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Faye's La Philosophie Désormais


La Philosophie Désormais (Philosophy Henceforth).

Faye, Jean Pierre. Paris: Armand Colin, 2004. 232pp., €19,50. ISBN: 2200265506.

Jean Pierre Faye is a contemporary French philosopher who has always stood on the side of the European left, but has always been equally distant from Derrida's deconstruction, and from Foucault's concern for the body of the self. His latest book is a 232 page long essay divided into several pieces (parts, sections, chapters, paragraphs).

At first sight there is a clear and precise structure. From a glance at the table the reader expects some sort of a path, or philosophical itinerary, starting somewhere with Heracliteus' chaotic narrations and leading to the present requirement of a post "post-moderne" wisdom. After a quick look at the various parts, sections, chapters and paragraphs it appears that many of them overlap each other and that some arguments are used many times for different purposes. Far from a logical construction, it looks like a philosophical "fugue" in which many important issues are addressed and developed within changing contexts: a meandering approach to philosophical uncertainty and to ethical demands, with a solid, deep, urgent concern for present philosophical attitudes. Though, underlying this changing course of a philosophical river, there is a constant interrogation: if philosophy is a love for wisdom, why should wisdom be loved?

Jean Pierre Faye doesn't offer his answer easily. A constant stylistic device he uses is to swing between contemporary European/ modern Asiatic/ medieval Islamic/ ancient Greek equivalents of one single concept: "being." He shifts from one theme to an other, across chapters. Among the most interesting ones are: the status of women as conceptual beings, (not a glorious moment for all these philosophies!); an opposition to the recycling of Heidegger's ideas into so called deconstructive approaches (Derrida will not enjoy this); a discrete praise to Deleuze's work (this is conceptually correct in leftist France); a beautiful study of Chinese ideograms meaning "metaphysics" (a complete discovery for most of the readers); an argumented discussion of the possible interfingering concepts in the writings of Averroes and Wittgenstein (astonishing meeting!)...

In the end, the last pages provide an answer, given as a statement, the proofs of which are to be collected, one after another, in the previous pages. To love wisdom is to love (erotically) the ability to create newness and change. The erotica part of it is in the relation between non identical sexes.. (and therefore women, as well as men, are equally a basis for conceptual innovation). Change is not being (as movement is opposed to immobility) and, for that reason, metaphysics is not an ontological problem but a methodological ambition; newness is something we ignore until we meet it, so there is no way (not even an Heideggerian "weg" ) to it. And all of it is deeply rooted into language, making it compulsory to remember how Wittgenstein (and others before him) have ironically shown the limits of reason when it is embodied in words.

Some arguments are questionable but the bulk of the demonstration is closed to criticism... at least for those who pay attention to issues falsely simplified by such words as "Islam," "women" and "concept." The book has no interest for somebody who wants a method to sort right from wrong. It is a useful bunch of ideas for anyone who would like to move without yet knowing where philosophical wisdom is.

Hervé Regnauld
University of Rennes