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  • KNOX PEDEN (a1)


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.



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1 Foucault, M., “Life: Experience and Science,” in idem, Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, ed. Faubion, J. D., trans. Hurley, R. (New York, 1998), 465–78.

2 Ibid., 466.

3 This acknowledgment is the main substantive difference between this essay, finalized in 1984, and its original version, first published in 1978. Cf. Foucault, M., “Introduction,” in Canguilhem, Georges, The Normal and the Pathological, trans. Fawcett, C. R. in collaboration with R. S. Cohen (New York, 1989), 724.

4 Badiou, A., Logics of Worlds, trans. Toscano, A. (London, 2009), 78.

5 Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F., What Is Philosophy?, trans. Tomlinson, H. and Burchell, G. (New York, 1994).

6 Badiou, A., Being and Event, trans. Feltham, O. (London, 2005); idem, Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. N. Madarasz (Albany, NY, 1999); idem, Second Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. L. Burchill (Cambridge, 2011).

7 Cf. Badiou, A., Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans. Burchill, L. (Minneapolis, 2000).

8 Janicaud, D., La phénoménologie dans tous ses états (Paris, 2009).

9 Marion, J.-L., Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology, trans. Carlson, T. A. (Evanston, IL, 1998), 1.

10 Henry, M., Material Phenomenology, trans. Davidson, S. (New York, 2008), 1.

11 Ibid., 3. “Pathetic” should be understood in the generic sense of pathos, or feeling.

12 Badiou, A., Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return of Philosophy, trans. Clemens, J. and Feltham, O. (London, 2005), 125, translation modified; idem, Conditions (Paris, 1992), 80.

13 Badiou, Conditions, 57–78.

14 Alquié, F., Leçons sur Spinoza (Paris, 2003), 207.

15 Guitton, J., Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Ferdinand Alquié (Paris, 1989); Alquié, F., Cahiers de jeunesse, ed. Plouvier, P. (Lausanne, 2003).

16 Levinas, E., “Sur l'idée de l'infini en nous,” in Marion, J.-L., ed., La passion de la raison: Hommage à Ferdinand Alquié (Paris, 1983), 4952.

17 Marion, J.-L., Sur l'ontologie grise de Descartes (Paris, 1975); idem, Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes (Paris, 1981); idem, Sur le prisme métaphysique de Descartes (Paris, 1986).

18 Lacan, J., Écrits, trans. Fink, B., with Fink, H. and Grigg, R. (New York, 2006), esp. 671702, 726–45.

19 Gueroult, M., La philosophie transcendantale de Salomon Maïmon (Paris, 1929); idem, L'évolution et la structure de la doctrine de la science chez Fichte (Paris, 1930).

20 Dosse, F., History of Structuralism: The Rising Sign, 1945–1966, trans. Glassman, D. (Minneapolis, 1997), 7884.

21 See their contributions to Hommage à Martial Gueroult: L'histoire de la philosophie, ses problèmes, ses méthodes (Paris, 1964), 43–58, 139–54. For more biographical data on Gueroult, see J. Stoetzel, Notice sur la vie et les travaux de M. Gueroult (1891–1976) (Paris, 1976). On Gueroult and Cavaillès, see G.-G. Granger, “Jean Cavaillès et l'histoire,” Revue d'histoire des sciences 49/4 (1996), 572. The point of departure for any engagement with Gueroult's voluminous output is Giolito, C., Histoires de la philosophie avec Martial Gueroult (Paris, 1999).

22 This journal is available in full, with a comprehensive annotative apparatus, at Concept and Form: The Cahiers pour l'Analyse and Contemporary French Thought, hosted at Note as well Althusser's comment on Gueroult's popularity among his students in The Future Lasts Forever, trans. R. Veasey (New York, 1993), 182.

23 Gueroult, M., “Nature humaine et état de nature chez Rousseau, Kant, et Fichte,” Cahiers pour l'Analyse 6 (1967). See the avertissement, “Politique de la lecture,” and “La pensée du prince (Descartes et Machiavel),” both authored by F. Regnault, in this same volume.

24 “Interview with Alain Grosrichard,” available at

25 Badiou, A., Theory of the Subject, trans. Bosteels, B. (London, 2009).

26 Deleuze, G., Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Joughin, Martin (New York, 1992).

27 Gueroult, M., Spinoza 1: Dieu (Paris, 1968).

28 Deleuze, G., “Spinoza et la méthode générale de M. Gueroult,” in idem, L'île déserte: Textes et entretiens 1953–1974, ed. Lapoujade, D. (Paris, 2002), 202–16.

29 G. Deleuze, “La Méthode de dramatization”, in ibid., 149.

30 M. Gueroult, Leçon inaugurale, faite le 4 décembre 1951, Collège de France, chaire d'histoire et de technologie des systèmes philosophiques (Nogent-le-rotrou, 1952), 34.

31 Ibid., 33.

32 Ibid., 22–3.

33 Ibid., 16–17.

34 Gueroult, M., Dianoématique, Livre I: Histoire de l'histoire de la philosophie, 3 vols. (Paris, 1984–8); idem, Dianoématique, Livre II: Philosophie de l'histoire de la philosophie (Paris, 1979).

