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La science

In its inaugural volume the Cahiers pour l’Analyse set itself the task of analysing the history and theory of the discourse of Science [la Science].

The specific approach to science found in the Cahiers pour l’Analyse was influenced by three dominant tendencies in French thought: the French epistemological tradition (Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem and Jean Cavaillès), Althusserian Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. However, these interconnected twentieth-century developments were themselves grounded in a longstanding rationalist approach to science dominant in French philosophy since the time of Descartes and the Scientific Revolution. Following upon Copernicus’s de-centring of the earth from its privileged place in the cosmos, Galileo insisted on the essentially mathematical and abstract form of the laws of nature. In the wake of Galilean science, rational form needed no longer solely apply to fixed, closed systems, but could be used to describe the machinations of an intrinsically open process as well. The essence of this historical transformation was expressed in the title of a key work for the editors of the Cahiers, Alexandre Koyré’s account of the Scientific Revolution: From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Where British empiricism tended to follow Francis Bacon in privileging experience as the primary medium of scientific insight, that is, a method of reasoning by induction, French rationalism followed the prescriptive maxims of Cartesian thought, positing that truths could be generated deductively as long as they followed from a minimal, initial set of true propositions or axioms. Although both of these approaches informed Galileo’s efforts, it was the emphasis on mathematisation that would have the strongest impact in the French context.

The cleavage between a concept of reason as one of induction from experience and as deduction within thought was itself integral to the development of twentieth-century French epistemology, a body of work that grew out of Léon Brunschvicg’s neo-Kantianism and which was consciously opposed to the primacy accorded to intuitive experience in Henri Bergson’s conception of philosophy. Jean Cavaillès expressed this distinction in the closing lines of his essay Sur la logique et la théorie de la science (1942) when he wrote: ‘It is not a philosophy of consciousness, but a philosophy of the concept that can yield a doctrine of science’.1 Putting forth a position later endorsed by Alain Badiou, Michel Foucault would read in Cavaillès’s rubric a ‘fundamental dividing line’ in twentieth-century French philosophy separating ‘a philosophy of experience, of meaning, of the subject’ (exemplified by the phenomenological philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty) from ‘a philosophy of knowledge, of rationality, and of the concept’ (exemplified, precisely, by the epistemological efforts of Bachelard, Canguilhem, and Cavaillès).2 The older Foucault observed that his generation had conceived of its task as one of overcoming this opposition. On balance, the editors of the Cahiers shared a similar ambition, albeit in a less conciliatory form: like the earlier Foucault, they tended to privilege the concept over consciousness and science over experience or phenomenology, and sought to develop a theory of the subject that might be compatible with the fundamental demands of rigorous science, rather than vice-versa. Perhaps the best way to describe the Cahiers pour l’Analyse is as an effort to re-think the concept of the subject itself in a domain wholly conditioned by a commitment to science conceived as precisely that which is indifferent to the subject. In the context in which the Cahiers authors set to work, the most significant and most pertinent resources for this effort were the epistemological works of Bachelard and Canguilhem, the rethinking of Marxism undertaken by Louis Althusser, and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

In works such as Le Nouvel Esprit scientifique (1934), La Formation de l’esprit scientifique (1938) and La Philosophie du non (1940), Gaston Bachelard gave an account of the epistemological breaks that mark the formation of the sciences. He proposed a ‘psychoanalysis of science’ to eliminate ideological conceptions about the material world from scientific thinking. In La Philosophie du non he argued that, just as non-Euclidean geometry was not strictly a ‘negation’, but rather a generalisation or wider comprehension of geometry, so also the philosophy of science had to become ‘non-Kantian’, in the sense that it had to eliminate all general categorial restrictions on the individual sciences, alongside ideological animist and realist obstacles. It was this element of Kantian philosophy, i.e., the limitations it placed on scientific progress, that had most troubled Brunschvicg and which would be a major element in Bachelard’s efforts to develop a ‘non-Kantian’ philosophy of science. Taking leave of the fixed structures of a transcendental subject, Bachelard suggested that the only norms recognised by science are mathematicised formalisation and the subjection of experience to scientific experimentation. In an important critical piece on Bachelard, ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’, cited epigraphically on the inside leaf of every volume of the Cahiers, Georges Canguilhem questioned Bachelard about his distinction between ‘regional’ and ‘general’ epistemologies, querying whether Bachelard could ‘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’.3 These questions, as well as others about Bachelard’s distinction between regional and general epistemologies, will be in the background to several of the epistemological inquiries in the Cahiers.

