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Martial Gueroult (1891–1976)

Although little known outside of France, Martial Gueroult was an influential historian of philosophy whose genetic and internalist approach to philosophical ‘systems’ was a source of inspiration for many thinkers operating within the loosely defined framework of structuralism. A resolutely apolitical academic, Gueroult taught for many years at Strasbourg and then at the Sorbonne before being elected to the Collège de France in 1951. Gueroult named his position there the ‘Chair in the History and Technology of Philosophical Systems’, and used it to develop a research program that was explicitly opposed to historicist and hermeneutic approaches to philosophy. Shortly after his election to the Collège, Gueroult was involved in a polemic with Ferdinand Alquié over the proper method for studying Descartes. Where Alquié had offered a reading that emphasized the existential trajectory of Descartes’ experience of radical doubt, Gueroult insisted that Descartes must be read ‘according to the order of reasons’, a phrase that provided the subtitle of Gueroult’s own study, which appeared in 1953. In 1968, Gueroult published the first of two volumes on Spinoza, whose content was drawn from his previous teachings at the Collège in the early 1960s. Gueroult’s presentation of Spinozism as an ‘absolute rationalism’ and his deliberate attempt to show the inadequacy of Hegel’s understanding of Spinoza’s concept of determination were a profound influence on the Spinozism of Louis Althusser and Gilles Deleuze. Gueroult’s insistence on reading philosophical systems in a manner which affirmed the primacy and immanent logic of conceptual relations, and which refused all recourse to a figure of consciousness that might be correlated with the subjective experience of the author in question, resonated with the authors of the Cahiers. Such insistence accounts for the inclusion of one of Gueroult’s essays in volume 6 (an essay which tracks the transformation and tensions within the concept of nature between Rousseau and Fichte) and the praise of his method in the editorial introduction to that volume.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Martial Gueroult, ‘Nature humaine et état de nature chez Rousseau, Kant et Fichte’, CpA 6.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • La Philosophie transcendantale de Salomon Maimon. Paris: Alcan, 1929
  • L’Évolution et la structure de la doctrine de la science chez Fichte. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1930.
  • Descartes selon l’ordre des raisons. 2 vols. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1953. Descartes’ Philosophy Interpreted According to the Order of Reasons, trans. Roger Ariew. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984 (vol.1), 1985 (vol. 2).
  • ‘Leçon inaugurale’, faite le 4 décembre 1951, Collège de France, chaire d’histoire et de technologie des systèmes philosophiques. Nogent-le-rotrou: Daupeley-Gouverneur, 1952.
  • Spinoza I: Dieu. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1968. Appendix 9, ‘Spinoza’s Letter on the Infinite’, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin. In Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Marjorie Grene. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
  • ‘The History of Philosophy as a Philosophical Problem’. In The Monist (1969): 563-587.
  • Spinoza II: L’âme. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1974.
  • Etudes sur Fichte. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1974.
  • ‘Introduction générale et fragment du premier chapitre du troisième tome du Spinoza’. Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger (1977): 285-302.
  • Dianoématique, Livre II: Philosophie de l’histoire de la philosophie, Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1979.
  • Dianoématique, Livre I: Histoire de l’histoire de la philosophie, 3 vols., Paris: Aubier Montaigne, vol. 1, En Occident, des origines jusqu’à Condillac (1984), vol. 2, En Allemagne, de Leibniz à nos jours (1988), vol. 3, En France, de Condorcet à nos jours (1988).