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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2011

Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland Email:


This article presents a decades-long conflict in the upper echelons of postwar French academic philosophy between the self-identifying “Cartesian” Ferdinand Alquié, professor at the Sorbonne, and the “Spinozist” Martial Gueroult of the Collège de France. Tracking the development of this rivalry serves to illuminate the historical drama that occurred in France as phenomenology was integrated into the Cartesian tradition and resisted by a commitment to rationalism grounded in a specifically French understanding of Spinozism. Over the course of Alquié and Gueroult's polemic, however, we nevertheless witness a shared concern to preserve philosophy from the reductive tendencies of historicism and its possible assimilation to theology. What is more, the ultimate impasse of this conflict continues to inform the most innovative projects in French thought in the wake of structuralism and the “theological turn” of French phenomenology.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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31 Ibid., 33.

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59 Alquié, Signification, 247. Emphasis added.

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69 Ibid., 49.

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77 Perelman, Philosophie et méthode, 27.

78 Ibid., 53.

79 Ibid., 55.

80 Ibid., 53.

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88 Ibid., 170.

89 Ibid., 413–24.

90 Spinoza, Ethics, Book I, Definition 4. The evident discrepancy that results from Spinoza's speculative affirmation of an infinity of attributes and the fact that only two appear relevant to human experience will be central to Alquié's critique. See the discussion below. For Spinoza's own most concise justification for why Thought and Extension are the only two attributes “the human mind can attain knowledge of,” see Letter 64, to G. H. Schuller, in Spinoza, B., The Letters, trans. Shirley, S. (Indianapolis, 1995), 298300Google Scholar.

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92 Ibid., 285. Emphasis added.

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95 Ibid., 9. Cf. Deleuze, Expressionism, 41–51.

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100 Ibid., 160–62.

101 Ibid., 160.

102 Ibid., 352.

103 Ibid., 325–6.

104 Ibid., 326.

105 Ibid., 353.

106 Cf. Hallward, P., Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London, 2006)Google Scholar, which pursues a critique of Deleuze along similar lines.

107 Alquié, Rationalisme, back cover (attributed to Alquié).

108 Ibid., 5.

109 Gueroult, Spinoza I, 12. Emphasis added.

110 Roudinesco, E., Philosophy in Turbulent Times, trans. McQuaig, W. (New York, 2008), 31Google Scholar.

111 Foucault, “Life,” 467–70.

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113 Cf. Hallward, Out of This World. Avoiding engagement with Gueroult or Alquié, Hallward's critique nevertheless targets both influences in Deleuze's thought: (1) its tendency to collapse in an incoherent monism, in which all sense of relation is lost (i.e. Alquié's critique of Gueroult's Spinoza); (2) the tendency for Deleuzian philosophy to enact a “counteractualization” that takes thought “out of this world” to a theological, or, to use Hallward's term of art, “theophanic” plane (i.e. Gueroult's critique of Alquié's Descartes).

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