Influence of Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger on post-war French philosophy  

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"20th-century French philosophy has been very popular in post-war American academia, much like German philosophy has been in French 20th century philosophy." --Sholem Stein

"Although Germany lost on the battlefield, it triumphed in the seminar rooms, bookstores, and cafés of the Latin Quarter. During the 1960s Spenglerian indictments of "Western civilization," once cultivated by leading representatives of the German intellectual right, migrated across the Rhine where they gained a new currency. Ironically, Counter-Enlightenment doctrines that had been taboo in Germany because of their unambiguous association with fascism--after all, Nietzsche had been canonized as the Nazi regime's official philosopher, and for a time Heidegger was its most outspoken philosophical advocate--seemed to best capture the mood of Kulturpessimismus that predominated among French intellectuals during the postwar period."--The Seduction of Unreason (2004) by Richard Wolin, introduction

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One way of understanding French philosophy of the mid-20th century, it has been suggested, is to locate the major influential figures in their current. The major influences were primarily six German philosophers from preceding eras - Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl and Heidegger.

For example, Alexandre Kojève's Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit (1947) were quite a sensation in Paris in the 1930s. It was attended by Georges Bataille and a young Jacques Lacan among others. Jean Wahl and Jean Hyppolite were also responsible for spreading Hegel's lectures into Parisian circles.

Marx was introduced to philosophers both inside and outside the university. Many, like Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, grew up during the Resistance against Nazi occupation, during which time they were introduced to Marxist-Leninists.

Nietzsche's influence went through Georges Bataille and the Acéphale group (1936-39), down to Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. The Acéphale group is partly responsible for reclaiming Nietzsche for Western philosophy, after decades of Nazi appropriation.

Freud was most avidly championed by Jacques Lacan's "return to Freud". Lacan's lectures caused a stir in Parisian intellectual circles akin to Alexandre Kojève's a generation earlier. Attended only by clinical trainees at first, as time wore on Lacan opened up his seminars to philosophers and artists of various kinds. Lacan's writings impacted the whole generation - while Louis Althusser found the theoretical apparatus in Lacan to talk about interpellation and ideology, Jacques-Alain Miller, Althusser's student at first, would go on to become Lacan's most devoted follower. The French feminists - Irigaray, Kristeva, Cixous, responded to Lacan in various ways, and perhaps most famously, Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (1972) presented a strong critique of the practice of psychoanalysis.

Finally, Heidegger and Husserl's influence was felt, firstly, in the existential phenomenology of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Even Simone de Beauvoir's feminism borrowed extensively from this current. She used phenomenological conceptualizations of consciousness, time and memory to conceptualize woman. Later, most famously, Jacques Derrida deconstructed Husserl in Of Grammatology (1967).

See also

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