PHILOSOPHY : Back on the modernist crisis

The modernist Crisis revisited
under the direction of Jean-François Petit,

ed Karthala, 272 p., 24 €.
>A review published in the number 233 in the World of the Bible

The modernist crisis has officially waved the catholic Church from the 1880s to the beginning of the First world War, crystallizing the conviction of the trial of Alfred Loisy the Gospel and The Church, published in 1903 under the pontificate of Pius X. The Acts that we chroniquons here, the fruits of a symposium initiated and animated in 2019 at the catholic Institute of Paris by Jean-François Petit, professor of philosophy, demonstrates how this crisis not only was not barred by the convictions of the roman, but still bears traces of sensitive relationships, or even misunderstandings, that the Church maintains even today with western societies…

Cultural gap

This crisis, born in the circles exegetical, focused on the confrontation with the Jesus of History the Christ of faith. The truth of history or science could call into question the dogmas ? If catholic exegetes were, in 1943, the freedom to seek, this crisis penetrated also the backgrounds of the history, philosophy and theology. More broadly, it creates a cultural divide between a Tradition, a legacy of the néothomisme, and societies that aspire to a new anthropology. If the majority of the faithful are followers of a religion in contemporary endorsing the culture of the society, the Institution of the church was more waterproof. “The institutional Church, wrote Jean-Marie donegani avenue, can probably be totally modern while remaining true to its heritage, dogmatic, and its able rector. “

Benoît de Sagazan
>Also read : The lessons of the modernist crisis

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PHILOSOPHY: Our present, on edge

The fragile skin of the world,
by Jean-Luc Nancy,
Galileo, 172 p., 20 €

Probe the riddle of our present: Jean-Luc Nancy continues to do so, books after books, with patience and listening to the dowser. After having awakened the democratic question in its stimulus Democracy, Hic and Nunc! (1), the philosopher questions in The fragile skin of the worldwhat is trying to say“In our present:”it’s about the world, life and death, the possibility of our coexistence“, He sums up soberly.

Reviving democracy

The enigma which interests Jean-Luc Nancy is first of all that of our rout. “If today we are worried, lost and disturbed as we are, it is because we we were used to the fact that the present-day is perpetuated by evacuating everything else. Our future was there, already made, all of mastery and prosperity. And here we are all screwing up, the climate, the cash, the finance, the energy, the confidence and even the ability to calculate which we were so assured of and which seems to have to go beyond itself“, He writes, even before the global shock caused by the pandemic. In passing, he pays tribute to those whom we considered as “prophets of doom” but who had sought to warn us, such as Günther Anders or Jacques Ellul.

Facing the event

Yet the disaster is not where we think it seems, says Jean-Luc Nancy. It is not in this unpredictable world that reminds us of our finitude. “There is nothing catastrophic or apocalyptic in thinking that existence as such can be brought before its own fleetingness and finitude. It’s even there that it takes its infinite, unique and unsubstitutable value.“, He notes.

For Nancy, we have to adjust our relationship to time, not to oscillate between “go out of time (find eternity)” or “limit our duration (invent an eternal life)“, The first answer being, for him, that of Rimbaud, the second that of” transhumanism “. The philosopher offers us to register in the present, to free ourselves from “future who will not come“, To remain available at”what’s to come” “What is to come is how we will seize the eventlie and be seized by him – other than as the accident already planned and even foreshadowed“He wrote, offering as a viaticum for today.

A deep philosophy of finitude

As the years go by, Jean-Luc Nancy deploys and expands a deep philosophy of finitude, which is neither sour, hopeless, nor deprecating for the fragile humans that we are. In his eyes, our finitude is not an injury. It is the very essence of our uniqueness. “Finitude then gives itself to be understood not as a limitation nor as a lack in relation to an infinitude, but on the contrary as the proper mode of access to being or meaning“, He asks.

The philosopher can then speak of the “world” as a skin, a meeting surface: he is the “co-presence“Of our finite singularities, coming into contact, friction, rivalry … It presents itself as a”neither animal nor machine co-membership” A way for the philosopher to think of us indefinitely in relation, despite the absence of an enveloping or transcendent sense.


“The fragile skin of the world”, a present on the surface

The fragile skin of the world

by Jean-Luc Nancy

Galileo, 172 p., 20 €

Probe the enigma of our present: Jean-Luc Nancy continues to do so, book after book, with patience and listening to the dowser. After having awakened the democratic question in its stimulus Democracy ! Hic et nunc (1), the philosopher questions, in The fragile skin of the world, “What seeks to say” in our present: “It’s about the world, life and death, the possibility of our coexistence”, he sums up soberly.

→ READ. Reviving democracy

The enigma which interests Jean-Luc Nancy is first of all that of our rout. “If we are worried, confused and disturbed as we are today, it is because we were used to the fact that the here-and-now is perpetuated by evacuating everything else. Our future was there, already made, all of mastery and prosperity. And here we are all screwing up, the climate, the cash, the finance, the energy, the confidence and even the possibility of calculating which we were so sure of and which seems to have to go beyond itself “, he wrote, even before the global shock caused by the pandemic. In passing, he pays tribute to those whom we considered as “prophets of doom” but who had sought to warn us, such as Günther Anders or Jacques Ellul.

Adjust its relationship to time

Yet the disaster is not where we think it seems, says Jean-Luc Nancy. It is not in this unpredictable world that reminds us of our finitude. “There is nothing catastrophic or apocalyptic in thinking that existence as such can be brought before its own transience and finitude. It’s even there that it takes its infinite, unique and unsubstitutable value. ”, he says.

For Nancy, we have to adjust our relationship to time, not to oscillate between “Go out of time (find eternity)” or “Limit our duration (invent an eternal life)”, the first answer being, for him, that of Rimbaud, the second that of “transhumanism”. The philosopher offers us to register in the present, to free ourselves from “Future who will not come”, to remain available at “What’s to come”. “What is to come is how we will capture the event and be captured by it – other than as the accident already planned and even foreshadowed”, he wrote, offering as a viaticum for today.

Philosophy of finitude

As the years go by, Jean-Luc Nancy deploys and expands a deep philosophy of finitude, which is neither sour, desperate, nor deprecating for the fragile humans that we are. In his eyes, our finitude is not an injury. It is the very essence of our uniqueness. “Finitude then gives itself to be understood not as a limitation or as a lack in relation to an infinitude, but on the contrary as the proper mode of access to being or to meaning”, he asks.

→ READ. Jean-Luc Nancy, Philosopher: “To have a” pure heart “is to see the other as other”

The philosopher can then speak of the “world” as a skin, a meeting surface: he is the “Co-presence” of our finite singularities, coming into contact, friction, rivalry … It presents itself as a “Neither animal nor mechanical co-belonging”. A way for the philosopher to think of us indefinitely in relation, despite the absence of an enveloping or transcendent sense.


“Humor is a branch of philosophy”

La Croix L’Hebdo: Twenty bronze cat statues will soon be installed on the Champs-Élysées. The exhibition should have started on April 10 before continuing to Bordeaux or Mulhouse, but was postponed because of the coronavirus.

