Jean Hyppolite’s teaching at the Collège de France – ‘the history of philosophical thought’

The chair Foucault held at the Collège de France was previously occupied by Jean Hyppolite. Hyppolite had been Foucault’s teacher, was supervisor of his diploma thesis on Hegel and rapporteur for his secondary doctoral thesis on Kant’s Anthropology. Hyppolite succeeded Martial Guéroult in this chair, which had been in the history of philosophy, but which was retitled by Hyppolite as a chair in the history of philosophical thought. Foucault would retitle the chair the history of systems of thought.

Hyppolite only held the Collège de France chair for five years, giving his inaugural lecture in December 1963 but dying at just 61 in October 1968. His inaugural lecture was published in 1964 and was reprinted in Figures de la pensée philosophique – a two volume posthumous collection edited by Dina Dreyfus in 1971.

Hyppolite’s own teaching at the Collège de France is not listed on the Collège de France website, which is usually very useful. Summaries of courses are traditionally published in the Annuaire du Collège de France, but I can’t currently get to a library to look at these. Fortunately the summaries are reprinted in Giuseppe Bianco (ed.), Jean Hyppolite: Entre Structure et Existence – a book which has a range of interesting essays on Hyppolite, including by Étienne Balibar, Pierre Macherey, Alain Badiou, Stefanos Geroulanos and others.

All of the reports simply give the name of his chair as the title (which is not uncommon in these listings), but each of them gives an indication of the course titles in the text. Usually he gave two courses a year – Foucault usually gave a single course and a seminar alongside. So here are the details of titles and topics Hyppolite gives, in case anyone else is interested:

1963-64: Sens et existence (mainly on Gaston Bachelard) and Études sur Hegel et Fichte

1964-65: Sens et formes (on Husserl’s Logical Investigations) and a continuation of studies on Hegel and Fichte, though he notes it was mainly on Hegel

1965-66: Sens et temps, which looks at Bergson, Husserl and Heidegger; and a continuation of the study of Hegel and Fichte

1966-67: No title given, but indicates it was “l’étude de la temporalité chez Husserl”; and “une introduction au Discours logique de Hegel”

1967-68: “Un cours sur «le savoir absolu» dans la Phénoménologie de l’esprit de Hegel”, a seminar on “le discours logique de Hegel”, and a course on “l’information et à la communication”.

The seminar from the final year was published posthumously as Hegel et la pensée moderne, edited by Jacques d’Hondt in 1970 and containing contributions by Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser, among others. But d’Hondt says that Hyppolite’s own contributions on ‘absolute knowledge’ could not be included as the notes were not found.

His teaching is important for giving an indication for what he was working on in his final years, since all Hyppolite’s major works, most of which were on Hegel, precede his appointment to the Collège. I have visited the Hyppolite archive at the École normal supérieure for my Foucault work, though didn’t explore how much of his teaching materials remain. The five annual summaries are interesting in themselves, and only amount to about 30 pages in Bianco’s collection, and as far as I’m aware haven’t appeared in English, so this might be an interesting translation project for someone to take on.

This entry was posted in Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar, Gaston Bachelard, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, Jean Hyppolite, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Pierre Macherey. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jean Hyppolite’s teaching at the Collège de France – ‘the history of philosophical thought’

  1. Pingback: The Archaeology of Foucault update 5: Proofs of The Early Foucault, connected work on dynasties, Canguilhem, Dumézil and Hyppolite | Progressive Geographies

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