Bachelard Today/Bachelard Aujourd’hui: Gaston Bachelard and Contemporary Philosophy

April 24, 2017 - April 25, 2017
Centre for Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Culture, KU Leuven

Kardinaal Mercierzaal
Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
Leuven 3000

View the Call For Papers

Keynote speakers:

Cristina Chimisso
The Open University
Dominique Lecourt
Universté Paris Diderot-Paris 7
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


Paul Cortois
KU Leuven
Jonas Rutgeerts
KU Leuven
Massimiliano Simons
KU Leuven

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Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) must be considered as one of the most prominent philosophers of French philosophy of the first half of the 20th century. Especially during the 1960s and 70s, Bachelard’s work was widely read and his ideas influenced a wide array of authors including Canguilhem, Simondon, Barthes, Foucault and Bourdieu. Moreover, his quarrels with Bergson and phenomenology have outlined the stakes of a philosophical discussion that continues today. More recently, however, Bachelard’s theoretical oeuvre seems to have left the philosophical agora. Today, his work is rarely discussed outside the specialist circles of French historical epistemology. This conference aims to critically examine this neglect of Bachelard’s work and explore in what way it can still be relevant today.

The first angle emphasizes contemporary French-speaking philosophy, where Bachelard’s work is confronted with severe criticisms. Although authors like Serres, Latour or Stengers, borrow and discuss Bachelardian concepts like ‘the new scientific spirit’ and ‘phénoménotechnics’, this interest in Bachelard is combined with a strong criticism of his work. Especially his – at times blatant – rationalism and his seemingly essentialist division between knowledge and imagination – or science and poetics – are met with strong criticism.

Secondly, and in addition to the French debates, the conference is concerned with the international reception of Bachelard. In the contemporary English-speaking field of philosophy the situation is perhaps even more forlorn than in France. Most of Bachelard’s texts are either not translated at all or remain underappreciated. As a consequence of this, Bachelard’s relevance is almost always reduced to one book, The poetics of space (1958). Against this backdrop, it is becoming increasingly clear that a more sophisticated discussion and debate of Bachelard’s multifaceted oeuvre is necessary.

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