Philippe Geluck: What a story ! It is a questionable work of several months: we were sending the invitations for the inauguration. But this is nothing of course compared to this new situation that happens to us all. Fortunately, the method of financing this exhibition avoids economic catastrophe: the cities paying nothing, all the manufacturing and logistics of the exhibition were financially supported by the sale of the statues to private collectors. I have given up all profit in order to make this event possible. I hope this is only a postponement.

You are exhibiting on the Champs-Élysées art collectors, patronage … Has your favorite character become an institution?

P.G .: No. These are joyful sculptures, like those of Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely (who created machines that make me laugh). I am one of the leaders of the funny art (Laughs) ! In art, humor is a counterpoint, a resistance to power. The official art which reigns since Antiquity is always extremely serious. An apology for beauty, the powerful, the reigning. The Cat, after others, claims to be a counterweight to this official art.

Thirty years before White square on white background de Malevitch, who signed the birth of abstract art, monochrome had already been imagined by Paul Bilhaud or Alphonse Allais, with his red monochrome from 1882, Tomato harvest by apoplectic cardinals by the Red Sea. These are monochrome, but it’s just a joke, and that’s what founds abstract art. It’s exactly the same for me, except that I’m a humorist. After, we must admit that since the XIXe century, caricature, satire, the pamphlet linked to freedom of expression also become institutions.

One of your compatriots, Magritte, was a major figure in this humorous art…

P.G .: It is him, the missing link between the “classic” painting of surrealism and the cartoon, with designers like Steinberg, Chaval, etc. He makes the link. His painting tells me a story that makes me laugh, moves me, touches me.

This humor that dares very far, is it typically Belgian?

P.G .: Yes, Belgians have a second degree appetite and ease that not everyone has. It seems to be in our DNA. This is also true for the Czechs, and all the small nations who used to be mocked, despised or martyred. They have developed their own sense of resistance that is often self-deprecating.

Your father was a distributor of films and imported many from Eastern countries. It was a culture that few children should have …

P.G .: Indeed. I had pictures of artists who were big stars in the Soviet Union in my room. When they came to present a film in Brussels, my father invited them to dinner at home. I came to say good evening in my pajamas and the next day I had autographed photographs in Russian. And my friends told me ” but who is it ? “ and me, proud “Great actors! “. I was the only child in the West to have pictures of these actors. It actually does something that others don’t have. At school, I was trying to convince my friends that Gagarin was the greatest hero that Earth has carried, that the Americans in space were nothing but copiers. My father was someone very funny. He frequented the actors of the Prague Spring. He told us the stories that were told there under the coat. Humor of resistance to power.

When I saw the movie Not everyone was lucky to have Communist parents, I said to myself “But it’s my childhood! “. The only times I went to the show with my parents was to see the Moscow circus, the ballets of Igor Moïsseïev or the choirs of the Red Army. The only French singer we had a record at home was Jean Ferrat. And not entitled to Coke, Monopoly. I’ve never seen a single Walt Disney in my childhood. I was looking The Little Mole, a beautiful Czech cartoon, but that… and the films of Jiri Trnka. I could talk less about it in school. It was a caricature.

What did it bring you?

P.G .: I did not have the necessary hindsight to see how much they were mistaken in their enthusiasm for this political project. But their sincerity, their humanism, their spirit of solidarity (they were communist militants without ever having taken their card from the Party) touched me. They were in love with freedom, pacifism, fraternity. When I started to make a very good living, I was a little embarrassed about them, so I immediately completed their retirement. And when we bought a building in Brussels with my wife, we didn’t dare tell them. Because I had been brought up with the idea that the owners were bastards, that the people who made money were necessarily garbage and that there was no solution except in equal pay for all. But my work generated copyright. Olivier de Kersauson once told me: “It is the noblest money there is because you bring happiness to people, you take nothing from anyone and it is proportional to the success you have. “ After a year, I took my courage in both hands to go tell them. And obviously, they were overjoyed!

How was Le Chat born?

P.G .: In 1980, I married my wife and to thank our friends, I draw a small card which represents us, her, and me in cats, one overlapping the other. The male wore round glasses so that we could easily see who was who. They were cats because I had made preparatory sketches with rabbits and dogs. Rabbits were a little too easy, dogs were not pretty. Cats made everyone laugh. Three years later, our son Antoine is born. I redraw the two cats with the baby cat in front of them. Two and a half months later, a journalist friend at Evening, Luc Honorez, asked me to send ideas for a regular column that they planned to launch in daily life. He tells me “It could be good for you”. The newspaper had 350,000 copies at the time. The day before the due date, he calls me and tells me ” it’s tomorrow “. And I answer him “Yes, yes, I bring this to you in the newspaper”. In truth, I had completely forgotten! In the evening, we put the little one to bed, my wife, tired, goes to bed, and I start to “crobard” things. And this is where I draw for the first time no longer a cat but Le Chat. I put on a coat, a shirt and a tie, I make him say two three bullshit, not transcendent but not bad, I make two three strips and I say to myself ” Well… “. I go up to our room, my wife was not asleep yet, I show her and … she’s laughing. I think it’s a good sign. So I bring the work as agreed to the editorial office, and in the afternoon, they call me back and tell me: “We chose you. “ I learned later that, on March 3 at 10:30 p.m. when I invented Le Chat, Hergé died in great secrecy in a Brussels clinic. There is a kind of sign! This is where I get confused when I say that I am a convinced atheist. I feel more and more that he put a hand on my shoulder, saying to me: “Now son, it’s your turn. “

You chose an art form, the comic strip who is more American than French.

P.G .: Yes, and that has been taken to heights: Peanuts (Snoopy) by Charles Schultz, Hägar Dünor by Dick Browne. But I didn’t just strip. There was also drawing and board (full comic book page, Editor’s note). It is this mixture which allowed the Cat to exist, with also its recurring guests, like the Venus of Milo, Roger the barman, the women in burqa, the old diverted engravings… They come to decorate the rhythm, not to have always the same character who could end up becoming invigorating.

What did you want to do by creating Le Chat?

P.G .: First make you laugh. But I realized along the way that laughing could also make you think. Transmission is also something fundamental. I made an exhibition at the budding Museum for children where Le Chat allowed, by commenting and diverting them, to introduce the youngest to masterpieces of art. When I could hide in a little corner and see people laughing in front of the paintings, see the children, hear them say at the exit “Wow, that was great! When do we go back to the museum? “, I was happy. If I can bring that, give the taste of art to kids and future adults, apart from what I try to bring about laughter, reflection, the point of view on the world in which I live is good.

Why does Le Chat affect people so much?

P.G .: He has a rather nice head, he does not look for compliments, he is fat physically. It has this side Obélix or Achille Talon.