Heavily influenced by Bachelard’s philosophy of science, Althusser claimed that Marxism is itself an example of a science that emerges through a break with previous ideologies (in this case the ‘humanist’ variant of Hegelianism present in the works of the young Marx). In line with Lenin’s insistence that ‘without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice’, the guiding concern of Althusser’s rethinking of Marxism was to forge a non-ideological mode of thought and practice. For Althusser, ‘an ideology is a distorted representation of reality: it is necessarily distorted, because it is not an objective but a subjective representation of reality.’4 Hence, the only way to move beyond ideology was to take leave of the ‘subject’ in favour of a thorough rethinking of the ‘object’, that is a rethinking of what constitutes the ‘object’, both of thought and of practice. A new science determines a new field of ‘objects’, and thus opens up a new ‘continent’ of knowledge (as Thales did for mathematics, and Galileo for physics); following on behind the sciences that condition it, a new philosophy worthy of the name (Plato after Thales; Descartes after Galileo) then serves to put its condition on a more secure epistemological footing. The determination and clarification of a new scientific object involves an epistemological break from previous conceptions. As Althusser explained in a series of articles written in the early 1960s, Marx does this for the social field by determining a series of new objects corresponding to a set of new concepts, for instance ‘mode of production, infrastructure (productive forces and relations of production), superstructure (juridico-political and ideological), social class, class struggle, and so forth.’5 He thus opens up a new ‘continent’ - the continent of history - as both a site for scientific exploration and as a condition in turn for political action.

If ‘historical materialism’ is this new science, what Althusser formulates as the philosophy of dialectical materialism will serve as its general epistemology. Following his Leninist inspiration and taking up the materialist elements of Bachelard’s thinking, Althusser further claimed that all science involves not only knowledge of an object, but also practical intervention, by means of knowledge, in the field of this object. In his ‘Freud and Lacan’ (1964), Althusser suggests that Freud should be read as the discoverer of a further scientific ‘continent’ (and a further scientific practice): ‘Lacan’s first word is to say, in principle, Freud founded a science. A new science which was the science of a new object: the unconscious’.6 In ‘Three Notes on the Theory of Discourses’ (1966, a text drafted as part of an ongoing discussion with Alain Badiou, Yves Duroux, Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey), Althusser suggests that in order to create a general epistemology, or theory of science in general, it is necessary to combine dialectical materialism with a logic of the signifier.7 However, after some initial hesitation Althusser soon insisted that there can be no subject in scientific discourse, and in his work after ‘Three Notes on the Theory of Discourses’, he retreats from the goal of articulating a general theory of science.

In an early piece, ‘Presentation on Psychical Causality’ (1946), Jacques Lacan claimed that psychology as a science had a proper object, which he called the imago (E, 178-93). On the one hand, Lacan made an appeal to ethology and biology to support his theory of the imaginary. On the other hand, he increasingly came to develop ideas from sciences such as topology and mathematics for the purpose of formalisation. In Seminar XII (1965-66), he entered a new phase of thinking about science, that is, the subject as it specifically exists in a world marked by science (rather than religion or magic). For Lacan, no less than for Bachelard or for Althusser, the advent of Galilean science was an irrevocable fact that made manifest the integral openness, and resultant contingency, of the universe. In a later work, Jean-Claude Milner described the impact of Galilean science on Lacan’s thinking as follows: ‘the set of contingencies as grasped by science, in theory and in practice, is the universe itself’.8 In Lacan’s vision, the contingency experienced by the subject was no longer to be a barrier to science, but rather its condition.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques-Alain Miller’s introduction to the first volume equates the ‘history and theory of the discourse of Science [la Science]’ with epistemology. Referring ahead to the theme of the first article, Lacan’s ‘Science et la vérité’, Miller states that ‘the manner of the birth of science justifies the use of the singular’ (CpA 1.Introduction:2).

