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Boutroux, Émile (1845–1921)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The French philosopher Émile Boutroux wanted to reestablish metaphysics in the face of a growing tendency towards materialism, but without rejecting the natural sciences. He hoped to achieve this by showing that only an immaterial mind that is a free and final cause of everything that is determined can give an absolute foundation to the sciences and to nature. Scientific determinism, according to which all phenomena are governed by mathematical necessities, is not incompatible with freedom. Indeed, the contingency of things and of human reason, which one sees in scientific experience, shows that the mind is free; it is therefore only mind which can give a determined existence to things and necessity to scientific explanations. In trying to reconcile metaphysics and science through a philosophy of nature, Boutroux represents a major turning point in French spiritualism, foreshadowing not only Bergson but also Bachelard.

Citing this article:
Gil, Didier. Boutroux, Émile (1845–1921), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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