Jean-François Lyotard: biography of this French philosopher

Jean-François Lyotard was a very important French philosopher, sociologist and literary theorist in the study of postmodernism and social movements, especially those of liberation such as Algerian independence.

With a prolific literary and academic life, Lyotard became one of the great figures of Marxist and Freudian philosophy in France.

Below we will find out about his life and how he got involved in leftist protest movements, through a biography of Jean-François Lyotard, In summary format.

    Brief biography of Jean-François Lyotard

    The life of Jean-François Lyotard was that of someone who was deeply marked by the horrors of France occupied by the Nazis, but who, far from sinking into apathy and resentment, was able to channel the emotions of his experiences. by arousing a unique, vindictive and vindictive feeling. leftist philosophy, critical of any form of unjust domination.

    first years

    Jean-François Lyotard was born on August 10, 1924 in Versailles, France, into a humble family. He attended the primary school of Lycée Buffon and later Lycée Louis le Grand, both located in Paris.

    As a child, he had various aspirations, including being an artist, historian, writer and even Dominican monk.. Over time, he gave up his dream of becoming a writer because, at the age of 15, he finished publishing a fictional novel which turned out to be unsuccessful. As for the monk, he decided to reject this idea because, according to him, he liked women too much.

    University education

    He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne at the end of the 1940s. He had interrupted his studies at the outbreak of the Second World War, served as a first aid volunteer for the French army and took part in the struggle for the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Witness to so much destruction, he was attracted by the first promises of socialism, becoming a faithful Marxist at the end of the conflict.

    In 1947, he finished his studies by presenting the thesis Indifference as an Ethical Notion (Indifference as an Ethical Concept), where he analyzed forms of indifference and disinterest for different mainstream lines of thought, including Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism and Epicureanism. After graduating, he got a place at the National Center for Scientific Research in France.

    His youth was very demanding. He was active in leftist groups and his thought developed into what has been called critical Marxism., Although he is rather classified as a Freudian Marxist. A pupil of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, he was interested in phenomenology and motivated the publication of his first book on this subject in the “Que sais-je” collection, offering a clear and global vision of the purpose of this philosophical current. of the XXth century.

    But later he moved away from Marxism, and began in the 1960s an evolution towards postmodernism, In which the development of an original thought is already assessed. At that time, he focused on the subject of desire as a search for the impossible, using terms very close to those of psychoanalysis, in particular the current of Jacques-Marie Émile Lacan.

    During this same period, he made important forays into the art world, Analysis of the pictorial work of personalities as important as Paul Cézanne. This aesthetic analysis is made by Lyotard from a perspective specific to the Freudian conception of art. Lyotard sees in Cézanne a sort of reinvestment of the meaning of this Freudian conception of art, linking it to unconscious impulses of libido.

    The experience in Algeria

    In 1950, Lyotard accepted a position to teach philosophy at the high school in Constantine, Algeria. In 1971, he obtained a doctorate of state with his thesis Discours, figured under the tutelage of Mikel Dufrenne. He devoted a period of his life to socialist revolutions, a problem that was evident in his writings which focused heavily on leftist politics. It was then that he became interested in the Algerian war of independence, which he experienced here..

    Lyotard explained to The Dispute that human discourse takes place in a diverse but discreet number of immeasurable realms, none of which has the privilege of being able to make value judgments about others. In his books Libidinal Economics (1974) The Postmodern Condition (1979) and Just: Conversations (1979), he criticizes contemporary literary theories and encourages an experimental discourse devoid of interest in truth.

    Lyotard criticized traditional discourses, both philosophically, religiously and economically, Such as Christians, the Enlightened, Marxists or Capitalists. All these metadiscourses were, in the opinion of Jean-François Lyotard, incapable of leading to liberation. Postmodern culture is characterized by disbelief in these meta-narratives, Invalidated by their practical effects. It is not a question of proposing an alternative system to the current one, but of acting in very diverse spaces to promote specific changes.

      academic career

      In addition to teaching at the Lycée de Constantine, Algeria, from 1950 to 1952, he began teaching at the University of Paris VIII in 1972, teaching at the institution until 1987 to become professor emeritus. For the next two decades, he taught outside France, Mainly as a professor of critical theory at the University of California at Irvine and also as a visiting professor at universities around the world.

      Among the most important international universities are Johns Hopkins University, University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, Stony Brook University, University of California, San Diego in the United States, University of Montreal in Quebec (Canada) and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He was founding director and member of the board of directors of the International College of Philosophy in Paris.

      Last years of life

      Among the latest works of Jean-François Lyotard, we have references to the life of the French writer, activist and politician André Marlaux. One of them is a biography “Signe, Malraux” (Signé, Malraux). Another of Lyotard’s later works is “La Confession d’Augustin” (La Confession d’Augustin), a study of the phenomenology of time. This work remained unfinished, as he died during his writing, although it was published posthumously in the same year of his death.

      During these years he returned to the notion of postmodernism several times in his essays “Postmodernity Told to Children”, “Towards the Postmodern” and “Postmodern Fables”. He wanted to further expound his views at a conference he was preparing in 1998, titled “Postmodernism and Media Theory”, but sadly died suddenly from rapidly progressing leukemia on April 21 of that year. He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

      Politics and activism

      The political life of Jean-François Lyotard is intense, highlighting not only his important fight during France occupied by the Nazis, but also because, once the conflict ended, he mobilized for the socialist struggle. In 1954 joined the group “Socialisme ou barbarie”, a French political organization formed in 1948 around the insufficiency of the critical Trotskyist analysis.

      The main objective of the organization was to criticize Marxism from within, during the Algerian war of independence. Lyotard’s writings in Algeria refer primarily to far-left politics. After disputes with Cornelius Castoriadis in 1965, Lyotard left socialism or barbarism and joined the well-formed “Pouvoir Ouvrier” (workers’ power) group, not leaving until two years later.

      He took an active part in the revolution of May 1968, while distancing himself from revolutionary Marxism by publishing his work “Libidinal Economy” (1974). He later distanced himself from Marxism itself because he felt that this current had too rigid a structuralist approach, and that it imposed the “systematization of desires” with a strong emphasis on industrial production as fundamental aspect of the predominant culture.

      bibliographical references

      • Lyotard, JF (2000). The narrative function and the legitimation of knowledge. The postmodern condition. Madrid, Spain: President. p. 57-58. ISBN 8437604664.

      Leave a Comment