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Confessions of a Sceptical Francophile

  • Roger Scruton (a1)

In post-war France we have witnessed an upsurge in philosophical and quasi-philosophical literature, much of it nonsense and all of it radically politicised. What is the explanation of this? I advance the thesis that the post-1968 literary scene expresses a bid for a new kind of social membership, and that it is the hunger for membership that explains not only the intellectual structure of this literature but also its world-wide influence. I also suggest that there survives in this literature both an intellectual agenda and a historical memory, in which the war-time experience of France is all-important. In the course of my argument I try to explain the radical difference between analytical philosophy, which permits its practitioners to have unorthodox (i.e. non-left-wing) political views, and a particular post-war French intellectual tradition, which has until recently allowed no such deviation from its tacit norms.

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1 Nor is this tradition dead. See for a particularly lucid adaptation of it to modern problems, Williamson Timothy, The Philosophy of Philosophy (Oxford, Blackwell, 2007).

2 Of course, it would be a gross insult to Marxism in general, and Marx in particular, to suppose that this is the only available form that Marxism in our time can take. See the impeccably Marxist dismissal of Althusser by Jerry Cohen (Cohen G.A., Karl Marx's Theory of History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979, Preface), and also that by Thompson E.P. in The Poverty of Theory (London, Verso, 1978).

3 Deleuze Gilles & Guattari Félix, L'Anti-Oedipe: capitalisme et schizophrénie (Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1975), ch. 2.

4 The Shrink from Hell’, in Grant Michael ed., The Raymond Tallis Reader (London, Palgrave, 2000).

5 The proof occurs in Écrits; see my review, contained in The Politics of Culture (Manchester, Carcanet Press, 1981), 194.

6 Lacan Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, ed. Miller Jacques-Alain, Book XVII (New York, Norton, 2007), 52.

7 Holland Eugene W., ‘From Schizophrenia to Social Control’, in Kaufman Eleanor and Heller Kevin Jon, eds. Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture (Minneapolis and London, U. Minn. Press, 1998).

8 Gary Genosko, ‘Guattari's Schizoanalytic semiotics’ in ibid.

9 Deleuze Gilles and Guattari Félix, What is Philosophy?, tr. Tomlinson Hugh and Burchell Graham, (New York, Columbia University Press), 1819.

10 Kojève has been posthumously identified by the French intelligence service as a Soviet agent. However, he was a close friend of the influential conservative political theorist Leo Strauss (influential in America, that is). He was also the propagator, through his Hegel lectures, of the ‘end of history’ idea that Francis Fukuyama later delivered in a form that could be easily swallowed by American liberal conservatives. It seems that Kojève wore a Mephistophelian mask that nobody has ever deciphered, and the fact that he was one of the architects of the European Union and fully party to the mendacities by which it was invented and imposed upon the continent is entirely consonant with his inscrutable character.

11 Sokal Alan and Bricmont Jean, Impostures intellectuelles (Paris, Odile Jacob, 1997), published in America as Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (London, Profile Books, 1998).

12 Mensonge: My Strange Quest for Henri Mensonge, Structuralism's Hidden Hero (London, King Penguin, 1985).

13 Richard Dawkins's theory of the meme (The Selfish Gene) is inadequate for many reasons, not least because it does not distinguish between sense and nonsense; likewise Sperber Dan, Explaining Culture, a Naturalistic Approach (Oxford, Blackwell, 1996).

14 See Grant Robert, ‘Ideology and Deconstruction’, in O'Hear Anthony, ed., Verstehen and Human Understanding (London, Royal Institute of Philosophy, 1998).

15 See FrumForum, March 27th 2011. It is difficult for an English reader to believe BHL when, in his recently published exchange of letters with Michel Houellebecq, he characterises himself as a persecuted outsider, and victim of the mob. See Levy Bernard-Henri and Houellebecq Michel, Public Enemies (London and New York, Random House, 2011).

16 Purdom Judy, ‘Postmodernity as a Spectre of the Future’, in Pearson Leith Ansell, ed., Deleuze and Philosophy: The Difference Engineer (London, The Psychology press, 1997), 115.

17 ‘Simulations’, in Kearney Richard and Rasmussen David, eds. Continental Aesthetics: Romanticism to Postmodernism (Oxford, O.U.P., 2001), 418.

18 See again Robert Grant, op. cit.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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