Louis Althusser’s 1967-68 course on ‘philosophy for scientists’ – publications and online archive

Between 1967 and 1968. Louis Althusser and some of his students delivered a course at the ENS pitched as philosophy for scientists or non-philosophers.

Some parts of the course have been published, including Alain Badiou’s Le concept du modèle in 1969 and Michel Fichant and Michel Pécheux, Sur L’histoire des sciences shortly afterwards. Badiou’s text was reissued by Fayard in 2007 and translated as The Concept of Model by re:press that same year.

These early volumes indicate others to follow, including an Introduction by Althusser, Expérience et Expérimentation by Pierre Macherey and Etienne Balibar, and a Conclusion provisoire.

The series as listed in the Badiou and Fichant/Pécheux volumes

Between Badiou’s book and the Fichant/Pécheux one the structure of the series changed, with François Regnault withdrawing his contribution, and the third and fifth volumes being merged. Of the second plan, only Althusser’s Introduction was published, as Philosophie et philosophie spontanée des savants (1967), but only in 1974; translated in Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists. The French text is, I think, out of print, but available on Gallica.

(More recently, G.M. Goshgarian has edited Althusser’s text Initiation à la philosophie pour les non-philosophes translated as Philosophy for Non-Philosophers, but that is later text which seems distinct from this project.)

Pierre Macherey is very good on the history of the course and the series, in a piece translated in Parrhesia in 2009. He indicates that a fifth lecture which Althusser planned for the concluding volume was published posthumously in Althusser’s Écrits philosophiques et politiques, under the title ‘Du coté de la philosophie’.

In that piece, Macherey mentions that the original roneotypes of the course materials were available at the ENS archives, donated by Balibar. But at some point they have also been made available online to read or download at archive.org

Louis Althusser. Cours de philosophie pour scientifiques organisés à l’Ecole normale supérieure

Papier.  Documents ronéotypés.  175 f.  325 x 240 mm.

Cours organisés par Louis Althusser : 5 cours de Louis Althusser, 3 cours de Pierre Macherey, 3 cours d’ Etienne Balibar, et 1 cours de François Regnault.

The first page is below.

I found this out because I’m interested in some earlier Althusser seminars, particularly the 1962-63 one where he spoke about Foucault (Balibar’s notes from that are at IMEC). The 1964-65 seminar led to the famous Reading Capital volume. Some of the Althusser texts mentioned above, and the Badiou one, are reasonably well known. The Fichant and Pëcheux volume is interesting for some of the debates about epistemology and science which Foucault and Canguilhem were involved with. But the availability of the archive material was news to me, which is what prompted this post.

This entry was posted in Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar, Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Louis Althusser’s 1967-68 course on ‘philosophy for scientists’ – publications and online archive

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

  2. Pingback: Books received – Althusser, Pécheux and Fichant, Badiou, Terray, Balibar, Kristeva, Epstein, Danchev | Progressive Geographies

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