05 March 2016

How the French think #4

More on Sudhir Hazareesingh's How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People (Amazon link here).

Words, terms, expressions and quotations noted in passing

  • The art of synthesis; 'republican monarch', the collective self; Anglo-Saxon epistemology. Cartesianism, a shorthand to describe a range of French cultural traits (p31). The adjective 'Cartesian' ... to denote a style of reasoning deemed to be distinctly Gallic: providing a fixed and unvarying meaning to concepts ... (p33).
  • Voltaire ... observed ... that Christianity was 'assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which had ever infected this world'. (p57) Illuminism. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man was hailed as a holy text and frequently equated to a new 'catechism' (p60). 'Patriotic saints'. ... a marvelous realm (champ merveilleux) ... (p74).
  • ... pharmacist Émile Coué developed the psychotherapeutical method which eventually bore his name ... (p75). ... May 1968, the final and ephemeral fling of the French tradition of 'utopian communism' (p79).  Abstract in its design, systematic in its form and radical in its goals, the utopian way of thinking about politics has been one of France's enduring contributions ... (p106).
  • ... fetish for unifying theoretical syntheses ... (p111). ... belief that the possession of a high degree of culture provides (in and of itself) an entitlement to rule ... (p112). Comte invented the term 'altruism' (p120). ... also 'sociology' (p121). Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçues (p123). 'In France we have no oil but we have ideas (p130). ... school ... a 'prodigious apprenticeship in conformism' ... (p132).
  • ... propensity to cast political ideas in binary terms and to follow lines of reasoning to their extremes (p133). ... the general interest (p134). ... the tendency to legitimize arguments by appealing to fictionalized pasts ... (p135). Rousseau's principle of popular sovereignty (p136). ... beliefs in the inherently emancipatory quality of French culture (p146).
  • Anti-capitalism thus still provides the emotional anchor for the Left's promise of a more fraternal world (p160). synthetic belief (p180). Jean-Baptiste Clément's Communard hymn 'Le temps des cerises' (p176). national synthesis (p188). 'The ideal France still resides in the countryside' (p190). a new synthetic vision of Frenchness (p191). 
  • 'France', de Gaulle claimed, 'cannot be France without grandeur' (p192). Lévi-Strauss conceived Tristes Tropiques as a resolute affirmation of Rousseau's sensibility and philosophical anthropology (p201). Sartrian legacies (p136). privileged intellectual interlocutor (p214). 
  • The discussion of multiculturalism illustrated the continuing attachment of the French cultural elites to holistic theorizing and hyperbole and their deeply ingrained resistance to evidence-based reasoning (p256).
  • The choice, in 1880, of 14 July as France's national day was largely a tribute to Michelet's insistence on the importance of mythology in shaping collective consciousness ... (p269)

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