People are happy to be taken in by his humor, which kindly mocks our young and old, with popular good sense. Often people tell me: “This is something I could have thought of, but you managed to formulate it. “ And then its big teddy side also appeals to children, even if it is not them that I aim for when I draw. I have readers of 8 or 9 years old who are passionate about Le Chat and who will not let it go any more in their whole life

Language is important in your gags …

P.G .: Before inventing it, I produced creaky but dumb black humor drawings without recurring characters. When The Cat was born, I discovered the verb in its written formula: aphorism, punchline, the effectiveness of the word, without depriving myself of semantic games. I don’t like the expression “word game”, there is a slightly bold pun side, I prefer the “word game”. My friend and master Siné considered that the best humor possible was a silent one. A situation that makes people laugh and that is universal. For me, the greatest drawing of all time is that of Chas Addams (creator of The Addams Family) on which a skier observes another whose traces pass to the right and left of a large fir tree without him understanding how it was possible. This is the perfect drawing.

The attacks of Charlie Hebdo have they changed anything in the way you work?

P.G .: That day, I was in my workshop, and before collapsing in tears, I said one thing to my colleagues: the time for carelessness is over. Apart from the appalling grief that this represented, the indignation, and the observation that irreplaceable geniuses had been murdered, I said to myself that we should not let ourselves be gagged and that we should continue to exercise our profession as before. I haven’t changed anything in the way I express myself. I would almost say “on the contrary”. But there is one limit that I will never cross, that is to represent the prophet of Islam. I’ve always found it futile and dangerous. It would be committing suicide to do it again.

I think we have to be careful not to hurt peaceful and sincere people who do not necessarily have the same culture, the same training in freedom of expression, at a time when the Internet broadcasts everything and anything to across the planet in three seconds. On the other hand, I always represent women in burqas who face X or Y problems, I continue to speak of all religions.

In your album The Bible according to The Cat, we feel a strong interest in religions, you who have always claimed to be an atheist…

P.G .: Religions interest me for their history, for their influence on societies, for their alliance with political and military power, for the dangerousness of some of their doctrines. And at the same time, I recognize the benefits they may have had on individual anxiety, people who wonder why they are there, why they suffer, why they take their mouths. And that surely helps people get through a shitty existence. My view is that unfortunately, once death comes, it’s over. But wondering about this remains a philosophical exercise that fascinates me. I don’t want to give lessons to anyone, I don’t want to hide my atheism, nor do I proselytize it. Above all, it helps me to be insolent. I think that if I had been deeply Catholic – or whatever – I would not have this detachment from everything. I think that the philosopher is freer in his head if he is an atheist than if he is very religious.

Between the more acidic drawings of your beginnings, or those you are currently making for the satirical monthly Monthly Sine, and Le Chat, what kind of humor do you like the most?

P.G .: Both. There is this slightly more tender and poetic part in Le Chat. These very hard and creaky drawings that I produced from my 13 years until the birth of the Cat corresponded to a period when I was tormented. Even after the wonderful meeting with my wife, I had in my mind an anxiety about death that had obsessed me since childhood, which prevented me from sleeping. As a kid, I read until I fell tired. Maybe that’s why I’m a good reader! I imagined the time which would follow death and which seemed infinite to me. I thought it will be a thousand years, then 1 billion, 10 billion years of non-existence! The humor was a balm over that anguish, but the humor was creaky. I remember the day and the time when this anxiety left me. It’s at the birth of my son, on January 2, 1983, around 8:30 p.m. He screams and I say to myself: ” But of course it is ! Since a being comes to life, another must leave it. Otherwise there will never be enough room for everyone. “(Laughs) At that moment, I admitted my own finitude. Two months later, Le Chat was born. More peaceful, more serene, I realize that humor doesn’t have to be monstrous to be funny, but that it can also be simply poetic. I open the fan at that time. An open fan refreshes, a closed fan is blunt. We can use it to strike.

Do you think you’ve been spoiled by life?

P.G .: I was lucky. My name, Geluck, already means luck or happiness in Flemish. Somewhere I couldn’t do otherwise! But very oddly, most of the things that happened to me were offered to me. I had the choice to say yes or no. The theater, the newspaper The evening, Ruquier, Drucker … It’s just magic.

This exhibition on the Fields is perhaps the first time that I am behind the proposal. I had a happy childhood in a loving family. No tragedy, but we didn’t have a lot of money. I suffered from putting on clothes that I didn’t like. Like that filthy oversized Soviet green coat won by a neighbor at the Party raffle who fell on me. I didn’t dare to say no and I wore it for over a year, with the fur hat brought back from the USSR by my father. At 13, it’s a pain!

Is humor a way of not being fooled by ideologies?

P.G .: Without a doubt. Humor takes you through the most appalling moments that humans can experience. We were two families in the same house, there were two girls the same age as my brother and I. Their mother was raised to the rank of Righteous because she saved 700 Jewish children during the war. All of my parents’ friends were progressive Jews, atheists, many survivors of the camps. One of them told me that laughing at their torturers by ridiculing them among themselves in the camps was one of the things that kept them going and that those who had lost that ability had given up. I find it overwhelming. With my antics, I don’t compare myself to that, but the approach is necessarily identical. Humor helps to live, to survive. It’s one of the ways of thinking about the world, it’s maybe one of the branches of philosophy.

And what is the Chat philosophy?

P.G .: Le Chat is a Bistro Confucius. Besides, maybe Confucius was going to the pub, maybe he was saying things with a drink in his nose, we don’t know (Laughs). His philosophy is that nothing matters since everything is fleeting. Except the others. Because our relationship with others is the most important thing. He could also say to himself that everything is laughable, and especially the most serious, the most erratic and the most important. While preparing the catalog for the exhibition which devotes a chapter to the history of humor in art, I remembered Triboulet, the buffoon of Louis XII then François 1er. He was brilliant, the king adored him, but had set a limit not to be crossed: mention neither the queen nor her mistresses. Triboulet, of course, someday departs from this rule. The King condemns him to death. But since he liked him very much, he gives him the opportunity to choose the way he would like to die. And Triboulet answers: “Sire, I would like to die of old age. “ And the other laughs so much that he commutes his death to banishment. It’s awesome. That’s the philosophy of the Cat: it’s to say that there’s some nonsense behind everything.

You never tire of the Cat?

P.G .: No. Because I’m not at the end yet.

In France, there are fewer designers like Chaval, Sempé or even Siné, and this dates from before the terrorist attacks. Charlie. Why you think ?

P.G .: It’s a profession that has disappeared a bit. In the newspapers, there was cartoons that were not news cartoons, as in The chained Duck or Monthly Sine today. There was kind humor which I liked only half, but, besides that, people like Bosc, Trez, Kiraz, Mose… Today, there is still Sempé, Voutch, Lefred-Thouron . I do not know why, it may have gone out of fashion, like the announcers, I find it a shame.

How do you judge the current humor, omnipresent on networks like Twitter?

P.G .: When it’s good, it’s good. But when it comes to reading the filth that is told … One day, after the terrorist attacks Charlie, there was a controversy over certain remarks that I had made (1). I started to see what was said there. And it made me sick to see that people could express such violent and creepy things, often anonymously. I made the decision that day to never go see those things again. And since then, for me, it no longer exists. When we say : “Yes, but the Internet is a space of freedom …” My eye ! It’s a space, yes, but freedom is a noble thing, and calls for hatred must be punished by law.