In ‘La Science et la vérité’ (CpA 1.1) Lacan starts out from Alexandre Koyré’s view that the birth of modern science and the mathematisation of nature in the seventeenth century is an ‘absolute’ break, different in kind to all previous and subsequent developments in science. The subject of modern science is qualitatively different to pre-scientific subjectivity.9 Rather than arguing directly for the scientificity of psychoanalysis, Lacan contends that psychoanalysis is the theory that analyses the subject of science, or the subject as existing in a world grasped by modern science. Psychoanalysis is in a position to analyse the subject of science insofar as science ‘does-not-want-to-know-anything-about the truth as cause’, in the dual subjective sense of cause as something one fights for, or as the motor instigative force for a process. (CpA 1.1:25; E, 874). In other words, science operates by a ‘successful paranoia’ whereby its own ‘truth as cause’, that is, the object cause of its desire or its objet petit a, is at all points foreclosed (CpA 1.1:25; E, 874). The ambiguous nature of foreclosure’s relation to science and its subject will be a point of contention within the Cahiers itself, chiefly between Miller and Badiou.10 Moreover, with Lacan’s text, two problematics emerge for future contributions to the Cahiers. On the one hand, there is the epistemological problematic of what constitutes a science; the question of the scientificity of psychoanalysis, the kind of subjects that exist in a world altered by the findings of Galileo and Newton amongst others. Here, Lacan suggests that psychoanalysis retains an autonomy insofar it can provide insights into subjectivity, including the subjectivity of scientists themselves, that the sciences cannot. In ‘Réponses aux étudiants de la philosophie sur l’objet de la psychanalyse’ (CpA 3.1), Lacan goes on to suggest that the object of psychoanalysis - that is, speech that is produced unconsciously - is ‘not presentable’ as an object, which poses a problem for the treatment of psychoanalysis as a science (CpA 3.1:13; trans. 113). He concludes that ‘psychoanalysis, to the point of recognising in science a refusal of the subject’ (ibid).

Volume 2 of the Cahiers opens with a debate between Georges Canguilhem and Robert Pagès on the question of the scientific status of psychology (CpA 2.1 and CpA 2.2). In ‘Qu’est-ce que la psychologie?’ Canguilhem claims that psychology is a discipline whose status remains unfixed and lacks foundations. It draws in unequal and uncontrolled measure on philosophy, psychiatry, and received ideologies about social roles and positions. Modern philosophy of science acknowledges that ‘every science more or less gives itself its own given’, and that concepts of science now ‘place more emphasis on method than on object’ (CpA 2.1:78). On the assumption that there is no objective ‘given’ for psychology, it is not possible to delineate psychology as a ‘unitary’ domain. In his response, Pagès contends that despite Canguilhem’s critique in this article, the project of a ‘scientific psychology’ is still a valid one. He announces his agreement with Canguilhem’s proposition that concepts of science now ‘place more emphasis on method than on object’. Like every science, says Pagès, psychology has a method, or a ‘protocol of operations’ (CpA 2.2:92). But against Canguilhem’s suggestion (following Kant) that psychology is at best ‘descriptive’, Pagès argues that it can nevertheless continue to aspire to the status of experimental science. ‘Every domain of description can, in principle, become experimental’ (CpA 2.2:93). He gives as an example his own discipline of social psychology, with its focus on the sociology of larger groups (such as urban populations).

In ‘Une expérience psychologique au dix-huitième siècle’ (CpA 2.3), Alain Grosrichard discusses the role of scientific experimentation in the historical development of philosophical problems (CpA 2.3:104). Chevalier de Mérian’s ‘Histoire du problème de Molyneux’ (CpA 2.4), the text for which Grosrichard’s serves as an introduction, provides a powerful example of the grotesque (speculative) lengths philosophy will go to in order to have ‘science’ confirm its own presuppositions (CpA 2.3:111-13).

In ‘Réflexions sur la situation théorique des sciences sociales, et, spécialement, de la psychologie sociale’ (CpA 2.6:146), Thomas Herbert [Michel Pêcheux] argues for the autonomy of the internal critique performed by sciences upon themselves, over the ‘external critique’ of the sciences undertaken by philosophy. He gives an account of how pre-scientific technical practices manage to successfully manipulate their objects (CpA 2.6:146). Inquiring as to whether there might be a ‘scientific knowledge’ of political practice analogous to the theoretical practices of the sciences, he argues that linguistics, psychoanalysis and historical materialism are all sciences in the making and provide the key to a theory of theoretical practices for the social sciences (CpA 2.6:144, 165). In his subsequent article, ‘Remarques pour une théorie générale des idéologies’ (CpA 9.5), Herbert divides a ‘first moment’ of science, in which an object is subjected to a productive transformation, from a ‘second moment’, which aims for the ‘methodical reproduction’ of its object (CpA 9.5:74). He examines further ideological and linguistic conditions that obstruct the formation of scientific objects in the field of theory and practice.

