philosophy. (Pierre Wagner, ed., Les philosophes et la science, 38-9.)

3. Gaston Bachelard, ‘Epistemology and the History of the Sciences’, 321.

4. Bachelard, The Formation of the Scientific Mind, 27.

5. Bachelard, ‘Epistemology and the History of the Sciences’, 323.

6. Ibid., 345.

7. Canguilhem, ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, 16.

8. Jean Cavaillès, Sur la logique et la théorie et la science, 70/403.

9. Ibid, 78/409.

10. Canguilhem, ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, 13.

11. Canguilhem, ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’, 451.

12. Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, 143-44.

13. Canguilhem, ‘The Role of Epistemology in Contemporary History of Science’, 14. Canguilhem develops the idea of an epistemological fracture from Cavaillès’s account of a ‘polymorphy in the single rational sequence’, which makes possible ‘those successive fractures of independence which on each occasion detach within what comes before the imperious profile of what necessarily comes after, in order to surpass it’ (Sur la logique et la théorie de la science, 28/375-76; trans. modified). In the preface to Idéologie et rationalité dans l’histoire des sciences de la vie, Canguilhem also acknowledges his debt to Foucault’s development of the different kinds of ‘thresholds of transformation’ in the history of knowledge: the ‘threshold of positivity’ in which the object of a science first emerges, and the thresholds of ‘epistemologisation’, ‘scientificity’ and ‘formalization’, all of which should be distinguished (L’Archéologie du savoir, 243-247).

14. Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism, 132, 136-137.

15. Althusser, ‘Philosophy Course for Scientists’, in Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Sciences 110.

16. Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism, 121-122.

17. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1982), 191.

18. Foucault, ‘The Confession of the Flesh’, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 197.

19. Canguilhem, ‘La Signification de l’œuvre de Galilée et la leçon de l’homme’, 218.

20. Cavaillès, Sur la logique et la théorie et la science, 25.

21. Ibid, 26.

22. ‘I took it upon myself, at the time, to develop an entire theory of epistemological rupture (for instance the birth of Galilean physics), and of the remakings or remouldings [refontes] … which this same science might encounter in the course of its history – for instance, the science of physics brought by Newton to its classical perfection, followed by the remoulding of the concepts of physics of Einstein and the theory of relativity. I went as far as to turn this theory into a kind of formal system, of a somewhat scholastic kind, which could be applied to all the sciences, thereby establishing a sort of circle whereby what would qualify as sciences would be those disciplines or knowledges that conformed to this schema’ (François Regnault, ‘The Cahiers pour l’Analyse, or Of the God that did not take place’, lecture delivered at the conference ‘Concept and Form: The Cahiers pour l’Analyse and Contemporary French Thought’, Middlesex University, May 2009).