The Genesis of Georges Sorel: An Account of His Formative Period followed by a Study of His Influence

By James H. Meisel | Go to book overview

Life in the Library iii:
4. THE GENESIS OF THE 'REFLECTIONS'

From Proudhon to Proudhon

To become aware of Sorel as a historian as well as a political thinker is an important step toward a better view of his full stature. But it is not enough. Looking for what joins the two Sorels together, we may well decide that "he was, and intended to be, a philosopher."1 A mere catalogue of the philosophical subjects to which he devoted essays and entire books, would at least bear out the "intent". Starting out in his own field, engineering, Sorel takes up epistemological problems of physics and psycho-physics, of non-euclidian geometry, of atomism.2 His Socrates is, as we saw, as much a treatise on metaphysics as it is a first sketch of Sorelian politics; his early book on Marx and Aristotle3 contains the first reference to Sorel's favorite philosopher, Henri Bergson, who is treated more extensively in a long essay appearing in 1907,4 and again in Sorel's very last book On the Utility of Pragmatism.5 Earlier, the philosophical journals printed Sorel's views on such topics as Science and Morals, The Metaphysical Preoccupations of Contemporary Physics, and On the Problems of Philosophy.6

However, this list, impressive as it is, may give a wrong impression. Sorel's enquiry into metaphysical, logical, or ethical problems was not something separated from his interest in the politics of the day; rather it pervaded his entire work just sufficiently to baffle both the expert and the layman. The philosophically trained reader, irked

____________________
1
See Part I, Introduction, p. 16 and note 5.
2
"Sur les applications de la psychophysique" in Revue Philosophique, Tome XXII, 1886; "Le calcul des probabilités et l'expérience", ibid., Tome XXIII, 1887; "Contributions psycho-physiques à l'étude esthétique", ibid., Tome XXIX, 1890; "Sur la géometrie non-euclidienne", ibid., Tome XXX, 1891; "Fondement scientifique de l'atomisme" in Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne, 1892; "La physique de Descartes", ibid., 1892.
3
See below, p.100, note 44.
4
"L'évolution créatrice" in Le Mouvement Socialiste, October 15, December 15, 1907, January 15, March 15 and April 15 1908.
5
De l'utilité du pragmatisme ( Paris, 1921), 471 p.
6
"La science et la morale" in Questions de morale, Paris, 1900; "Les préoccupations métaphysiques des physiciens modernes" in Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, November, 1905; "Vues sur les problèmes de la philosophie", ibid., January, 1911.

-93-

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