Paul Mathias

The Speaker

After finishing his studies at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) with the Agrégation (university teaching certification) in philosophy in 1980 and a dissertation in 1982, Paul Mathias pursued a career in secondary education. Appointed as a teacher for preparatory classes in 1988, he has continued in the position to this day, teaching at the Henri IV high school in Paris. From 1990 to 2001, he was also an assistant professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (IEP).  In 1996 he decided to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties to live in New York where he devoted his time to writing La Cité Internet, published by Presses de Sciences-Po in 1997.

Paul Mathias has always been interested in research, writing and meeting with the public. In addition to works and articles about Aristote, Plotinus, Bodin, Hobbes, Kant and Nietzsche, he also recently published Montaigne ou l'usage du Monde (Vrin, 2006). Since 1995 he has participated in an ENS research group that works on relationships between "networks, knowledge, and territories," for which he has organized colloquia on Internet uses (1999), measurements of the Internet (2003), and traditional and computer writing (2008). Since 2005 he has also been a member of the scientific committee of the working group "Vox Internet" (House of the Sciences of Man and the National Research Agency, ANR).

As a result of his research on networks, Paul Mathias was nominated for the position of Program Director at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, where he has been teaching a seminar on the Internet since 2005.


A Melting Pot for New Identities
The Internet is not only an arena for information, exchanges, trade and knowledge. In one way or another, explicitly or implicitly, we “exist” on the Internet; we turn our passions, cravings, plans, and also desires, or our “reason” into reality. The Internet is an arena for writing and expressivity, but also the crux of our identity, or more precisely, our identities.

Let’s have a look at the principle behind the Internet: personal web pages, countless blogs, a myriad of chances to “express oneself,” as if “expression” were the heart of our online experience. Paradoxically, we are not writing about who we are, but rather we are becoming what we write about!

On New Territories
The Internet is said to bring people and communities together. As networks have expanded, borders have been erased and new “territorialities” have emerged without geographical specificity that are intimately related to writing, publishing and syndicating knowledge. Facebook, Yahoo, DiggIt are the new provinces of Humanity, made not of soil and the law, but of haphazard words, and shifting meanings. Should we fear the Internet? And what if we were to participate – perhaps unwillingly – in the discovery of a “New World,” a new “Renaissance,” and newly creative forms of our Humanity?

Experiencing the Internet with Montaigne
It is a curious path that winds its way from Michel de Montaigne, author of “Essays”, to the development of the business of networks and their expansion on a planetary scale! Is this sheer audacity? Not at all. The Internet is, in itself, a world, or more precisely a “New World,” perfectly analogous to the world discovered with some amazement by the Europe of Montaigne’s century – a world of words, beliefs, convictions, and values.
A tireless traveler, Montaigne, who went on to become mayor of Bordeaux, showed us what it was like to meet the Other.  Unquestionably, the Internet exposes us to the infinitely multiple gazes of the Other.  A new set of barbarisms? A new form of cannibalism?

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