Julien Benda

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Julien Benda
Born 26 December 1867 Edit this on Wikidata
Paris Edit this on Wikidata
Died 7 June 1956 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 88)
Fontenay-aux-Roses Edit this on Wikidata
Occupation Philosopher, writer Edit this on Wikidata
Works La Trahison des Clercs
Awards Commander of the Legion of Honour, Officer of the Legion of Honour Edit this on Wikidata

Julien Benda (26 December 1867 – 7 June 1956) was a French philosopher and novelist. He remains famous for his short book, La Trahison des Clercs (The Treason of the Intellectuals or The Betrayal of the Intellectuals). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.[1]


Born into a Jewish family in Paris, Benda became a master of French belles-lettres. Yet he believed that science was superior to literature as a method of inquiry. He disagreed with Henri Bergson, the leading light of French philosophy of his day.

Benda is now best remembered for his short 1927 book La Trahison des Clercs, a work of considerable influence. It was translated into English in 1928 by Richard Aldington; the U.S. edition had the title The Treason of the Intellectuals, while the British edition had the title The Great Betrayal. It was republished in 2006 as The Treason of the Intellectuals with a new introduction by Roger Kimball. This polemical essay argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism. Benda reserved his harshest criticisms for his fellow Frenchmen Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrès. Benda defended the measured and dispassionate outlook of classical civilization, and the internationalism of traditional Christianity.

Closing this work, Benda darkly predicts that the augmentation of the "realistic" impulse to domination of the material world justified by intellectuals into an "integral realism" risked producing an all-encompassing species-civilization which completely ceased "to situate the good outside the real world". Human aspirations, specifically after power, would become the sole end of society. In closing, bitterly, he concludes: "And History will smile to think that this is the species for which Socrates and Jesus Christ died."[2]

Other works by Benda include Belphégor (1918), Uriel's Report (1926), and Exercises of a Man Buried Alive (1947), an attack on the contemporary French celebrities of his time. Most of the titles in the bibliography below were published during the last three decades of Benda's long life; he is emphatically a 20th-century author. Moreover, Benda survived the German occupation of France, 1940–1944, and the Vichy regime despite being a Jew and having called the Germans "one of the plagues of the world".

He died in Fontenay-aux-Roses.


  • Les sentiments de Critias – 1917
  • Belphégor : essai sur l'esthétique de la présente société française – 1919
  • Les amorandes – 1922
  • La croix de roses ; précédé d'un dialogue d'Eleuthère avec l'auteur – 1923
  • L'ordination – 1926
  • Lettres à Mélisande – 1926
  • La trahison des clercs – 1927
    • English translation,The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, by Richard Aldington:
    • The Treason of the Intellectuals
  • Cléanthis ou du Beau et de l'actuel – 1928
  • Properce, ou, Les amants de Tibur – 1928
  • Appositions – 1930
  • Esquisse d'une histoire des Français dans leur volonté d'être une nation – 1932
  • Discours à la nation européenne – 1933
  • La jeunesse d'un clerc – 1936
  • Précision (1930–1937) – 1937
  • Un régulier dans le siècle – 1937
  • Un Régulier dans le siècle (Paris, Gallimard) 1938
  • La grande épreuve des démocraties : essai sur les principes démocratiques : leur nature, leur histoire, leur valeur philosophique. – 1942
  • Exercice d'un enterré vif, juin 1940-août 1944 – 1945
  • La France Byzantine, ou, Le triomphe de la littérature pure : Mallarmé, Gide, Proust, Valéry, Alain Giraudoux, Suarès, les Surréalistes : essai d'une psychologie originelle du littérateur – 1945
  • Du poétique. Selon l'humanité, non selon les poètes – 1946
  • Non possumus. À propos d'une certaine poésie moderne – 1946
  • Le rapport d'Uriel – 1946
  • Tradition de l'existentialisme, ou, Les philosophies de la vie – 1947
  • Du style d'idées : réflexions sur la pensée, sa nature, ses réalisations, sa valeur morale – 1948
  • Trois idoles romantiques : le dynamisme, l'existentialisme, la dialectique matérialiste – 1948
  • Les cahiers d'un clerc, 1936-1949 – 1949
  • La crise du rationalisme – 1949

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nomination Database". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  2. ^ Benda, Julien (1956). "The Treason of the Intellectuals". W. W. Norton and Co. pp. 202–203.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nichols, Ray L., 1979. Treason, Tradition and the Intellectual: Julien Benda and Political Discourse. Univ. Press of Kansas.
  • Niess, Robert J., 1956. Julien Benda. Univ. of Michigan Press.

External links[edit]