The present essays meet a long-felt need. There has been all too little knowledge of French philosophy in America, and even less knowledge of American philosophy in France. The presentation of the philosophies of any two--or more--countries would be sure to be of great interest. Especially valuable is the philosophical confrontation of scholars from two countries in which there is at present such enormous cultural vitality and intellectual change.
The original plan for the volume called for additional mutual discussion by the writers of the various essays. The large amount of material, however, made it necessary to postpone detailed discussions for a later occasion, to be provided by the two journals, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (published by the University of Buffalo) and Les Études Philosophiques (published by the University of Aix-Marseille). Thus the present volume may lay the basis for further study and clarification. But, apart from this restriction, it could hardly be expected to realize in detail an all-sided plan for the representation of French and American philosophy, if the assigned limits in time and space were to be observed. For practical reasons, but also because of personal difficulties and even misfortunes on the part of invited contributors, omissions occurred unavoidably. The richness of the content nevertheless amply justifies the publication, and its timeliness may make up for the elements of incompleteness.
The contributors to the volume are representative of the major trends in their respective countries, but it is by no means implied that they constitute an exhaustive list of the significant contemporary philosophers, and it is obvious that any selection would entail important omissions. The various contributions are sufficiently representative to illustrate the lack of unity of philosophy in each country. There is no unified "French philosophy"; and similarly, there is no "American philosophy." The issue raised by existentialism in its various forms, in the arguments of its attackers and defenders, plays a prominent role in French thought. For America, on the other hand, one may point to the sustained interest in the construction of a philosophy conditioned by logic and the special sciences in opposition to the tradition of spiritualism. The careful reader will not fail to discern elements of resemblance and mutual relevance, and will seek special explanations--socio-economic, historical, or scientific--for the most striking differences.