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Alexandre Koyré (1892–1964)

Alexandre Koyré was a historian and philosopher of science whose theses concerning the scientific revolution augured by Galileo. Galilei, captured in the title of one of Koyré’s most famous works, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1957), were of crucial importance for Jacques Lacan and the enterprise that was the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. Born in Taganrog, Russia to a Jewish family, Koyré pursued his initial university studies under David Hilbert and Edmund Husserl in Göttingen, Germany. In 1912, when Husserl failed to support his doctoral thesis, Koyré moved to Paris where he began studying with Léon Brunchsvicg. (Koyré’s relations with Brunschvicg would be instrumental years later in the latter’s extending an invitation to Husserl to speak in Paris in 1929, an event which resulted in the Cartesian Meditations, a key text in the development of French Phenomenology. Koyré rekindled his own relations with Husserl at this point as well). Koyré joined the French Foreign Legion at the outbreak of the First World War and eventually fought alongside the Russians on the eastern front. In 1922, he began teaching on Hegel at the École Pratique des Hautes Études before being replaced in this capacity by his friend and fellow Russian émigré Alexandre Kojève. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, he taught intermittently in Egypt, which resulted in an engagement with Arab philosophy and theology on Koyré’s part. The relations between religion and science would be a crucial concern in all of Koyré’s work. In 1941, Koyré left Egypt for a teaching position at the New School in New York, where he also served as the secretary for the École Libre des Hautes Etudes, where Claude Lévi-Strauss. and Roman Jakobson, among others, pursued their work during the Second World War. Shortly after the war’s conclusion, Koyré began teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and was eventually awarded a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1956. A remarkably diverse thinker of international renown, Koyré was a central inspiration behind Lacan’s contention that the subject of psychoanalysis is the modern subject of science, a subject forever decentred by the ordered incompletion of the infinite universe.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques Lacan, ‘La Science et la vérité’, CpA 1.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Alain Badiou, ‘La Subversion infinitésimale’, CpA 9.8 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Judith Miller, ‘Métaphysique de la physique de Galilée’, CpA 9.9 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Études galiléennes. Paris: Hermann, 1939. Galileo Studies, trans. John Mepham. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1978.
  • From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957. Du monde clos à l’univers infini, trans. Raissa Tarr. Paris: PUF, 1962.
  • Études de l’histoire de la pensée scientifiques. Paris : Gallimard, 1966.
  • Études de l’histoire de la pensée philosophiques. Paris : Gallimard, 1971.