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Supported by a British Society for the History of Philosophy Major Conference Grant, the LABEX “COMOD” (Constitution et Origines de la Modernité, ENS de Lyon) and the IHRIM (Institut d’Histoire des Représentations et des Idées dans les Modernités, CNRS, UMR 5317, ENS de Lyon).

Organisers: Mark Sinclair, Anna Bergqvist and Delphine Antoine-Mahut

Recently, among Anglophone and Francophone philosophers, there has been renewed interest in the French nineteenth-century ‘spiritualist’ tradition that, as a result of the administrative efforts of Victor Cousin in establishing philosophy in France as an academic discipline, represented official doctrine in French schools and universities from the 1830s until the end of the long nineteenth century.

The conference aims to build on this renewed interest in nineteenth-century French philosophy by providing a forum for discussion of how the spiritualist tradition developed original metaphysical positions, and of how it responded both to the scientific developments of the age and to the history of philosophy. Its position in relation to other national traditions will also be in question, for already in the work of Victor Cousin we find a self-conscious attempt to situate French philosophy between British empiricist scepticism and German idealist speculation.

The conference will address French spiritualism and its critics, from inside and outside the French universities. It will address not only canonical figures such as Maine de Biran, Victor Cousin, Félix Ravaisson, Jules Lachelier, Emile Boutroux, Charles Renouvier, and Henri Bergson, but also lesser-known thinkers of the time, such as Jules Simon, Joseph Ferrari, Jean Saphary, François Broussais and Pierre Leroux.

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