Lalande, André (1867–1964)

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André Lalande, the French philosopher, was born in Dijon and entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1885. He took his doctorate in 1899 and taught in lycées until he was appointed first to a lectureship and then, in 1904, to a chair of philosophy at the University of Paris.

Lalande was a rationalist whose whole life was devoted to the cause of international communication and the dissemination of knowledge. His constant preoccupation after 1902 was the launching, and subsequent reediting, of the Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie, which aimed at the concise definition and standardization of philosophical terminology. His own philosophical work corresponds to this recognition and promotion of an interdependent humanity.

In his thesis of 1899, L'idée directrice de la dissolution opposée à celle de l'évolution, Lalande challenged Herbert Spencer's thesis that progress is evolutionary and differentiating, and held that, on the contrary, dissolutionor, as he later called it, involutionis more widespread and significant. Involution, or movement from the heterogeneous to the homogeneous, is observable in nature as entropy, or increase of randomness. In human life, however, this movement toward uniformity is fruitful and is served by reason, which, in scientific investigation, leads to the progressive subsumption of more and more classes of phenomena under fewer general laws.

Lalande disapproved of an imposed uniformity, which represents merely the transference from the individual to the group of evolutionary, divisive drives. True reason ensures that although people feel differently, they shall think in the same way and thus understand each other even when they do not resemble each other. Lalande's concern was for the individual, whose uniqueness is sacrificed to function in a rigidly specialized and differentiated society. The application of reason to life in the technological field liberates the individual from his functional role, and the application of reason in the cultural field enables men to afford, and to benefit from, the diversity that is their birthright.

In La raison et les normes Lalande restated his involutionist case in the light of recent philosophies of "being-in-the-world." He took cognizance, for example, of the argument that geometrical, objective space is derived from the neuromotor "spaces" of man facing his tasks, but for Lalande the superiority of a common space amenable to conceptualization remained unimpaired. Similarly, he preferred chronological time to the "real" time of naive emotional experience. Lalande reaffirmed his universalist conception of rationality against more recent phenomenological thinking.

See also Continental Philosophy; Rationalism.


works by lalande

Lectures sur la philosophic des sciences. Paris, 1893; and Paris: Hachette, 1907.

L'idée directrice de la dissolution opposée à celle de l'évolution. Paris, 1899; revised and reissued as Les illusions évolutionnistes. Paris, 1930.

Quid de Mathematica vel Rationali vel Naturali Senserit Baconus Verulamius. Paris, 1899. Latin thesis.

Précis raisonné de morale pratique. Paris: Hachette, 1907.

Les théories de l'induction et de l'expérimentation. Paris: Boivin, 1929.

La raison et les normes. Paris, 1948.

Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophic, 8th ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1960.

works on lalande

Lavelle, L. La philosophic française entre les deux guerres. Paris, 1942.

Smith, Colin. Contemporary French Philosophy. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1964.

Colin Smith (1967)