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31.7.03

Alone against Everyone

The article in Le Monde that got me started on Courbet and realism (see post on July 28) was number 8 in a 12-part series called "Seuls contre Tous," which started with Diogenes on July 19. Other articles in the series include Rabelais (July 21), Galileo (July 22), Spinoza (July 23), Olympe de Gouges (July 24), Schopenhauer (July 25), and Oscar Wilde (July 30). Today's installment is Wittgenstein, and the series will conclude with the next article. I will admit that I am an unrepentant francophile and here's one reason why: the cultural part of French society is broad enough for a newspaper to publish a series like this, which is not unusual.

One thing I admire about the French educational system is their focus on the study of philosophy (or philo, as they say slangily). It is still a major part of the baccalauréat, the monstrous exam French graduating seniors take every June. (This is yet another area of French life that was almost completely disrupted by strikes this year, not by the intermittents this time but the teachers' unions.) Le bac is such a ritual of French life that it is usually covered on the national news broadcasts in June, including interviews with students as they come out of the exam and discussion of the fairness and difficulty of the questions. This is probably why writers like Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Wittgenstein make it into a series like the one in Le Monde. Allez, France!

For an opposing view, see today's post from the bilingual blog Merde in France, which describes the French intelligentsia as (I will leave this untranslated, for politeness's sake) "les milieux français artistico-culturels-foutage-de-gueule-en-tout-genres."

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