French Antihumanism and Modern Doubt
Associate Professor of History
New York University
From its origins in the late 1920s, through its conceptualization in the 1950s and its naming in the 1960s, and up to its decline in the 1980s, antihumanism in France was never the property of a particular school of thought. It was instead at once an epistemological premise, a technique of writing and arguing, and above all, a particular form of modern skepticism. No other philosophical form expressed as resolutely and in such divergent contexts the radical intellectual imperative of “a plague on all their houses” toward the different and powerful ideologies and utopias which posited their own conceptions of Man and Man’s place in the universe. The result was a crucial transformation of philosophical, psychological, and historical thinking, one that was as forceful and consequential for two generations of writers as it proved fragile when its radicalization coincided with the rise in the 1970s of new consensus theories of humanity and a new international order.