I am a French philosopher with a background in mathematics and logic. I have been teaching part-time (one quarter per year) at Stanford for the last 38 years. My home base has been the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, where I have set up a center of research in the philosophical disciplines, from moral, social, economic, and political philosophy to the philosophy of science and technology, including economics and cognitive science. My own research and my published work have covered most of these disciplines, together with work in metaphysics and literary theory.
Since 2001, a good portion of my research and of my teaching has been devoted to the issues of catastrophe and its kindred topic, the problem of evil. I have been led to define a third position that transcends the fruitless opposition between fatalism and complacency before the looming disaster (nuclear menace, climate change, energy crisis, collapse of biodiversity, financial meltdown, runaway advanced technologies such as synthetic biology and human genome editing, etc.) The book that inaugurated the sequence of works I have devoted to those issues was published in France in 2002 under the title Pour un catastrophisme éclairé (“Enlightened Doomsaying”). It is about to come out in English translation under the title How to Think About Catastrophe. Toward a Theory of Enlightened Doomsaying. Another book of mine on the possibility and logic of nuclear war, with application to the current virtual war between Russia and NATO powers, is in the offing with the title The War That Cannot Take Place. An Essay in Nuclear Metaphysics. Thanks to these two works I can offer a research seminar, this Fall quarter, titled Introduction to Apocalyptic Thinking.
My work in metaphysics is indissociable from these concerns and interests. For the last 15 years I’ve been led to provide a new solution to one of the oldest metaphysical problems, the riddle posed by Diodorus Kronos’ so-called “Master Argument.” Diodorus put forward an axiomatization of what it means to be free in a deterministic world in the form of three self-evident axioms (the past is fixed; the possible cannot beget the impossible; the future is open) and demonstrated that they are incompatible. The consequences of this argument are still being felt today in a number of disciplines or theoretical endeavors. Among them, for what concerns my research, rational choice theory, game theory, mathematical economics, the rational foundations of moral philosophy, and nuclear ethics. I have published over the years a number of papers in journals and collective books that flesh out my conclusions, in particular:
Ghislain Fourny, Stéphane Reich, and Jean-Pierre Dupuy, « Perfect Prediction Equilibrium » in Ragip Ege and Herrade Igersheim (ed.), The Individual and the Other in Economic Thought, Oxford, Routledge, 2018.
Literature and the study of it have always represented for me an indispensable counterweight to the aridity and a certain inaccessibility of logical thinking. I have started writing a new book that will reflect the fascination I have always felt since the age of 16 for the work of the Argentinean writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. Neither biography nor analysis of his work, this book will be a collection of variations on his favorite and obsessive themes: the infinite, the unreality of the world, parallel universes, the illusion of time, but also violence and cowardice, the sacred, the essence of literature, and the like.
- Cognitive Studies
- Cultural History & Studies
- Literary Criticism (history of criticism, theory of literature)
- Philosophy and Literature