One thing for me is inadmissible, it is anonymity. There should be a universal law which imposes everyone’s responsibility for what they say. Otherwise, for me, it is exactly the same thing as publishing newspapers that take up the graffiti on the walls of the toilets. If that’s freedom of the press, very little for me. You can say huge things, but you have to take responsibility for them. Otherwise, it’s anonymous letter, it’s crow, it’s filth, period. And that’s the only rule that works for me.

Is the cat engaged?

P.G .: Yes. He has been a spokesperson on several subjects for a very long time. I myself have been very sensitive to the environmental cause since I was 16 years old. At the time, I was reading René Dumont who, in a prophetic way, announced everything that was happening. Nobody listened to him. He scored poorly in the presidential elections in 1974. Ecology in France has never been taken seriously. In the exhibition, three sculptures evoke today’s problems that are close to my heart, such as this Cat in Atlas carrying a land stuffed with plastic waste or this Cat-Martyre of Saint Sebastian, pierced not with arrows but with pencils on which birds landed. “Tribute to my murdered colleagues”, designers, journalists, photographers. A more serious aspect but which is part of my concerns and the expression of the Cat.

What is your journey, after all?

P.G .: What got through it all was humor. This is my Captain Haddock adhesive plaster. A very funny father, a hilarious grandfather, a great-great-uncle actor who was, it seems, writhing and who made a career on Broadway … There is a kind of undeniable family tradition. And the only times I have deviated from it, for certain serious roles in Elizabethan or Brecht plays, or TV movies in which I played either a child murderer or a terrorist, I was not really happy. There are artists who love to do boring things, because they probably say to themselves that if the public does not understand, that is because it would seem intelligent. It’s a trap that some people fall into. As if being accessible was a bit vulgar. Frédéric Dard suffered a lot from this. He was one of the most widely read authors of the French language, but he was despised by the intelligentsia. And god knows if his work is important. Or Louis de Funès, who invents a genial and universal character: odious with the weak and totally servile with the powerful and who does not even exist in the commedia dell’arte.

You have a cat ?

P.G .: This is my private life! But I have a great relationship with cats. They always come to me.


His dates

May 7, 1954. Birth in Brussels.

March 22, 1983. The Chat appears for the first time in the pages of the newspaper The evening. Very quickly, he became the mascot of everyday life.

October 1986. The cat’s first album is published by Casterman editions.

1999. Beginning of his role as columnist on television, in “Vivement dimanche dimanche” with Michel Drucker, and continuation of his collaboration with Laurent Ruquier on Europe 1.

2003. First comic strip entry to the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, with a large exhibition devoted to it.

2016. “L’art et Le Chat”, an exhibition introducing and diverting art for children (and their parents) is inaugurated at the Musée enherbe, in Paris.

June 2020. Exhibition of statues planned on the Champs-Élysées then toured in several cities in France.

Exhibition catalog: The cat wanders, Casterman, 160 p., 35 €.


His place

His house in Italy

It is located in Umbria. It has been twenty-five years since I bought it with my wife. We didn’t pay very dearly for it, because Umbria is unknown, but we did see Tuscany, which is overpriced! I go there every summer, I no longer create drawings but moments of life. I cook.

His idol

Frédéric Dard

When I get bored reading a current French novel, I would love to reread a San Antonio, but I know them all by heart! He’s a genius writer, I’ve had the chance to have a great friendship with him. He talks about the Cat in one of his novels, that’s the real consecration. He’s someone I think of. I miss him.

His favorite work

Cantata BWV 25

When I listen to this cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe (“There is nothing healthy in my flesh”), I fall to the ground!

His song for life


For life ? Yesterday, of the Beatles. Another oxymoron!

The question of The Weekly

When did you feel like becoming an adult?

I’m still waiting for this moment with curiosity


Containment: but what yoga do you practice?

Seghir Lazri works on the theme of social vulnerability of athletes. In this column, he takes a few pictures of sport through the social sciences. How the social explains sport, and vice versa.

Confinement requires, physical exercises at home have become the only solutions to keep in shape. Among these practices, yoga, given the limited resources it requires and its significant presence on broadcasting networks, has been extremely successful. Combined with the image of healthy and fulfilling exercise, this millennial activity of Indian origin has constantly evolved and changed over time and in societies. Which leads us to question: in this age of ultra performance and social networks, what type of yoga do we practice?

Goodbye the body

To reduce yoga to just physical activity would not be very fair. Behind this term, first, there is a spiritual discipline specific to Hindu philosophy. Although difficult to date, the most primitive forms of yoga would have appeared between the IIIe and the Ier millennium BC. But it was at the end of this period, under the rise of Brahmanism, that this philosophy developed by adopting a discourse. Indeed, yoga was first of all a form of renunciation of the world, “A voice of inner silence”, according to the work of the Indianist Michel Angot. The Brahmanization of yoga, in other words the association of speech with this initially silent experience, will give rise to a collection which is called Yoga-sutra. For Michel Angot, the main object of Hindu philosophy, especially through yoga, is the deliverance of the soul through the absence of suffering. It’s actually a “Suicide of the body”, in the sense that it is a question of putting bodily sensations at a distance, or even of extinguishing them in order to eliminate suffering and pain, and to “Put the mind to rest”.

Read also All articles in the Sociosports section

The real upheaval takes place only around the XIe century, with the appearance of a new form of yoga, called tantric, which proposes to unite with the divine. This results in the search for perfection by the full exploitation of human capacities, both physical and mental. From then on, the yoguist becomes quite something other than this ascetic figure, he is a performing body and resistant to pain. So in the XVIIIe century, yogists were even employed as soldiers against the British army, and sometimes recruited by the latter. They passed “Men of peace to men of war”, according to Michel Angot. Far from the more original Yoga Sutra exercises, which put forward the work of sound and speech much more than that of the body. In other words, the achievement of asanas, body postures, was only secondary.

Modern yoga

Breaking with the yoga of the origins, that spread all over the world and more particularly in Western societies rests on other cultural and social heritages than those of South Asia. French journalist Marie Kock, author of the book Yoga, a world story, returns at length to this diffusion through Western societies, which really began from the end of the XIXe at the instigation of master Swami Vivekananda. This last “First major exporter of Indian spirituality”, according to Michel Angot, participates amply in making yoga a tool of soft power for an Indian nation still under British supervision, but whose independence movement continues to grow. Regarding the practice itself, this yoga had to renounce part of its heritage to integrate other practices, such as different forms of gymnastics (Swedish in particular), and thus better correspond to the Western public.

