Jean Cavaillès

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"Cavaillès" redirects here. For the painter, see Jules Cavaillès.
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Jean Cavaillès
Born (1903-05-15)May 15, 1903
Saint-Maixent
Died February 17, 1944(1944-02-17) (aged 40)
Arras
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
Main interests Philosophy of mathematics
Notable ideas Dialectique du concept
Influenced

Jean Cavaillès (French: [ʒɑ̃ kavajɛs]; May 15, 1903 – February 17, 1944), was a French philosopher and mathematician, specialized in philosophy of science. He took part in the French Resistance within the Libération movement and was shot by the Gestapo on February 17, 1944.

Biography[edit]

Cavaillès was born in Saint-Maixent, Deux-Sèvres. After a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, he integrated the école normale supérieure in 1923, lecturing philosophy. In 1927 he successfully passed the agrégation competitive exam. He began graduate studies in Philosophy in 1928. Cavaillès won a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship in 1929-1930. He was teaching assistant at école normale supérieure between 1929 and 1935, then teacher at Amiens lycée in 1936. In 1937, he successfully defended his doctoral theses and became a Doctor of Letters in Philosophy. He then became a lecturer in General and Logical Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Strasbourg.

After the outbreaks of World War II, he was mobilized in 1939 as an infantry lieutenant with the 43rd Regiment, and was later attached to the Staff of the 4th Colonial Division. He was honoured for bravery twice, and was captured on June 11, 1940. At the end of July 1940 he escaped from Belgium and fled to Clermont-Ferrand, where the university of Strasbourg was re-organized.

At the end of December 1940, he met Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, with whom he created a small group of resistance fighters, known as "the Last Column". To reach a broader audience, it was decided to create a newspaper, which was to become Libération, the mouthpiece of both Libération-Sud and Libération-Nord. Cavaillès took an active part in editing the paper. The first edition appeared in July 1941.

He was appointed professor at the Sorbonne in 1941, and left Clermont-Ferrand for Paris, where he helped form the Libération-Nord resistance group, becoming part of its management committee.

In April 1942, at the instigation of Christian Pineau, the central Office of Information and Action (BCRA) of London charged him with the task of forming an intelligence network in the Northern Zone, known as "Cohors". He was ordered by Christian Pineau to pass into the Southern Zone, and Cavaillès headed the network and formed similar groups in Belgium and the north of France.

In Narbonne he was arrested with Pineau by the French police in September 1942. After a failed attempt at escaping to London, he was interned in Montpellier at the Saint-Paul d' Eyjeaux prison camp from where he escaped at the end of December 1942. The book Cavaillès wrote in prison in Montpellier in 1942 was published posthumously in 1946, edited by the epistemologist Georges Canguilhem and the mathematician Charles Ehresmann under the title Sur la logique et la theorie de la science.

Denounced as a public enemy by the Vichy regime, and sought by the police, he fled clandestinely to London in February 1943. There he met General Charles de Gaulle on several occasions.

Back in France on April 15 he resigned from the management Committee of the Libération movement in order to dedicate himself entirely to direct action. He was in charge of the sabotage of the stores of the Kriegsmarine in Brittany and German radio installations on the coast.

Betrayed by one of his liaison officers, he was arrested on August 28, 1943 in Paris with his sister and her brother-in-law. Tortured, imprisoned in Fresnes then in Compiègne, he was transferred to the Citadel from Arras and was shot on February 17, 1944. Buried in Arras under a wooden cross marked "unknown n°5", his body was exhumed in 1946 to be buried in the Crypt in the Sorbonne, in Paris.

The 'Centre Cavaillès de l'École Normale Supérieure' was established in Paris in 1969, at 3e étage au 29 rue d'Ulm, as Centre for the Study of the History and Philosophy of Science. At the formal opening the philosopher Georges Canguilhem said...

A philosopher-mathematician loaded with explosives, lucid and reckless, resolute without optimism. If that's not a hero, what is a hero?

Military honours[edit]

Works[edit]

  • Briefwechsel Cantor-Dedekind, hrsg. von E.Noether und J.Cavaillès, Paris, Hermann, 1937.
  • Axiomatic method and formalism, Paris, Hermann, 1938.
  • Remarks on the formation of the abstract set theory, Paris, Hermann, 1938.
  • Philosophical tests, Paris, Hermann, 1939
  • "Of the collective with the bet", Review of metaphysics and morals, XLVII, 1940, pp. 139–163.
  • "The mathematical thought", discussion with Albert Lautman (February 4, 1939), Bulletin of the French Company of philosophy, T. XL, 1946.
  • Transfinite and continuous, Paris, Hermann, 1947.
  • On the Logic and the theory of science, Paris, PUF, 1947.
  • Complete works of philosophy of sciences, Paris, Hermann, 1994.

Critical bibliography[edit]

  • Canguilhem, Georges, Life and death of Jean Cavaillès, Paris: Allia, 1996
  • Cassou-Noguès, Pierre, Of the mathematical experiment: test on the philosophy of sciences of Jean Cavaillès, Paris: Vrin, 2001
  • Azema, Jean-Pierre and Aglan, Alya, Jean Cavaillès – Resisting or the thought in acts, Paris, Flammarion, 2002
  • Gabrielle, Jean Cavaillès: a philosopher in the war, 1903–1944, Paris: Félin, 2003

Film[edit]

External links[edit]