French, b: 21 July 1881, Izeaux, Dauphiné, France, d: 13 October 1960, Loctudy, Brittany. Cat: Metaphysician; moral philosopher; religious philosopher. Ints: Self-consciousness; ethics; the problem of evil. Educ: Agrégé in Philosophy, 1909. Infls: Descartes, Kant, Maine de Biran and J.G. Fichte. Appts: Professor of Philosophy, Lycées de Saint-Lô (1908-10), Brest (1910-1914) and Metz, Germany (1919-24); thereafter taught in Paris; appointed Inspector General of Philosophy in Secondary Schools in Paris, 1945.
Nabert sought to develop la tradition de la philosophie reflexive, as represented by Descartes, Kant, Maine de Biran and J.G. Fichte. The point of departure of his philosophy was therefore an analysis of the meaning and conditions of the cogito, that is, of self-consciousness or reflective awareness.
In his L'Expérience intérieure (1924), he argued that consciousness is not to be considered as a 'thing' among other things nor even as a manifestation of being (l'être) but as activity, more precisely as founded in the activity of a subject. Thus he denied that action is reducible to consciousness and affirmed the identity of being and activity.
According to Nabert every subject is essentially divided, separated from itself and therefore dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction is an expression of un désir d'être that is never appeased, even in moral action. In his Eléments pour une éthique (1943) he traced the origin of this desire to what he called the 'affirmation originaire' of self-consciousness, maintaining that there is an intrinsic negative element within this affirmation ever preventing the subject from achieving self-reconciliation.
This position underlay Nabert's searching analysis of evil in his Essai sur le mal (1955). In his view evil in all its forms is unjustifiable; yet neither morality nor religion nor anything else can assure us that we will surmount it. This tragic sense of life also informed his religious philosophy, which rested on an original distinction between the idea of God and that of the divine. Nabert's philosophy has influenced a number of French thinkers, particularly Paul Ricoeur.
Sources: Huisman; EF.
Norwegian, b: 27 January 1912, Oslo, Norway. Cat: Philosophical generalist; historian of philosophy. Ints: Early interest was epistemology and ethics; in later years aspects of environmental and peace issues. Educ: University of Oslo, Mag. Art. in Philosophy (with Astronomy and Mathematics), 1933; PhD in Philosophy, 1936; studied in Paris, 1931, in Vienna, 1934-5, and at the University of California, Berkeley, 1938-9. Infls: The logical positivists, Sextus Empiricus, Spinoza and Gandhi. Appts: 1939-70, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oslo.
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Publication information: Book title: Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers. Contributors: Stuart Brown - Editor, Diané Collinson - Editor, Robert Wilkinson - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 558.
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