Read alsoPhysical activity: upper body

This is why yoga, by adapting and responding to the normative injunctions of its time, sees its practice mainly concentrated around bodily exercises, where the idea of ​​body conservation and the quest for eternal youth have definitively replaced this original posture of renouncing the world. The imperative of health and long life which undoubtedly places “The body at the center of interests” according to the philosopher Isabelle Queval, is fully found in the new forms of yoga, which social networks promote. This is how the increasingly large dissemination of spectacular physical prowess (especially on Instagram) tends on the one hand to reduce yoga to a performative approach (to surpass oneself all the time), but also to propagate a discriminating normativity ( neither too thin nor too big). In addition, as Marie Kock points out, this predominance of a juvenile vision of the body generates new forms of precariousness in the world of yoga teaching, with many practitioners constantly seeking an ever younger and influential teacher.

In these times of confinement, the promotion of yoga exercises is in full swing. It seems important to understand that current practices are far removed from yoga of the origins and that they respond to contemporary structural and ideological determinisms. To understand this is not to denigrate the yogas of today, but above all to get rid of this exotic representation (often used for promotion) and understand that this practice, as it is inscribed in our social universe, can be a means of understanding.

Seghir Lazri


Georges Nivat: “In Russia there is the idea that there is no truth, only opinions”

The memories of Russia are multiple. It is this plurality that the specialist of Russian culture Georges Nivat continues to explore in the monument work Sites of Russian memory, whose second volume – “History and myths of Russian memory” – was recently published by Fayard editions. On several hundred pages are listed the topoi from this memory – from historians who over the centuries have ordered the national narrative to peasant folklore, from mythified figures like Peter the Great and Lenin to the founding myths of “Moscow, third Rome” or of the patriotic war against Napoleon in 1812, passing by saints and martyrs, encyclopedias, the image of the Jew or the question of women…

You are openly referring to Memory places by Pierre Nora. Is your approach the same?

Memorial place, that inspired me, were built little by little. I remain very modest, but I built right away. In France, literature begins earlier, cathedrals too, free cities and the franc-bourgeoisie appear before. In Russia, we realized very late that the “chronicle” had started as early as the XIe and XIIe centuries. The Chronicles Edition, which I called “The invention of chronicles”, starts under Nicolas Ier, in particular with the publication of Chronicles of Novgorod, in 60 volumes, and continues to this day. Russia really liked to build its scientific memory through this.

Amnesia-hypermnesia, eternal tension of Russian memory issues …

Russia has a long memory, if we compare to France, which has a short memory. Take the example of the glory of arms. In France, we no longer have the idea of ​​this glory, the public no longer knows what a war is. Napoleon, we don’t have a cult anymore. Young people no longer know who Clovis is … On the other hand, there is not a Russian who does not know Vladimir the Red Sun, the founder of “Holy Russia”.

And then there is what I call “the school of amnesia”, the one we knew during the French Revolution at certain times – Lyon was renamed into “nameless city” to punish it, it doesn’t only lasted a few months. While the Russian blackout during the Soviet period lasts seventy years, when cities are renamed and history rewritten. Or the hole in the peasant memory, the loss of popular folklore, as the sociologist Boris Firsov, from the working class, who so well started living oral history with peasants, shows so well. arrived in cities in the aftermath of the revolution.

Russian society is still sick of these mutilations of memory, of amnesia imposed at the state level …

From the point of view of memory, the truth does not make sense. One can very well keep the memory of a lie by being convinced that it is the truth, and all the efforts of authentic historians to demonstrate for example that the Katyn massacre is not due to the Germans, but well to the Soviets, will be in vain. Even when the government admitted it, Yeltsin first, Putin second, opinion did not change its mind. I also wanted to show another aspect of these extraordinary memory lapses: 95% of the churches and monasteries were destroyed, but at the same time there was a first-rate restoration school for the remaining 5%.

Today, is Russian history taught in a less mythical way?

Textbooks, from the first under Nicolas Ier until today, have always been and remain to the glory of the regime. Today’s textbook is inspired by President Putin, who demanded that nothing be excluded, neither the White Army, the Red Army, nor the Autocracy. A kind of consensus.

But this unique manual is rightly criticized for minimizing the terror, the gulag, and more generally the dark aspects of the communist regime …

Yes, but the Gulag Archipelago, in the abridged version by the widow of Solzhenitsyn, is on the school program. As long as Putin does not ban this book, he defends a certain idea of ​​the terror debate.

State violence, the fear it inspires are among the topoi that you describe …

Fear of the State was established by the great reformer Pierre the Great, in the XVIIIe century. He imports both science and technology, corresponds with Leibniz, and at the same time he creates the Third Section, a secret police which instills mad fear. Pierre is a despot, enlightened but despot. Another great figure in Russian history is Ivan the Terrible. Was he a madman, a madman, or a progressive man who understood that without terror you cannot hold a gigantic territory? It was he who gave Russia its present form …

Are the debates on historical memory fruitful in Russia?

There are very old debates, fundamental for the memory, but almost without exit. Like these series of collections entitled “Pro and Contra”, which present different points of view on the work of writers, poets, philosophers. It’s interesting but it creates the idea that there is no truth, only opinions. These debates give no key to find your way around. Take for example the character of Boris Godounov, at the end of the XVIe century: did he really order the murder of Tsarevich Dimitri to steal the throne from him? No, he did not sponsor it. Historians have confirmed this as early as 1920-1930. But the historian Nicolas Karamzine had found that this alliance of virtue and crime, it sounded good, this stain on the conscience of the virtuous man. The poet Alexander Pushkin took up the story [dans une célèbre tragédie, qui a par la suite inspiré, entre autres, un opéra de Moussorgski et une musique de scène de Prokofiev, ndlr]. From that moment on, it became the truth, the accepted version. Russian culture debates what its historical memory is, but it debates badly because it does not listen to the historical inquiry.

Veronika Dorman Photo Rémy Artiges for Liberation

Georges Nivat (under the direction of) Sites of Russian memory tome 2 Fayard, 880 pp., € 49.90 (ebook: € 39.99).


At war with boredom: Melvillian gangs, bumblebees and a “Te Deum”

With manly jaw clenches

When it comes to nominating a filmmaker’s best film, the discussions come alive. But when the Melville file arrives, everyone is silent, taken aback. Faced with the monolithic filmography of the master of the French thriller, can we really choose? Instinctively, many will respond the Samurai, it’s obvious. Before replacing it Army of Shadows or the Red Circle. Let’s end the debate: the Second Breath is the room of choice. Relentless gang war between Paris and Marseille led by Lino Ventura, while hatred returned and refereed by a Paul Meurisse more perfect in tempo than ever, the film tells the desperate dance of a bandit inhabited by a sacred fire that he cannot resolve to see decline. It is, like all Melville, beyond the thriller a pure moment of pessimistic philosophy. And if you don’t want to concede that it’s its best, at least recognize that it’s the most bubbling.

With a duo at donf

Neo-troubadour Richard Dawson confined to his house in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, we could have expected a new collection of brutal drinking songs, cracked with symbolist poetry and howls, in the terrifying image of his classic The Vile Stuff. It would be bad to know the animal of the Old North, also a prescient improviser within Hen Ogledd. With Sally Pilkington, member of the group and his companion in the city, he formed Bulbils, a duo of domestic improvisation intended to occupy the days and nights of confinement but also to nourish spiritually those who would have the good idea to connect to their site (a Bandcamp page). Every day since March 22, the couple publishes a mini-album to listen to or download at free price, filled with drones of toy synths and accordion, germ techno and languid electronic cavalcades. It’s nothing to say that the result is the reverse of useless – music that helps time flow more straight, more humanly.

