French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

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9780521665599: French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

In this book Gary Gutting tells, clearly and comprehensively, the story of French philosophy from 1890 to 1990. He examines the often neglected background of spiritualism, university idealism, and early philosophy of science, and also discusses the privileged role of philosophy in the French education system. Taking account of this background, together with the influences of avant-garde literature and German philosophy, he develops a rich account of existential phenomenology, which he argues is the central achievement of French thought during the century, and of subsequent structuralist and poststructuralist developments. Gary Gutting is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and a leading authority on the work of Michel Foucault. In addition to continental philosophy, he has done important work in philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. Gutting is the author of several books, including Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Scientific Knowledge (Cambridge, 1989), Pragmatic Liberalism and the Critique of Modernity (Cambridge, 1999), and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge, 1994).

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French philosophers have a reputation as some of the most perplexing. American readers tend to dismiss them with a huff or venerate them over cigarettes and coffee. Gary Gutting does neither. His approach in French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century is scholarly, judicious, and clear. The result is an exceptional look at a rich philosophical tradition. Gutting is one of the world's leading authorities on the work of Michel Foucault, and his depth on the century's other Gallic thinkers is comparable. The book is more than a general survey; it is a careful history of ideas, as well as an excellent series of essays on the main French thinkers of the last 100 years.

Gutting devotes much of his time to the half dozen giants of recent French thought: Henri Bergson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Of course, there are legions of other influences--such as Marcel, Saussure, Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Kristeva, Lyotard, Deleuze, Irigaray, Levinas--and these get attention too, though in fewer pages. Gutting weaves the book together with a narrative history that accounts for the influences of literature and German thought. In addition, the carefully selected chapter epigraphs do more than supplement the text; they are windows into the vivid philosophy of Marcel Proust's literature. --Eric de Place

About the Author:

Gary Gutting holds the Notre Dame Chair in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent publications include The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, 2nd Edition (2005), Foucault: A Very Short Introduction (2005) and French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (2001).

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