Jacques Derrida’s contribution, ‘Nature, Culture, Écriture’ (CpA 4.1) opens with a critique of the tendency of structuralism to treat phonology as an authoritative science and as a ‘model for all sciences known as human’ (CpA 4.1:7).

In Volume 6, on ‘La politique des philosophes’, the possibility of a ‘science of politics’ as envisaged by Machiavelli and Hume is taken up by François Regnault (CpA 33, 37).

Volume 9 is entitled ‘Généalogie des sciences’ and its contents are divided into three sections: an exchange with Michel Foucault, a segment devoted to the ideal of science, and a concluding dossier on the historical development of chemistry. In the first section, titled ‘Archéologie des sciences’, Foucault’s work is examined and interrogated by the Cercle d’Épistémologie (CpA 9.1). The Cercle claims that Foucault lacks a nuanced account of epistemological breaks, opting to focus on ‘vertical’ changes in the history of science at the expense of ‘horizontal’ ruptures (as in the case of Newton’s advance from Galileo’s position) (CpA 9.1:5). Foucault’s response makes some important distinctions between formalist approaches to epistemology, and those that give a role to discursive formations in the development of the sciences (CpA 9.2:32-34).

The main section of Volume 9 is entitled ‘Idéal de la science’ and includes key articles by François Regnault, Jacques-Alain Miller and Alain Badiou, along with Thomas Herbert’s contribution to the theory of ideology, and pieces by Antoine Culioli, Judith Miller and Jacques Nassif.

In ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’ (CpA 9.4), François Regnault gives a dialectical account of the possible relations between science and being from the Hypotheses of the second part of Plato’s Parmenides. Regnault takes as a point of departure Jean Cavaillès’s account in Sur la logique et la théorie de la science of the concept of the doctrine of science as it appears in Bolzano’s work. This vision of science as an absolute unity, indifferent to all others and singular in itself despite multiple manifestations, serves as the first hypothesis from which Regnault is able to generate, via Plato and through a series of dialectical manoeuvres, eight other conceptions of science’s relation to singularity and multiplicity.

In ‘Action de la structure’ (CpA 9.6), Jacques-Alain Miller develops an account of the foreclosive nature of science based on Lacan’s suggestions. The third section of the essay, after ‘Structure’ and ‘Subject’, is ‘Science’. Miller attempts to identify a theory of discourse that can account for the overdetermination of the social field by structure. He proceeds to ask how such a discourse is possible, a ‘discourse which only takes orders from itself, a flat discourse, without unconscious, adequate to its object?’ (CpA 9.6:102). There is a closure [clôture] proper to scientific discourse that is different in kind from ‘the suture of non-scientific discourse’. The expulsion of exteriority and lack is intrinsic to the explanatory aims of science. Nevertheless, this ‘lack of a lack’ in science is also, from the perspective of the subject, a lack. ‘The lack of the lack leaves in every scientific discourse a place for the misrecognition of the ideology that accompanies it’. By foreclosing anything outside its field, ‘every science is structured like a psychosis: the foreclosed returns under the form of the impossible’ (CpA 9.6:103).

Antoine Culioli’s ‘La formalisation en linguistique’ (CpA 9.7) gives an account of recent developments in structural linguistics and develops new formal models of syntax and semantics.

In ‘La subversion infinitésimale’ (CpA 9.8), Alain Badiou evaluates the significance of Cantor’s conception of infinity for epistemology. He charts the impact of the concept of the infinite in the history of philosophy, focusing on the role of the infinite in Hegel’s theory of the differential calculus. Against the idea that science is self-subverting, he posits the ‘infinitesimal subversion’ manifested in scientific progress.

Judith Miller’s essay, ‘Métaphysique de la physique de Galilée’ (CpA 9.9) explores the break involved in Galileo’s use of mathematics in physics.