With art as a lifeline

While museums and art centers have lowered the curtain, can our rescue come from performances on the Net? Meetings for live art, that’s what Art Will Save Us, a Düsseldorf site created by Rosy DX, a digital creation studio, offers. During confinement, artists will perform via Zoom, YouTube and Insta-Livestreams. Alain Bieber, artistic director of the NRW Forum museum in Düsseldorf and member of this independent non-commercial project, maintains that “The live moment is important because many artists are isolated. Our first artist comes from Alsace, a particularly affected region. “ Thomas Mailaender has already unveiled a wacky collection from a Queyras garage … Next meetings: a tarot session in videoconference with artist Esben Holk (Jennifer Aniston Superfans), a trip with Dani Ploeger, great GPS hacker, an illustration session at the piano by pianist Paul Frick and illustrator Yves Halter or a chat with Cynthia Montier. The site also collects donations for the most fragile artists of the independent scene.

With a balcony and some trumpets

We no longer really know what it is for or what it defends but it is so: the national conservatories of music and dance of Paris and Lyon, associated with the Baroque music center of Versailles, urge all professional and amateur musicians to be interpreted every Friday at 7 p.m. on their balcony, a “Symphony for the time of confinement”, in this case an extract from the Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). And not just any, since this is the old generic of Eurovision, so dear to our ears. The operation is logically called Eurobalcon, and the scores can be viewed online.

With a valid passport

This is an ideal time to devote time to exploring the podcast and video collection of conferences at the Collège de France, a venerable high-caliber knowledge institution that regularly sells out. Classes have been suspended but you can continue to learn by browsing for free in the online archives. We particularly recommend for those who want to escape the long cycle of research launched since 2015 by the sinologist Anne Cheng who intends to question the extreme centrality of China: “Is it justified to speak of” China “as if it had always constituted a massive, self-referential and self-sufficient entity, as it claims to be today?” To do this, she exposes the interest carried very early by Chinese scholars and travelers as well for the cultural and religious specificities of neighboring India (long known as “Shendu”) and those of Japan.

Didier Péron


Clementine Mercier


Guillaume Tion


Olivier Lamm


Lelo Jimmy Batista

In replay on Arte


Containment: what if home sports made us better?

Seghir Lazri works on the theme of social vulnerability of athletes. In this column, he takes a few pictures of sport through the social sciences. How the social explains sport, and vice versa.

The measures taken following the appearance of the Covid-19 in Europe have paralyzed all high-level sport activity and containment has prohibited mass sports. These restrictions do not prevent you from practicing a physical activity at home, or even from running outside, of course respecting the health rules laid down. This unprecedented situation implicitly invites us to rethink our physical and sporting activity. Therefore we ask ourselves: what benefit can we derive from a sporting activity during a period of confinement?

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Return to self

First, the body of knowledge about the sporting phenomenon reminds us that sport is broadly divided into two systems. If modern sport is characterized by confrontation with others through competition leading to a hierarchy of individuals, it is also a means for individuals to confront themselves. This second aspect, as sociologist Paul Yonnet recalls, calls on individuals to engage in a “Private, intimate competition, of which they are the only judges”, measuring “Both figuratively and literally”. The current situation actually favors this aspect of the sporting phenomenon by inviting us to practice an activity to keep us in shape, while limiting our travel and our contacts. Thus the obsession with performance is reduced and the idea of ​​merit is detached from the prioritization with others.

Read also Physical activity: upper body

From a more anthropological point of view, this very absence of competition and classification appears as a “Celebration of the body, sensations and emotions”, according to analyzes by researcher David Le Breton. Indeed, for the latter, the concern to measure oneself “And to do better than the last time” feeds “An intensity of being that is lacking in the ordinary”. And in this sense, claim this form of “duality” in front of you is to confront your “Personal resources, his sagacity, his resistance, his nerves”. It is sort of redirecting your efforts and better redefining them. This home practice therefore invites us to experience “Soothing our limits and taking flesh in our existence”.

The effort as moral elevation

These writings by David Le Breton concerning sport for oneself, one that one does at home or alone outdoors, also highlight the importance of effort and its nature. On this specific topic, the work of the philosopher Isabelle Queval informs us about the notion of “great effort”. According to her, the good effort would be an act which would be freed from the moral of the permanent surpassing of oneself, that is to say from the idea “To be somewhere where we are not”. In other words, the good effort would be an action far from the external forms of domination, allowing the individual to be accomplished “By finding oneself”. The period of confinement then appears to be an adequate time to reconnect with this idea of ​​good effort, since this notion also refers to the conception that certain Greek and Roman thinkers had of physical exercise and more generally of human action.

Read also Covid-19: time out for athletes

In a closed and finished world as the ancient philosophers and in particular Aristotle could conceive it, physical and intellectual perfection is synonymous with correspondence with nature and its order. Thus, physical exercise that allows you to be in good shape and in good health is fully recommended, but with a certain weighting relative to natural limits. Body activity must respond to a balance and “Should not be practiced at the expense of other disciplines”, as philosophy researcher Mael Goarzin reminds us. For the latter, physical exercise in the ancient world has no other objective than the virtue of the soul, in particular courage (a fair balance between fear and recklessness). Physical exercise, as the ancients recommended, should above all allow a moral elevation beneficial to the city. And in this sense doing sport in moderation, as we are forced to do in this period, also allows us to be more virtuous for society.

In short, confinement is an opportunity to practice sport differently. The injunctions specific to sports competition (especially with others) being absent, it is possible to turn to a less intense, more personal and deeper practice. In addition, the benefits both physical (magnified body for the summer) and psychological (feeling better) that we can draw allow an elevation of our condition and a better understanding of what surrounds us, in particular the current situation.

Seghir Lazri


“Let’s take advantage of the confinement to read and think”

The Cross Weekly: How do you explain the craze in recent years for philosophy? The success of philosophy cafes, radio broadcasts or magazines devoted to this discipline cannot be denied. Why ?

André Comte-Sponville: The sustainability of philosophy itself never ceases to amaze me! It has no technical efficiency, its financial profitability is almost zero, and it is still there … 25 centuries after its beginnings. Its more recent success with the general public is, in my view, due in part to the fact that the authors have gone back to writing more simply. We came out of jargonous years with very talented philosophers – Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida – but whose texts were, for some at least, reserved for the philosophers themselves. So much for the form. Basically, I think this craze can be explained in particular by the decline of religions and great ideologies. Philosophizing is inventing answers to questions that remain unanswered. To be honest, however, I would put this enthusiasm for philosophy into perspective in recent years, supplanted, it seems to me, by the fashion of personal development.

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How are philosophy and personal development different?

