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A Man for the Future
- Was a quiet civil servant whose private life was spotless.
- Had no political enthusiasms and maintained a life of Olympian calm.
- Held views about human nature, the sexes, art, and culture that were conservative, verging on the politically incorrect, and that he expressed in splendid aphorisms.
- Employed very orthodox literary techniques. No modernist he.
- Is known as a poet but wrote fewer than 100 poems. Meanwhile, he kept a vast intellectual diary, much of it still unpublished, revealing his real passion to have been not literature, but mathematics and theoretical physics.
This man is a sleeping giant of world civilization. Why is he so little appreciated nowadays?
Someone nicely upgraded the Biography section. And thus I learned today that he was related by marriage to Berthe Morisot. To my knowledge, there is no biography of Valery in any language.
I have what can perhaps be an ignorant quibble with the line that says "fiction (poetry, drama and dialogues)"... is poetry considered fiction? If not, how can that line be salvaged/reapaired?
Hello, I am looking for a an English/French edition of Valery. Does anyone know if one exists?
- There are some facing French pages in the English translation of his works found in Aesthetics, Paul Valéry, Bollingen Series XLV, Pantheon Books, 1964, Library of Congress catalogue card no. 56-9337 (Volume 13 of the Collected Works of Paul Valéry, published by the Bollingen Foundation).Lestrade 17:12, 7 September 2007 (UTC)Lestrade
Valéry the philosopher
There has been a little wrangling recently about whether Valéry is to be called a philosopher. I say he is; or rather, I say that this is a reasonable category in which to include him, and one that reveals how he has been regarded, especially by the French. There is no objective and common definition of philosopher that would settle the matter, but it is useful to appeal to the literature concerning Valéry. Here are some readily available sources that give evidence:
- Wikipedia's own article Constructivist epistemology.
- The [French] and [German] Wikipedia articles, which classify Valéry as a philosopher.
- T.S. Eliot's characterisation of Valéry as "a tireless explorer of the labyrinths of philosophical speculation" (The Art of Poetry, 1958, p. xxii).
- Encyclopedia Britannica's main article on Valéry. (I have only a hard copy available at the moment, and will not labour to cite it; but a traversal of the text shows that the author is happy to classify Valéry as a philosopher.)
- Major theses concerning "la philosophie de Valéry" and similar. Search on VALERY at [this location]; see items by Guirao, Magne, Meynier, Tastet, Rasoamanana, Tagami, Torrez Gomez, and Yamada. At least some of these point to a francophone acceptance of Valéry as a serious philosopher.
- Such judgements as these: "Is Valéry a political philosopher? Certainly: a philosopher who, here as elsewhere, constructs no system (a system would be another abstraction), but seeks everywhere to flush out the idols of the tribe, which are the projections of our fears and which have no other reality than the belief we accord them." (Régine Pietra, "An art of rethinking: Valéry's 'negative philosophy' ", in Paul Gifford & Brian Stimpson (eds.) Reading Paul Valéry: Universe in Mind, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 96.)
- Works by William Kluback (an emeritus professor of philosophy) on Valéry, in the series American University Studies Series V, Philosophy. (See these listed at Amazon.)
- The Valéryan corpus itself. Cahiers is clearly a serious and sustained work of philosophy, among other things. When an intellectual of Valéry's stature gives up poetry in favour of an exploration of human consciousness like this, he is turning to philosophy. What else? Something similar may be said concerning Monsieur Teste, Eupalinos, and other works.