The final article in the section on the ‘Idéal de la science’, Jacques Nassif’s ‘Freud et la science’ (CpA 9.10), explores what constitutes the epistemological break that makes psychoanalysis a science. Nassif charts the emergence of psychoanalysis within the context of Charcot’s theories of hysteria and hypnosis.

In the last section of Volume 9, ‘Chimie de la raison’, the development of chemistry as a science is treated as a case history for the theory of science. Texts by Lavoisier and Mendeleev are analysed by François Dagognet and Gaston Bachelard, respectively, and texts by d’Alembert and Cuvier which further chart the conceptual content of modern chemistry are also included. In his essay on Mendeleev, Bachelard shows the importance of modern chemistry for developments in physics, insofar as the atomic structure of matter was discovered through the study of the higher chemical combinations, where ‘binding’ is more solid (CpA 9.15:201).

The final volume of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse stages a critical debate around the concept, and process, of ‘Formalisation’, with special attention to the formalisation involved in logic and mathematics. The volume includes several key historical texts, such as Yves Michaud’s translation of Boole’s first essay on logic, ‘The Mathematical Analysis of Logic’ (CpA 10.2), and Jean-Claude Milner’s translation of Cantor’s ‘Foundations of the General Theory of Manifolds’ (CpA 10.3). Bertrand Russell’s ‘Theory of Logical Types’ (CpA 10.4) is presented alongside Kurt Gödel’s analysis of Russell’s philosophy (CpA 10.5). The attempt in twentieth-century mathematics to formalise set theory, and the concomitant encounter with the paradoxes of formalisation, are in the background of these pieces and their publication in this volume of the Cahiers. Jean Ladrière (CpA 10.6) explores the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem as an example of the ‘limits’ of formalisation, arguing that the process of formalisation itself relies upon the same intuitive methods that are ostensibly disavowed in its results.

Alain Badiou’s ‘Marque et manque: A propos du zéro’ is presented as an inquiry into the ‘epistemology of logic’ (CpA 10.8:150). Badiou gives an account of the stratification of logical propositions, and criticises Jacques-Alain Miller’s attempt in ‘Suture’ (CpA 1.3) to present an ‘archaeology’ of the origin of logic. For Badiou, science ‘does not fall under the concept of the logic of the signifier’, and indeed the epistemological break must be thought as a de-suturation. ‘Accordingly, there is no subject of science. Infinitely stratified, regulating its passages, science is pure space, without inverse or mark or place of what it excludes’ (CpA 10.8:161). Like Cavaillès in Sur la logique et la théorie de la science, and Derrida in his Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry (1962), Badiou works on the tension between the concept of science and the history of the sciences. He says that hierarchy is inherent to the concept of scientificity, and that ‘the history of the sciences thinks the local connectivity of strata, and the stratification of this connectivity’. He claims that ‘Auguste Comte’s greatness resides in his having seen that the multiplicity and hierarchy in the signifying order, whatever displacements and intersections might be engendered in it, were properties inherent to the concept of scientificity’ (CpA 10.8:163). Badiou agrees with Miller that there is something ‘foreclosive’ about science but denies that what is foreclosed is a lack (even through the lack of a lack) within science. The disagreement concerns the nature of foreclosure itself. For Badiou, science forecloses the very possibility of the subject, let alone any trace of a subject, i.e. it blocks the inscription of what Miller describes as non-self-coincidence or non-identity. Scientific writing proceeds in the strict absence of any subject, and it further ensures the absence of any trace of this absence. ‘Foreclosure, but of nothing, science may be called the psychosis of no subject, and hence of all: congenitally universal, shared delirium, one has only to maintain oneself within it in order to be no-one, anonymously dispersed in the hierarchy of orders. Science is the Outside without a blind-spot’ (CpA 10.8:162). Like ‘La subversion infinitésimale’, ‘Marque et Manque’ explores the significance of the limitations and paradoxes discovered in the process of the formalisation of mathematics, attempting to turn these limitations into positive features in a theory of scientific change.11

Jacques Bouveresse’s ‘Philosophie des mathématiques et thérapeutique d’une maladie philosophique’ (CpA 10.9) provides a peculiar coda to the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. Here Wittgenstein’s goal of healing philosophy of its search for the absolute by destroying ‘the philosophical illusion of logico-mathematical realism’ (CpA 10.9:206) is developed and effectively endorsed. Fully committed to the view that, at best, mathematics constructs its truths, rather than revealing them, Wittgenstein valorises the utility of mathematics over its consistency. For Wittgenstein, the diversionary desire to exclude contradictions from all formalised discourse is a ‘pathological’ one in need of a therapeutic corrective.


