Roger-Pol Droit

The Speaker

Born in Paris in 1949 of an industrialist father and an artist mother, Roger-Pol Droit was educated at the Louis-le-Grand lycée and then at the École Normale Supérieure at Saint-Cloud, where he graduated in 1969 before obtaining the agrégation in philosophy in 1972. In the same year, at the age of 23, he had a book of journalism published, as well as his first articles in the newspaper Le Monde. He went on to pursue this dual career.

            As a journalist for Le Monde, he published interviews with some of the greatest thinkers of the late twentieth century, notably, Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Henri Atlan, Cornelius Castoriadis, George Steiner, Jean-Pierre Vernant etc. He also organized discussion forums between researchers and the general public, from 1989 to 1995 (Le Monde-Le Mans Forum: 175 participants, attended by 45,000 people). He writes a weekly column on ideas in Le Monde which is widely read and particularly influential. A collection of these articles, reworked and modified, appeared in book form as La Compagnie des Philosophes (Odile Jacob, 1998).

            In terms of his academic career, having taught philosophy at a secondary school, Roger-Pol Droit worked at the Collège International de Philosophie (1985-89), and from 1989 at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. His research work is concerned with the representation of Asian systems of thought, in particular those of India, in the European philosophical imagination and the problem of the frontiers of philosophical identity. In this way, the identity of European philosophy is illuminated in a singular manner by the historical analysis of its fascination and repulsion with regard to India (L’Oubli de l¹Inde, PUF, 1989). The study of the discovery of Buddhism in the nineteenth century and the misunderstandings it engendered throws new light on the development of nihilism in the West (Le Culte du Néant. Les philosophes et le Buddha, Le Seuil, 1997).

            Underlying this thinker’s work is the desire to open up philosophy, whether to the general public by studying its relationship to other linguistic and cultural fields, or by acting as an advisor to the Director-General of UNESCO (between 1994 and 1999) on intercultural activities in the field of philosophy education. By exploring the links between philosophy and the experience of everyday life in his latest work, he is opening up a new perspective.

            The author of some fifteen books, currently translated into twenty-two languages, Roger-Pol Droit pursues this impulse to open up philosophy in different modes of writing: articles, conversations, stories and essays : Les religions expliquées à ma fille, Seuil, 2000 ; les 101 expériences de philosophie quotidienne, Odile Jacob, 2001 et La compagnie des contemporains, Odile Jacob, 2002). In the wake of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, he works in the French tradition of writer-philosophers that has continued since the Enlightenment and that does not separate a concern for style from the ideas being dealt with.


What is Barbarism?
The terms “barbaric” and “barbarism” are currently at the very heart of extremely diverse analyses (historical, political, social, ethical), and yet, the corresponding notions are rarely studied.  In elaborating on them, one might ask, “Where do these terms and these ideas come from?  What has been their evolution?  What are their functions?”  We must first of all distinguish “Barbarians” from “Ancients” and “Moderns.”  For the Greeks, inventors of terms and categories but strangers to the modern idea of “barbarism,” Barbarians were men of the outside – exterior to the language, to the measure, to the laws of the City yet without being necessarily hostile.  For the Moderns, Barbarians are, on the contrary, mortal enemies of civilization whose inhumanity, more or less present in every individual, carries violence and destruction without pity.  In sketching a genealogy of these representations, we will constantly strive to relate them to contemporary questions and consider the consequences in order to reflect on identity, the image of others, and relationships between violence and the civilized order of the coming world.

Michel Foucault:  As I Knew Him
Through numerous interviews that he published for Le Monde magazine, and later, in a more informal way, Roger-Pol Droit had the occasion to encounter Michel Foucault.  He will bear witness, in a realistic and individual way, to one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, one who had made the decision to resist the experience of biography.

Roger-Pol Droit will adapt its lectures for the young audience.

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