Roger-Pol Droit, philosopher, writer, researcher at the CNRS and teacher at Sciences-Po walks with Yves Agid, professor emeritus of neurology and cell biology at La Salpêtrière, the Academy of Sciences and the Institut du Cerveau, in the occasion of the publication of the book, “I walk therefore I think” published by Albin Michel.
In your last book, you invert Descartes’ metaphysical equation, according to which “I think therefore I am” to affirm “I walk therefore I think”. Should we favor the body over the mind to be a philosopher?
Roger-Pol Law – It is not possible to compare the great metaphysical enterprise of Descartes and the modest conversation book that the neurologist Yves Agid and I have just published. By questioning bodily perceptions as well as logical truths, Descartes seeks to base truth on conscious thought alone. Our aim, in dialogue, over the course of eight unpretentious walks, is only to give an insight into the questions posed by the relationships between physical walking, thought and speech.
Having said that, you are right: we are effectively postulating that there cannot be thought without a body, and we are questioning both what walking does to thought and about thought as mental walking. Yves Agid, founder of the Institut du Cerveau, explains how cerebral neurology makes it possible to understand the complex mechanisms of human walking and the stimulation of thought through the practice of walking.
For my part, I defend the hypothesis that thought is anchored in the organic process of bipedalism: we walk mentally while thinking. The continuous and maintained imbalance of upright walking, unique characteristic of the human species among the living (a fall sketched out, stopped, started again) is also the mode of existence of thought, in particular of philosophical thought. Indeed, to destabilize the obvious, to try to establish new ones, to put them again in imbalance, this is how reflection advances. This is why, as I argued in How philosophers walk (Paulsen, 2016), the formulas of Descartes on the course of reasoning, of Hegel on the course of the Spirit, and many others, are not to be understood as metaphors. Rather, they signal that the movement of thought and that of the body are structurally linked.
Like the Greeks, Nietzsche defended a more voluntary thought. Is this your opinion?
Roger-Pol Right: Of all the philosophers who have practiced walking and celebrated its effects on thought (Montaigne, Rousseau, Kant, Kierkegaard, Thoreau, Wittgenstein, in particular) Nietzsche is undoubtedly the most radical. He goes so far as to mistrust any seated thought, any vain rumination of “lead asses”, as he puts it. This exclusion is obviously excessive, especially if we admit that thought is a mental process. However, I agree with the idea that a philosophical approach is always affirmative, and therefore voluntarist, even when it denies it.
Martin Heidegger invited us to walk in thought, and to take the paths of philosophy that lead nowhere. How can this paradoxical vision be explained?
Roger-Pol Right: For my part, I consider that there is nothing to explain. Here is why: indeed, philosophy is a progression, a series of steps, at the same time organic, sensitive, and logical. But these paths always lead somewhere, either towards demonstrated conclusions, or towards the observation of the indemonstrable nature of the theses examined. Either these paths lead elsewhere, towards non-Greek, non-European, non-Western philosophies, to which I have devoted a large part of my work, in order to show their properly philosophical character, and also to analyze the biased representations that close their path. ‘access.
Heidegger, who maintains that there is only Greek and European philosophy, is one of these stupid locks. Above all, he is an enemy of philosophy, which he dreams of destroying. This pseudo-thinker, viscerally anti-Semitic, anti-rationalist, anti-scientific, anti-technical, is to be dismissed. Quite a few years ago I published an article entitled “To put an end to Heidegger” which ended with these sentences: “Can we do without Heidegger? The answer is yes. Should we? The answer is yes “. Since then, I have avoided going back to it.
Can you explain to us why the van gogh shoes are for the latter the best definition of art?
Roger-Pol Right: Because the indigence of this same thinker makes him believe that shoes tell the walk, which is the degree zero of the definition of art. On the contrary, it seems to me that walking is infinitely more present in non-figurative and apparently static works like those of Rothko, Barnett Newman or Robert Motherwell, for example.
Derrida says of the structure of the “step”, that it cancels itself out by crossing itself, alters itself by preserving its beyond, that walking and negation become contaminated in the movement of language. Is this an idea that satisfies you?
Roger-Pol Right: I can’t say, because I admit I don’t quite understand what that means, apart from a pun on “not”. If it is a question of suggesting that walking is always a forward movement, a suspense which never ceases to erase itself and never freezes, then it seems to me that this idea of a continued imbalance which moving forward applies as much to the steps of our legs and to the reflections pursued step by step as to the words that we utter.
Alexandre Gilbert, director of the Chappe gallery writes for the Times of Israel, and LIRE Literary Magazine.