There are various influential French philosophers and the following are amongst the most prominent /
In no particular order /
In his seminal work, Discourse on Method, Descartes defined thought as the essential human quality — “I think, therefore I am” — and sets out one of the key characteristics of the French style of thinking: the deductive mode of reasoning. That is, one which starts with a general, abstract proposition and then works towards a specific conclusion.
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.
The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues.
Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.
Voltaire was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. Voltaire believed above all in the efficacy of reason. He believed social progress could be achieved through reason and that no authority — religious or political or otherwise — should be immune to challenge by reason. Voltaire frequently made use of his works to criticise intolerance and religious dogma.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.
Rousseau’s writings on human freedom, equality, popular sovereignty and the return to nature challenged the social and political conventions of 18th‑century French society, and founded the radical republican tradition. His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought.
The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.
Greatest French historian of his time, whose blistering account of the French revolution dwelled on the importance of emotions, myths and symbols; he championed the cause of “the people”, arguing that history is decisively shaped by the interventions of the masses.
He who would confine his thought to present time will not understand present reality.
Sartre confronted all the powerful institutions of his time (the bourgeois state, the Communist party, the university system); his writings on existentialism and Marxism in the post-second world war decades marked the pinnacle of the French traditions of republican universalism and philosophical radicalism.
When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.
Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was well versed in philosophy, politics and social issues. Her seminal work was The Second Sex (1949), which drew on existentialist philosophy to offer a ground-breaking account of women’s oppression. It is a pivotal contribution to modern feminism.
No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.
All oppression creates a state of war.
An ethnologist who became the most important exponent of structuralism, a philosophical movement that challenged the linearity of Cartesian rationalism by questioning its assumptions about progress and the fixed nature of meaning, and stressing the importance of dissonances and the unconscious in human thinking.
The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, [they are] one who asks the right questions.
Foucault’s theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. His work explored the ways in which modern societies imposed various forms of intellectual and physical control on their citizens, ranging from dominant norms and coercive state controls to medical and sexual practices.
What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to [us] by nature itself.
Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité
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