Nineteenth-Century French philosophy – The Spiritualist Tradition and its Critics

Organisers :
Delphine Antoine-Mahut (ENS Lyon, IHRIM, UMR 5317, CERPHI),
Mark Sinclair (MMU)

Nineteenth-century French philosophy, among Anglophone philosophers at least, is much less well known than the German, British or North-American thinking of the same period. Henri Bergson’s celebrity early in the twentieth century produced several English-language studies of his precursors, but the decline of Bergson’s influence left the ‘spiritualist’ tradition that he develops in an almost complete obscurity. This tradition, as a result of the administrative efforts of Victor Cousin in establishing philosophy in France as an academic discipline, represented official doctrine in French universities from the 1830s until well into the twentieth century. Recently, however, renewed interest in this tradition has been occasioned by, in particular, translations of the work of Pierre Maine de Biran and Félix Ravaisson. This conference aims to develop this interest and to determine what there is of philosophical importance within nineteenth-centur y French philosophy.

In focusing on the spiritualist tradition, the conference will provide a forum for discussion of how it responded to the scientific developments of the age, to the history of philosophy, and of how it situated itself in relation to other national traditions, for in the work of Victor Cousin we find a self-conscious attempt to situate French philosophy between British empiricist scepticism and German idealist speculation. In focusing on French spiritualism and its critics, from inside and outside the French universities, the conference will address not only figures such as Maine de Biran, Victor Cousin, Félix Ravaisson, Charles Renouvier, and Henri Bergson, but also lesser-known thinkers of the time, such as Jules Simon, Joseph Ferrari, Jean Saphary, François Broussais and Pierre Leroux.

Confirmed speakers :
Patrice Vermeren (Paris 8) and Pierre-François Moreau (ENS Lyon) as keynote speakers, Lucie Rey (Paris 8), Delphine Antoine-Mahut (ENS Lyon), Tullio Viola (Berlin), Giuseppe Bianco (Lyon III), Jeremy Dunham (Sheffield), Daniel Whistler (Liverpool).