35 Gueroult, Dianoématique, Livre II, 224.

36 Ibid., 178.

37 Ibid., 59, 68; Gueroult, Leçon inaugurale, 18–29.

38 Gueroult, Leçon inaugurale, 30–2.

39 Alquié, F., La découverte métaphysique de l'homme chez Descartes (Paris, 1950), VVII.

40 Cited in Giolito, Histoires de la philosophie, 112 n. 22.

41 Gueroult, M., Descartes selon l'ordre des raisons, 2nd edn (Paris, 1968), 19 n. 12.

42 Alquié, F., “Notes sur l'interprétation de Descartes par l'ordre des raisons,” in idem, Études cartésiennes (Paris, 1982), 1530.

43 Giolito, Histoires de la philosophie, 117.

44 Alquié, F., Qu'est-ce que comprendre un philosophe? (Paris, 2005; first published 1956), 76.

45 Ibid., 89–90.

46 Ibid., 26.

47 Ibid., 87.

48 Ibid., 87–8.

49 Ibid., 50.

50 Ibid., 52. See also Alquié, F., Signification de la philosophie (Paris, 1971), 241–3.

51 Alquié, Qu'est-ce que comprendre un philosophe?, 52–3.

52 Alquié, F., La nostalgie de l'être (Paris, 1950), avant-propos.

53 Ibid., 3.

54 Ibid., 12–13.

55 Cf. Alquié, F., Leçons sur Kant: La morale de Kant (Paris, 2005); idem, La solitude de la raison (Paris, 1966).

56 Alquié, Nostalgie, 13.

57 Ibid., 9.

58 Janicaud, D., Heidegger en France 2: Entretiens (Paris, 2005), 92. Alquié's charge was presumably facetious.

59 Alquié, Signification, 247. Emphasis added.

60 Alquié, Nostalgie, 148. Emphasis added.

61 Gueroult, Leçon inaugurale, 22.

62 Cf. Alquié, F., L'expérience (Paris, 1957).

63 Cahiers de Royaumont, no. 2: Descartes (Paris, 1957), 15.

64 Ibid., 13, 31.

65 See the “Discussion” in ibid., 32–71.

66 Ibid., 32.

67 Ibid., 39.

68 Ibid., 42.

69 Ibid., 49.

70 Ibid., 56.

71 Goldschmidt, V., “A propos du ‘Descartes selon l'ordre des raisons’”, Revue Métaphysique et de morale 1 (1957), 67.

72 Spinoza, Ethics, Book II, Axiom 2.

73 Deleuze, “Gueroult,” 216; Giolito, Histoires de la philosophie, 76–82. Cf. Parrochia, D., La raison systématique (Paris, 1993), 27–9.

74 Perelman, C., ed., Philosophie et méthode: Actes du colloque de Bruxelles (Brussels, 1974).

75 F. Alquié, “Intention et Déterminations dans la genèse de l'oeuvre philosophique,” in ibid., 28–42. Cf. Alquié, F., Le cartésianisme de Malebranche (Paris, 1974).

76 M. Gueroult, “La méthode en histoire de la philosophie,” in Perelman, Philosophie et méthode, 17–27. Cf. Gueroult's exchange with Gianni Vattimo in Cahiers de Royaumont No. 6: Nietzsche (Paris, 1967), 121.

77 Perelman, Philosophie et méthode, 27.

78 Ibid., 53.

79 Ibid., 55.

80 Ibid., 53.

82 Ibid., 52.

83 Ibid., 54.

84 Ibid., 54.

85 Gueroult, M., Spinoza II: L'âme (Paris, 1974).

86 Balibar, E., Spinoza and Politics, trans. Snowdon, P. (London, 1998); Macherey, P., Hegel ou Spinoza (Paris, 1980). Cf. Matheron, A., Individu et communauté chez Spinoza (Paris, 1969).

87 Gueroult, Spinoza 1, 457.

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), 298300.

91 Gueroult, Spinoza I, 238.

92 Ibid., 285. Emphasis added.

93 Dosse, History of Structuralism, 237.

94 Gueroult, Spinoza I, 11.

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

96 Cf. Gueroult, M., “Introduction générale et fragment du premier chapitre du troisième tome du Spinoza,” Revue philosophique de la France et de l'étranger 167 (1977), 285302.

97 Alquié, Leçons sur Spinoza, 206–10.

98 Alquié, F., Le rationalisme de Spinoza (Paris, 1981), 326.

99 Ibid., 325–6.

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), 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), 31.

111 Foucault, “Life,” 467–70.

112 Badiou, Being and Event, 112–20.

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).

114 Deleuze, G., Difference and Repetition, trans. Patton, P. (New York, 1994).

115 Smith, D. W., “Deleuze and Derrida, Immanence and Transcendence: Two Directions in Recent French Thought,” in Patton, P. and Protevi, J., eds., Between Deleuze and Derrida (London, 2003), 51; Guerlac, S., Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson (Ithaca, NY, 2006), 179.

116 Marion, J.-L., God without Being, trans. Carlson, T. A. (Chicago, 1991), xxiv.

117 Foucault, M., “Critical Theory/Intellectual History,” in Kelly, M., ed., Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault/Habermas Debate (Cambridge, MA, 1994), 134.

* In addition to Tony La Vopa and MIH's anonymous reviewers, each of whom provided responses crucial to this article's improvement, I would also like to thank the following readers for their reactions to this piece in various stages of its composition: Leslie Barnes, David Bates, Ray Brassier, Nathan Brown, Carla Hesse, Martin Jay, and Ben Wurgaft. I remain grateful to Peter Hallward for the invitation to present the earliest version of these arguments to an audience at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, then at Middlesex, now at Kingston University, UK. Sam Moyn deserves a special word of thanks for his persistent encouragement. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.


  • KNOX PEDEN (a1)


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