  • Althusser, Louis ‘Sur la Dialectique matérialiste’. La Pensée 110 (August 1963). Reprinted in Pour Marx. Paris: Maspero, 1965. ‘On the Materialist Dialectic’. For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books, 1969.
  • ---. ‘Freud et Lacan’. La Nouvelle Critique 161-2 (December 1964 - January 1965; revised 1969). ‘Freud and Lacan’, trans. Ben Brewster. Lenin and Philosophy. London: New Left Books, 1971.
  • ---. ‘Trois Notes sur la théorie des discours’. Écrits sur la psychanalyse. Paris: IMEC, 1995. ‘Three Notes on the Theory of Discourses’, trans. G.M. Goshgarian. The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings (1966-1967), ed. François Matheron. London: Verso, 2003.
  • ---. ‘Philosophy Course for Scientists’ (1967). Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists, ed. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 1990.
  • 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.
  • Badiou, Alain. L’Etre et l’événement. Paris: Seuil, 1988. Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham. London: Continuum, 2005.
  • Canguilhem, Georges. ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 66 (1963): 441-452.
  • 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.
  • Hume, David. ‘That Politics may be Reduced to a Science’ (1741) In Essays Moral and Political, and Literary [1777], ed. Eugene F. Miller. Revised edition. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987, Part 1, Essay 3.
  • Alexandre Koyré. Études galiléennes. Paris: Hermann, 1939. Galileo Studies, trans. John Mepham. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1978.
  • ---. ‘Galileo and the Scientific Revolution of the Seventeenth Century’ The Philosophical Review 52 (1943). Reprinted in Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution. London: Chapman and Hall, 1968.
  • ---. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957.
  • ---. Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution. London: Chapman and Hall, 1968.
  • Lacan, Jacques. Écrits (1966), trans. Bruce Fink, in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
  • Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin, 1990.
  • Milner, Jean-Claude. L’Oeuvre claire: Lacan, la science, la philosophie. Paris: Seuil, 1995.
  • Pêcheux, Michel and Michel Fichant. Sur l’Histoire des sciences. Paris: Maspero, 1969. (Fascicule III in the ‘Cours de Philosophie pour Scientifiques’, 1967-68).
  • Regnault, François. ‘Lacan and Experience’. In Lacan and the Human Sciences, ed. Alexandre Leupin. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991. 43-58.


1. Jean Cavaillès, Sur la logique et la théorie de la science, 78.

2. Michel Foucault, ‘Life: Experience and Science’ [1985], in Foucault, Essential Works II (New York: New Press, 1998), 466.

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

4. Louis Althusser, ‘The Historical Task of Marxist Philosophy’, 191.

5. Ibid., 186.

6. Althusser, ‘Freud and Lacan’, 198.

7. Althusser, ‘Three Notes on the Theory of Discourses’, 51.

8. Jean-Claude Milner, L’Oeuvre claire, 61.

9. François Regnault notes that ‘the only specific model [of science] Lacan recognised’ was that of the ‘sciences of nature, essentially physics: that is, science as it was born in the seventeenth century’ (‘Lacan and experience’).

10. Lacan’s own language is open to interpretation on this point: ‘I will broach the topic with the strange remark that our science’s prodigious fecundity must be examined in relation to the fact that, sustaining science, that science does-not-want-to-know-anything about the truth as cause. You may recognize therein my formulation of Verwerfung “foreclosure”, which forms a closed series here with Verdrängung, “repression”, and Verneinung, “negation”, whose function in magic and religion I have indicated in passing’ (CpA 1.1:25; E, 874).

11. Badiou went on to develop these ideas in Being and Event, where he says that ‘we are the contemporaries of a third epoch of science’, beyond the Greek invention of mathematics and the Galilean break. The third epoch of science emerges from a ‘caesura’ or ‘a split’, ‘through which the very nature of the base of mathematical rationality reveals itself, as does the character of the decision of thought which establishes it’ (Badiou, L’Être et l’événement, 9; Being and Event, 3).