ALQUIÉ Ferdinand—a philosopher b. December 18, 1906 in Carcassone, d. 1985.
In the years 1931 to 1945 he was a professor in various provincial and Parisian lycees, and later at the University of Montpellier and the Sorbonne. He worked at the Sorbonne until he retired in 1979. From 1978 he was a member of the “Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques”.
His chief works are: Leçons de philosophie (I–II, P 1939–1941, 19532); Le désire d’éternité (P 1943, 19634); La nostalgie de l’Être (P 1950); La découverte métaphysique de l’homme chez Descartes (P 1950, 19873; Philosophie du surréalisme (P 1955, 19802), Descartes, l’homme et l’oeuvre (P 1956); L’expérience (P 1957); Science et metaphysique chez Descartes (P 1965); Solitude de la raison (P 1966); La critique kantienne de la métaphysique (P 1968); Signification de la philosophie (P 1971); Le cartésianisme de Malebranche (P 1974); La conscience affective (P 1979); Le rationalisme de Spinoza (P 1981).
Alquié was opposed to any system of thought that had totalitarian aspirations. He had a polemical attitude toward Hegelianism in which he saw the beginnings of a lack of confidence in metaphysics. He was also polemical toward Marxism and any other form of philosophical monism. Alquié placed himself in a philosophical tradition represented by Plato, Kant, and above all by Descartes. His philosophy is characterized by its dualism and “separation” between temporality and eternity, between object and subject, between the felt reality of existence and the simultaneous absence of existence; and so forth. He thought that our fundamental aspiration in knowledge was to know existence, namely being itself or eternity. Existence is something primary, and its evidence is the first evidence. This evidence, however, appears absent for conceptual and sensory representation. Thus being paradoxically appears as the first evidence and the first absence. In the knowledge of every object we can feel an actual inadequacy with respect to existence. Some signs of the separation from existence in man are the dualism of spontaneous realistic knowledge and reflective objective knowledge, and the non-uniformity of intellectual knowledge and sensory knowledge. Another sign of this separation is that it is impossible to grasp experience in the whole, since no experience is possible except by eliminating another previous type of experience. The simultaneously evident and absent existence is recognized and experienced, but it is not known according to the likeness of objects. On the one hand, we have certainty that it is actual. On the other hand it remains inaccessible. What is present to consciousness belongs to the phenomenal order of nature, while what appears to be absent belongs to the order of eternity. Man’s situation is permeated by dualism where the sphere of changing objectivity acquires its proper meaning from a perspective of eternity that transcends time. This transcendence and this presence of absence are for man the single and authentic metaphysical fact.
The separation of the human order and the order of eternity, of finitude and infinity, and the dichotomous character of human nature, have their historical roots in Descartes who was the first to consider these matters clearly. The position of dualism allows us to understand man’s situation. It can make him aware of his finite nature. It can enable him to reject the illusory forms of transcendence and to open himself to infinity or transcendence. Knowledge that aims in this direction cannot be limited to the phenomenal world, since our longing for existence and our desire for eternity would be unsatisfied. Only in reference ot transcendence does man discover a more authentic truth about himself. Thus philosophy defines this reference as “the thought of separation” and “the knowledge of absence”. It is an essentially critical metaphysics that uses an analytic method: the separation of elements, the distinction of layers, and the drawing out of transcendental conditions. The presentation of objects and all nature in relation to existence directs us to Him Who rules all things, who judges and designates the proper place for each thing.
A. Patri, Sur l’interprétation de Descartes par Ferdinand Alquié, RMM (1951), 208–222; F. X. Tricaud, Ferdinand Alquié, Vesailles 1953; R. Cambell, Une métaphysique de la separation: la nostalgie de lêtre de M. Alquié, Critique 1 (1954), 34–50; A. Brun, F. Kléber, M. Ferdinand Alquié, messager de la transcendance. La Nouvelle Critique (1955), 106–125; J. Brun, Philosophie du Surréalisme et les philosophes; Critique 5 (1956), 438–445; C. Smits, Contemporary French Philosophy. A Study in Norms and Values, Lo 1964, 19762, 13–15; 77–93; Autoprezentacja [auto-presentation], in: B. Deledalle, D. Huisman, Les philosophes français d’aujourd’hui, P 1965, 314–324; La Passion de la raison: hommage à Ferdinand Alquié, P 1983.