To C.-P. : One day I had the opportunity to discuss it on TV with the psychiatrist Christophe André, who has become a friend ever since. For me, as a philosopher, it is better to be a real sadness than a false joy. He, on the contrary, believes that his mission is to help the sick to get better, even if it means not putting them face to face with their truth. I think that sums it up well: the philosopher is not there to do good, he is there to help think better. Between truth and happiness, he chooses the truth where the therapist aims for health. In my opinion, personal development derives its ambiguity, and its charm, from being in between. It is neither completely philosophy nor completely therapy.

Lucidity and happiness do not necessarily go well together.

To C.-P. : Yes. At the start of my career, the reaction of one student had a great impact on me. He came at the end of the final year to thank me for my lessons and added, on leaving, “Well, that said, i was happier before! “. It had, of course, impressed me enormously. I think that philosophy aims to make you more lucid, more free, perhaps more intelligent, but that does not guarantee, in the end, that you will be happier. It’s not about thinking what feels good to us, but thinking about what we think is true. It is up to us to transform this truth into happiness.

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How did you come to this discipline?

To C.-P. : I come from a torn and fairly heartbreaking family. My father was very hard. Not violent, but very hard psychologically. My mother was depressed. I grew up in my mother’s misfortune, still fearing suicide. So I was a serious temperament child. In the final year, I discovered philosophy and there, I was a hit! Me, the melancholy kid, the kid not very gifted for life, I discover myself gifted for philosophy. From there, I chose to put my strength of thinking at the service of my weakness in living. Basically, I am a philosopher because I think better than I live. And it worked, it did me good! (Laughs.) I remain, of course, someone willingly anxious, but which father is not? Philosophy at least allowed me to enjoy the good times and to overcome, a little better, the most difficult. At the end of the day, the real wisdom is to love life. No embellishment, no. It is to love life while taking into account the harshness of reality.

To love without denying the harshness of reality, what do you mean by that?

To C.-P. : True wisdom is not about loving happiness. Anyone can love happiness. Nor is it to love wisdom: any philosopher can do it. True wisdom is to love life. Happy or unhappy. Wise or not. In this, I find myself less in the absolute wisdom of a Spinoza or Epicure – which remains a pure ideal for them – than in that of a Montaigne who wrote in his Essays : “Life itself must be its aim. ” With Montaigne, we get closer to wisdom by giving it up. And it does a lot of good. The only wise word is “yes”. When you’re happy, say ” Yes, I am happy “ and, when you are unhappy, say nothing but “Yes, I am unhappy”. Afterwards, everyone does what they can.

Like a Stoic at the bottom. It is not always easy!

To C.-P. : Of course. One day, after a conference I had just given, a woman came to see me, saying to me: “I really liked what you just said about serenity, happiness, wisdom, etc. I agree with everything. There is just one problem, when you have children, it doesn’t work! “

What did you say to him?

To C.-P. : First, that she was right! (Laughs.) Then, that it was not a reason not to do it. Better still a worried love than a quietness without love.

You yourself lost an infant daughter. How do you get out of such a drama?

To C.-P. : It definitely marks you. Without, moreover, protecting yourself from anxiety with the children who follow. After such an experience, you can no longer, I think, have a marvelous or enchanted relationship with existence. That does not prevent moments of grace, of course, but overly naive speeches are no longer possible. There’s this phrase from Hugo, so right: “To bear children is to hostage to fate. “ To become a parent is to discover that one cannot be happy if our children are not. It is to accept that our happiness ceases to depend essentially on us. This should encourage to have modest happiness and serene unhappiness because, in the end, neither one nor the other are deserved. When you are happy, take advantage of it, stop teaching everyone. Be happy with humility! When you are unhappy, there is no reason to blame you, much less to feel guilty.

You advocate, always claiming to Montaigne, a “Humanist ethics”.

To C.-P. : There are two ways to be a humanist. The first is to make man a kind of god and to make humanism a religion. It is absolutely not my vision. If man is our god, it is the most wretched thing that humanity has invented! What is this god so much more capable of the worst than the best? No. To be a humanist for me is not so much to celebrate the greatness of man as to forgive his weaknesses. Man is not our god, he is our neighbor. This is what I call a humanism of mercy. It’s about forgiving each other for our smallness. Therefore, humanism is not our religion, but our moral. The fragility of others sends us back to our responsibility towards him.

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You advocate a “Spirituality without God”. How would you define it?

To C.-P. : I define myself as an atheist, non-dogmatic and faithful. To understand, you have to take all three at once. “Atheist” first, because I don’t believe in any God. “Not dogmatic”, then, because I recognize that my atheism is not knowledge. Whoever says “I know that God does not exist” he’s not an atheist, he’s a fool! Confusing believing and knowing is a major philosophical error. And “faithful”, because as atheist as I am, I remain attached by all the fibers of my being to a certain number of moral, cultural, spiritual values ​​stemming from the great monotheisms. I am an atheist but I will never spit on the Gospels. They made a streak of light in the history of mankind. It is a heritage that I assume all the more since I was raised in Christianity and that I keep, deep down, only good memories!

Which ?

To C.-P. : Until I entered my final year – where I had an exceptional philosophy teacher – I met only two truly admirable people: both were Catholic priests. The chaplain of my college, then that of my high school. Two extraordinary examples of humanity. An incredible height of view, openness, availability.

How did you become an atheist?

To C.-P. : I lost my faith at 16 in May 1968. I was in second grade and, like hundreds of thousands of young people, I was struck by a passion for politics. I was first a leftist, then an anarchist for fifteen days and a Trotskyist for three weeks. (Laughs.) Ah, the sixty-eightard panurgism! All passion is monomaniac, you cannot have two at the same time: the revolution fascinated me and I no longer had any interest in God. The disinterest came somewhere before the loss of faith. I had faith by chance, because I was raised in a Christian family, and then I lost it because of the chances of history.

You call yourself an atheist, while being very attached to “the spirit of Christ.”

To C.-P. : Christianity is undoubtedly the current of thought placing the highest love. To say “God is great” is a tautology, but to say that God is love is interesting. In my Little treatise on great virtues, I come back from elsewhere, in the chapter devoted to love, on the hymn to charity of Saint Paul. It’s beautiful text. I also learned that my work was studied in certain seminars. It touches me a lot because it means that what brings us together – a certain way of loving love – is more important than what separates us. Basically, atheists and believers, we are only separated by what we ignore, since neither of them knows whether God exists or not. It would not be reasonable to give more importance to what separates us and which we ignore than to what unites us. There is clearly a possible dialogue. Besides, I would have liked my three sons to go to catechism.

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Why ?

To C.-P. : Because I wanted them to remain completely free to develop their position and I knew that I could not speak to them of religion convincingly. Well, I didn’t succeed. Caté, it was Wednesday, but football too!

The “god” football won, right?

To C.-P. : Yes ! (Laughs.) In any case, I believe that we must keep this fidelity to this Christian heritage. I deeply hope that the Church can find a more modern way of speaking to people. There, she got bogged down in completely ridiculous fights.

Which ?