On this evidence, which is only what falls to hand readily, I am reinstating the classification of Valéry as a philosopher. If anyone wants to remove it, let them bring evidence of equal or greater weight to bear. – Noetica 00:59, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
- Wow! For me Valéry is definitly a philosopher, but what a brilliant presentation ! Thanks. Chrisdel 11:35, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Thank you, dear Chrisdel. Nice to be appreciated when one makes an effort. – Noetica 11:57, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for spelling out your position in such detail, Noetica. I concede there is a case to be made that Valéry has been regarded as a philosopher by some. I do, however, continue to think that characterizing him as such is misleading. An encyclopaedia article ought not to put tendentious interpretations on such a term as 'philosopher', as newcomers to Valéry consulting Wikipedia as a first port of call will not necessarily have your erudite knowledge of the issues. Many writers have written on philosophical themes; and many theses written about 'X the philosopher', where X is not a philosopher in any standard sense. I hardly think that the statements by T.S. Eliot or Régine Pietra make very much of a case for seeing Valéry as a philosopher to be mentioned along with Rousseau and Sartre. On the Encyclopaedia Britannica point, the edition which has been around since the 70s doesn't call him a philosopher, only a 'poet, essayist, and critic'; I'd be interested to know which edition you consulted.Spontini 00:39, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
- Spontini, the question whether Valéry is a philosopher does appear to be tendentious, but so far it is only contested by you, and the only evidence presented that he is not one is that you think he is not one. On the other hand, I have adduced a good deal of detailed evidence that he is a philosopher. I am about to restore to the article the assertion that he is a philosopher. I put it to you that you are not entitled to remove this assertion unless you answer all of the points that I raise above. I will accept that you have dealt with point 3 only, so far. As for Encyclopedia Britannica, it is the 1983 edition that I have to hand. The Macropedia article begins like this:
- The French poet, critic, and thinker Paul Valéry combined the tastes of a scientist and a philosopher with the talents of a poet to produce a body of 20th-century prose and poetry notable for the range and subtlety of its views and the sensitivity of its language.
- As I read it, unless there is a qualification or correction in what follows this (and there is not), we should think that Valéry is considered a scientist, a philosopher, and a poet. Indeed, he engages with the work of scientists (including Leonardo da Vinci, notably), as he does with the work of philosophers like Descartes (see for one example the book Les pages immortelles de Descartes choisies et expliquées par Paul Valéry), Socrates, and many others – very scientifically and very philosophically. Now tell us how he should not qualify as a philosopher himself, if he does all that, and also is in dialogue with contemporary philosophers (who respect his work), and is cited in the same breath as Husserl and Heidegger by the philosopher Derrida (see here). On top of the works mentioned in my points above, there are these works that plainly accord him the status of philosopher, selected from the many that are visible at French Amazon:
- La philosophie matérialiste de Paul Valéry (Jacques Ducol)
- Valéry: la philosophie, les arts, le langage (M. Allain-Castrillo)
- Paul Valéry, philosophe de l'art (Patricia Signorile)
- Valéry, la logique, le langage: la logique du langage dans la théorie littéraire et la philosophie (from a colloquium, published by the journal Sud)
- Please leave the lead of the article alone until you have accounted in detail for the abundant evidence that tells against your view of the matter, or furnished evidence of greater weight that supports your view. – Noetica 05:50, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
If only you had mentioned before that the philosopher Derrida mentions him 'in the same breath' with Husserl and Heidegger. That really clinches it. Spontini 19:53, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
- Spontini, desperate sarcasm will advance us not at all. In the nature of the case, this sort of evidence must be appealed to, since you are not impressed by the clear evidence that philosophers in print accept Valéry in their ranks. If theses, monographs, book chapters, and articles devoted to the philosophy of Paul Valéry do not persuade you that he is a philosopher, perhaps the obiter dicta of Derrida will. Who knows what could conceivably "clinch it"? Meanwhile, thank you for respecting the lead as it now stands. I'm sure we both have better things to do than quibble at length over this little matter of classification. – Noetica 21:16, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
What is the point of this sentence?
After saying "His far more ample prose writings, peppered with many aphorisms and bons mots, reveal a conservative and skeptical outlook on human nature, verging on the cynical," the article continues, "However, he never said or wrote anything giving aid or comfort to any form of totalitarianism popular during his lifetime."
Is it to be expected that a person with a "conservative and skeptical outlook on human nature" is likely to support totalitarianism? That second sentence seems pointless. I'm not deleting it because I don't know anything about the man, and perhaps there is some reason for it that I'm not getting, but it is distinctly odd.126.96.36.199 (talk) 19:49, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
I don't know about the opinion of most others, but in claiming Valéry is a polymath I would refer simply and straightforwardly to his "accomplishments" or his "expertise" rather than interests. "Interests" is almost a jest, and makes it sound as though he is a dilettante. It is acceptable for academics today to refer to their competencies or specializations as interests, up to a point, but that is only in speaking casually or at an early phase of one's career.Cdg1072 (talk) 04:31, 5 August 2012 (UTC)