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How the French Think

An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


An award-winning historian presents an absorbing account of the French mind, shedding light on France's famous tradition of intellectual life
Why are the French such an exceptional nation? Why do they think they are so exceptional? The French take pride in the fact that their history and culture have decisively shaped the values and ideals of the modern world. French ideas are no less distinct in their form: while French thought is abstract, stylish and often opaque, it has always been bold and creative, and driven by the relentless pursuit of innovation.

In How the French Think, the internationally-renowned historian Sudhir Hazareesingh tells the epic and tumultuous story of French intellectual thought from Descartes, Rousseau, and Auguste Comte to Sartre, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Derrida. He shows how French thinking has shaped fundamental Westerns ideas about freedom, rationality, and justice, and how the French mind-set is intimately connected to their own way of life-in particular to the French tendency towards individualism, their passion for nature, their celebration of their historical heritage, and their fascination with death. Hazareesingh explores the French veneration of dissent and skepticism, from Voltaire to the Dreyfus Affair and beyond; the obsession with the protection of French language and culture; the rhetorical flair embodied by the philosophes, which today's intellectuals still try to recapture; the astonishing influence of French postmodern thinkers, including Foucault and Barthes, on postwar American education and life, and also the growing French anxiety about a globalized world order under American hegemony.

How the French Think sweeps aside generalizations and easy stereotypes to offer an incisive and revealing exploration of the French intellectual tradition. Steeped in a colorful range of sources, and written with warmth and humor, this book will appeal to all lovers of France and of European culture.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 20, 2015 – Hazareesingh (The Legend of Napoleon), a professor of politics at Balliol College, Oxford, comes close to producing an intellectual history of modern France, from Ren Descartes to such poststructuralist thinkers as Claude L vi-Strauss and Michel Foucault. But it is not quite that; instead, Hazareesingh addresses broad themes in French thought, including the "interplay... between the cold linearity of Descartes and the unbridled expansiveness of Rousseau"; the "lively French tradition of dissent, contrarianism, and impertinence"; the widespread belief in "providential leadership" that has fueled the rise of individuals from Napoleon to de Gaulle; and the "declinist sensibility" in recent French thought as manifested in the writings of such figures as ric Zemmour and Alain Finkielkraut. Hazareesingh also offers a surprising insight on the extent of supernaturalism in French thought and politics, noting that, despite a longstanding French commitment to rationalism, leaders from Robespierre to Mitterrand have consulted astrologers. The main weakness of Hazareesingh's book is that he covers too much ground in not enough space and in the process assumes of his readership too much familiarity with French thinkers. Despite this flaw, this is an equally informative and colorful tour d'horizon of the many strands of, and contradictions in, French philosophy and political thought during the past four centuries.
How the French Think
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  • $19.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Published: Sep 22, 2015
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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