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French Literature, Thought and Culture in the Nineteenth by Brian Rigby (eds.)

By Brian Rigby (eds.)

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The nature of philosophy's public role may be characterised by an examination of its social context in nineteenth-century France. Among the major political and social upheavals of the century, Donald Charlton singles out the transformation of higher education as having added substantially to the 'argumentative confusion' of philosophy, and points out that: Unlike almost every major French thinker prior to 1789, their nineteenth-century successors commonly held university chairs. As to philosophy itself, under measures taken from the 1830s onwards by a philosopher-administrator like Victor Cousin, it almost pre-empted the role in the French educational curriculum that had belonged to religion.

The reference to Spinoza is a clue that the problem of materialism was often dealt with under the mask of pantheism. But the veil of theology imposed its own limits on debate, and it would be hard to devise a description which avoided more completely than this passage the core issues of materialism, namely, the unity of the material world and the assertion of matter's capacity for self-movement, with the implications it held for the natural sciences. 4 Implicitly at least, many French thinkers endorsed the notion of the material unity of the world, but it was an initial principle of enquiry rather than a finished philosophy, and none of them constructed a systematic doctrine which identified itself as materialism.

20. 21. 22. 23. 24. French Literature, Thought and Culture G. Bailliere, 1864); Hippolyte Renaud, Le Materialisme et la nature (Paris: Librairie des sciences sociales, 1870). Reported in Le Moniteur universel, 22 May 1868, p. 719. Gaston Bachelard, Le Materialisme rationnel (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1963) p. 7. The quotation is noted as being drawn from Marcelin Berthelot, Ler;ons sur les rnethodes generales en chimie organique. A. Comte, Discours sur I'esprit positi! (Paris: Carilian-Goeury et V.

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