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Jacques Bouveresse (1940–)

Currently Professor at the Collège de France where he holds the Chair in Philosophy of Language and Knowledge, Bouveresse is widely regarded as the foremost French authority on analytic philosophy. Long recognized as an expert on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bouveresse is also well-known for his contributions to philosophy of science, epistemology, and philosophy of mathematics. His interest in Austrian intellectual life also extends beyond logical positivism and has resulted in significant works on Robert Musil and Karl Kraus. Despite the arguably marginal position of his concerns within both French academic philosophy and the export phenomenon known as ‘French Theory’, Bouveresse is generally esteemed as the contemporary inheritor of the brand of philosophy exemplified most recently by Jules Vuillemin and Gilles-Gaston Granger, but going back as well to Jean Cavaillès and Martial Gueroult. Even more than an investment in modern logic (which was marginal to Gueroult’s interests), what unites these thinkers is a general hostility to the spiritualist tradition in French philosophy. What sets Bouveresse apart is the degree to which he has pursued a polemical engagement with what he deems to be various forms of sophistry in modern thought (including so-called ‘French theory’). If Bouveresse finds a kindred philosophical spirit in the modern scepticism of Wittgenstein, he finds a stylistic one in the acerbic satire of Kraus.

Though officially a member of the Cercle d’Épistémologie from the Cahiers’s third issue to its tenth and final volume, Bouveresse had very little involvement in the editorial production of the journal. Shortly after receiving first in the agrégation in 1965, Bouveresse began to teach logic at the Sorbonne. In 1966 he was approached by Jacques-Alain Miller and Jean-Claude Milner, who were aware of his expertise in the subject and who sought his input for the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. He would ultimately publish two pieces within the journal, an essay on Fichte culled from his masters thesis and an essay on Wittgenstein in volume 10 on ‘Formalisation’. Both contributions are notable for pursuing oblique critiques of the general program of the Cahiers from within the Cahiers themselves. His essay on Fichte criticizes the primacy of conceptual generalisation as a framework for theorizing political life, while his essay on Wittgenstein undercuts attempts to provide an ontological ground for mathematics and attempts to sap the paradoxes of metalanguage, which had exercised many contributors to the journal, of their theoretical profundity. Although marked by a generalised scepticism that distinguishes him from other members of the Cercle, Bouveresse nonetheless made common cause with the editors of the Cahiers in his distrust of phenomenology and the spiritualist tendencies of French existentialism.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse:

Jacques Bouveresse, ‘L’achèvement de la révolution copernicienne et le dépassement du formalisme (La théorie du droît naturel "réel" de Fichte)’, CpA 6.7 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jacques Bouveresse, ‘Philosophie des mathématiques et thérapeutique d’une maladie philosophique: Wittgenstein et la critique de l’apparence ‘ontologique’ dans les mathématiques’, CpA 10.9 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • La Philosophie des sciences du positivisme logique. In Histoire de la philosophie, ed. François Châtelet, vol. 4. Paris: Hachette, 1969.
  • La Parole malheureuse: de l’alchimie linguistique à la grammaire philosophique. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1971.
  • Wittgenstein: la rime et la raison. Science, éthique et esthétique. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1973.
  • Le Mythe de l’intériorité. Expérience, signification et langage privé chez Wittgenstein. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1976.
  • ‘Why I am so very UnFrench’. In Philosophy in France Today, ed. Alan Montefiore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Le Philosophe chez les autophages. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1984.
  • Rationalité et cynisme. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1984.
  • La Force de la règle: Wittgenstein et l’invention de la nécessité. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1987.
  • Le Pays des possibles: Wittgenstein, les mathématiques et le monde réel. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1988.
  • Philosophie, mythologie et pseudo-science: Wittgenstein lecteur de Freud. Paris: Éditions de l’Éclat, 1991. Wittgenstein Reads Freud: The Myth of the Unconscious, trans. Carol Cosman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Herméneutique et linguistique, suivi de Wittgenstein et la philosophie du langage. Paris: Éditions de l’Éclat, 1991.
  • L’Homme probable: Robert Musil, le hasard, la moyenne et l’escargot de l’Histoire. Paris: Éditions de l’Éclat, 1993. (New edition, 2005).
  • ‘Wittgenstein’. In La Philosophie anglo-saxonne, ed. Michel Meyer. Paris: PUF, 1994.
  • Langage, perception et réalité, Volume 1: La Perception et le jugement. Paris: Éditions Jacqueline Chambon, 1995.
  • La Demande philosophique: Que veut la philosophie et que peut-on vouloir d’elle? Paris: Éditions de l’Éclat, 1996.
  • Dire et ne rien dire: illogisme, l’impossibilité et le non-sens. Paris: Jacqueline Chambon, 1997.
  • Le Philosophe et le réel, entretiens avec Jean-Jacques Rosat. Paris: Hachette, 1998.
  • Prodiges et vertiges de l’analogie: de l’abus des belles-lettres dans la pensée. Paris: Raisons d’Agir, 1999.
  • Essais I. Wittgenstein, la modernité, le progrès et le déclin. Paris: Agone, 2000.
  • Essais II. L’Époque, la mode, la morale, la satire. Paris: Agone, 2001.
  • Schmock ou le triomphe du journalisme, La grande bataille de Karl Kraus. Paris: Seuil, 2001.
  • La Voix de l’âme et les chemins de l’esprit. Paris: Seuil 2001.
  • Essais III. Wittgenstein ou les sortilèges du langage. Paris: Agone, 2003.
  • Bourdieu savant et politique. Paris: Agone, 2004.
  • Langage, perception et réalité, tome 2, Physique, phénoménologie et grammaire. Paris: Jacqueline Chambon, 2004.
  • Essais IV. Pourquoi pas des philosophes. Paris: Agone, 2004.
  • Essais V. Descartes, Leibniz, Kant. Paris: Agone, 2006.
  • Peut-on ne pas croire? Sur la vérité, la croyance et la foi. Paris: Agone, 2007.
  • Satire & prophétie: les voix de Karl Kraus. Paris: Agone, 2007.
  • ‘Karl Kraus, le monde intellectuel et la presse’. In Pour une analyse critique des médias - Le débat public en danger, ed. Eveline Pinto. Paris: Éditions du Croquant, 2007.
  • La Connaissance de l’écrivain: sur la littérature, la vérité et la vie. Paris: Agone, 2008.