Philosophy in France: Philosophical survey

Philosophy 5 (17):94-104 (1930)


To the bulk of the British reading public ‘contemporary French philosophy’ would seem to be interchangeable with ‘the works of M. Bergson.’ And it can scarcely be otherwise when, as an erudite correspondent of Le Temps relates, Paris now prints in a week one million books—as many as were printed annually in the reign of the Roi Soleil. For the proportion of these devoted to philosophy is not small. One voracious reader and professor of philosophy in Switzerland, Monsieur J. Benrubi , has withstood for thirty years the annual avalanche of philosophical books, read steadily on, abstracted and collated his gleanings. In him we have a most competent guide. Familiar with every rivulet and path, and with the historic formation of the country, he now reveals to us the whole panorama. His encyclopaedic enterprise, 1 treating some hundred and sixty authors, is neither a chronicle nor a classification, except in a secondary way. It aims principally at tracing cross-currents in recent philosophies so as to discover their internal connexions, and thence in what direction present French thought is heading. M. Benrubi's scrupulousness in seeing nobody is left out tends perhapsto overcrowding, and his emphasis on that which coheres may somewhat overshadow that which divides. And it may be inevitable, too, with a field of figures so vast, that the accounts of some should be insufficiently detailed. But the total effect is substantial, and his volumes are invaluable to whomever would appreciate whence and whither French thought is proceeding. There are three threads to guide us through the labyrinth. The distinct though still interacting tendencies are described as ‘empirical and scientific positivism,’ ‘epistemological and critical idealism,’ and ‘metaphysical and spiritual positivism.’ Each rests on certain characteristics manifested with varying explicitness in the thought of its many representatives. I indicate summarily and quite inadequately some points of M. Benrubi's conclusions

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