To C.-P. : The fight against the condom, against the pill, against sex outside marriage … When you put all this in perspective, it suggests that God has only one goal: to repress our sexuality. It’s absurd. Besides, when I ask close believers: “Do you really want your children to marry virgins?” “, nine out of ten answer: ” Especially not ! “ Except that it is contrary to the teachings of the Church. No, she must carry the gospel message again, speaking more about justice and charity.

Do you think these two values ​​have the place they deserve in our society?

To C.-P. : Vast question. The capitalist system generates inequalities. Money goes to money and the best way to die rich in this system is to be born rich. Thomas Piketty’s works confirm this abundantly and brilliantly. I was struck, a few years ago, by the remark of an economist claiming : “In an ultra-liberal country, where the state does not intervene in the economy, full employment is guaranteed for all survivors. “ For the survivors … So be it. And what do we do with others? The challenge, for me, is to counterbalance the inherent inequalities of this system through politics, through law. Via two essential levers: public services and taxation.

“What do we do with others?” “, as you say, isn’t that the question you’re trying to answer in your essay Is Capitalism Moral ?

To C.-P. : Above all, I wanted to clarify things. Capitalism has no soul, it is an impersonal system. He is neither moral nor immoral. It is up to us, and to us alone, to be moral. I’m not saying that morality has no place in business. I say that its place, in reality, is ours. Yours. Its place is in the hearts and actions of men. Basically, there is morality only in the first person.

What can politics do? You have declared yourself in favor of the idea of ​​a government of national unity. Does this mean, for you, that the opposition between left and right is exceeded?

To C.-P. : National unity can, at times, make sense. For the rest, left and right are, and remain, completely complementary. The two often agree on the objectives to be achieved but differ on the means to achieve them. Take the example of unemployment, the wealth tax. But all this should not prevent dialogue.

Where do you stand on the political spectrum?

To C.-P. : I am a leftist. Why ? For biographical, cultural, almost sociological reasons basically. When you are a philosophy teacher, you are on the left! (Laughs.) More seriously, when you are on the left, you put social justice above order. Right, it’s the other way around. But I am more and more convinced that both are necessary. No matter how much I am on the left, the better it goes, the more I understand that we need to order. The violence of certain yellow vests, for example, deeply shocked me. I am appalled by the mounting tensions in the country, by intolerance.

What do you think ?

To C.-P. : I have the impression that, for a whole section of the population, a type of right is either an idiot or a bastard. People on the left take as much for their rank: they are either fools or lazy. This mixture of foolishness, ignorance, hatred is very worrying. Everyone believes they are in the camp of good. Wrongly. (Silence.) You see, I am a social-liberal and, over time, I think I feel closer to a moderate on the right than to an extremist on the left. Basically, moderation is a virtue. It’s like courage. Just as you can never be too brave, you can never be too moderate.

Don’t you think you have to be radical sometimes? Abolish slavery, establish universal suffrage, establish compulsory schooling, it is not moderate.

To C.-P. : That is true. However, moderation and radicalism are not necessarily opposed. Let’s say that we should not go into extremism.

Do you, like some, have a nostalgia for the past?

To C.-P. : Absolutely not. To repeat over and over that everything is ruining not only is it false but it is also very demobilizing. If, on the contrary, we recall the tremendous progress recorded in recent decades, we would have young people who are otherwise energized. While there, they are the most pessimistic in the world. The father of my family never ceases to be sorry because my children are no exception. We don’t realize our luck: we demonstrate, we strike, we have the right to be for, to be against, there are newspapers of all political tendencies, we debate for hours, what luck! You know, democratic times are reduced in time and space. Will we still be in a democracy in two hundred years? We don’t necessarily take it for granted. Let us know, once again, to see our luck. The real worrying thing, but really, is the ecological crisis.

How does the philosopher that you are view this crisis?

To C.-P. : What strikes me is that we are punished for where we have not sinned. Let me explain. We are much more numerous on earth – 7 billion today against 1 billion at the beginning of the XXe century – and we consume twenty times more than three centuries ago. This is obviously not viable in the long term. But when you think about it, no one is to blame. The world’s population is growing not so much because we would reproduce in a totally irresponsible way: our reproduction rate is approaching two children per woman. Quite simply, unlike yesterday, infant mortality has dropped significantly. Who would complain? As for our standard of living, we simply aspire to offer our children a standard of living identical to ours. Again, what could be more natural? The problem is that the combination of the two leads to a climate disaster.

How to answer it?

To C.-P. : We have two solutions: either decrease, or sustainable development. Degrowth, which consists of producing less and less, is the only option from an ecological point of view. But it is economically destructive, socially harmful and politically suicidal, so it will not happen. Not, in any case, as long as the world population continues to grow. All that remains is sustainable development, which consists of continuing to grow, but otherwise. In this context, it is imperative to give ourselves the means to redirect our policies, at the French level but also at the European and global level. To renounce globalization, as some claim, would be an impasse.

For the past few days, schools have been closed, the economy is preparing to slow down. What inspires you from the reaction of French society to the coronavirus epidemic?

To C.-P. : A little puzzled. I would be careful not to judge the measures advocated by scientists and applied by the government. But let’s put it in perspective: we’re all going to die and the vast majority of us will die from something other than Covid-19! Let’s be careful and supportive, of course, but don’t panic. Washing your hands is fine, but it does not stand for wisdom. Let us take advantage of this period of confinement to read and reflect, to step back and meditate, to appreciate the chance of being alive, to take care of our loved ones and ourselves …

What virtues do you think should be mobilized in this very special period?

To C.-P. : First, of course, caution. Not only in the modern sense (limitation of risks), but in the old sense of practical wisdom (the phronesis in Greek), which proceeds, as Epicurus said, “By comparing the advantages and disadvantages”. For example, temporarily removing public transport would undoubtedly reduce the risk of contagion … but would also have many disadvantages. It is not enough to reduce the risks, it is also necessary that life goes on as well as possible. Two other virtues come to mind: compassion, for the sick and gratitude, for the caregivers. Finally, a little lucidity and humor would be welcome.

His dates

1952. Birth in Paris.

1975. Obtained the aggregation of philosophy.

1985. Became a lecturer at Panthéon-Sorbonne University.

1995. Publish Little treatise on great virtues, a work translated into twenty
of languages.

2008. Appointed member of the National Ethics Committee (until 2016).

2010. Les Éditions de l’Herne publishes a special “notebook” dedicated to the philosopher.

A place

The furrow, in Saint-Malo

I have really happy memories of it. Yes, I can say it, really happy. The light, the sea, the horizon, everything intertwines to give, in the end, a sublime beauty.

An air

The Quintet in C with two cellos, by Schubert

From its slow movement, a form of eternity emerges, a form of spirituality that has always moved me. It’s a little sad, but that’s probably why it touches me so much.

A practice


I practice meditation zazen a quarter of an hour every morning. It consists of doing nothing, but thoroughly. (Laughs.) It’s the opposite of introspection. The idea is not at all to come in yourself but, on the contrary, to let take control. It is an encounter with the body, more than with the ego.