Philosophy and history
  • Interview with Pierre Bouretz — Directeur d'études — EHESS (Cespra)
Jean-Frédéric Schaub — Directeur d'études — EHESS (MOAM)
Was Max Weber also a philosopher? Pierre Bouretz shows that Max Weber defended a disenchanted vision of the world, inherited from nihilism. If it is no longer possible to posit a different world, as Kant had done, then this world needed describing as it is. This marked the birth of the social sciences. Consequently, how may the philosophy of history and philosophy of law be used to feed enquiry into the issue of normativity? How may historical practice tackle philosophical issues in the manner of Léo Strauss, drawing on intimate philosophical knowledge?
One life, one research itinerary.
Interview published on 07-04-2018
Last modified on 10-25-2022
Original language: English Lire la version French
  • Biography
  • Bibliography of Pierre Bouretz
  • Interview’s bibliography

Pierre Bouretz is a philosopher and director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He is a specialist in the philosophical history of philosophy. After studying philosophy at Lille University, he graduated from the Paris Institut d’Études Politiques in 1983, where Jean Leca supervised his doctorate, which he obtained in 1994.

His doctoral thesis provided a philosophical reading of Max Weber, situated in the intellectual universe of the time, influenced by German philosophy.

He then examined the history of French republicanism, presented as a universal phenomenon, a characteristic that German romanticism and the English Enlightenment both dispute.

His ideas on Max Weber led him to examine Weber's position from two perspectives, namely the philosophy of law and the philosophy of history. He has worked on the possibility – which he regards Weber as having shut off – of re-opening the horizon of normativity in the wake of Habermas and Rawls, and has edited a multi-authored work on the topic, La Force du droit.

In the philosophy of history, he has examined this disappearance of the horizon of the future beyond the world as it, drawing on the thought of philosophers who lived through the secularization of the Jewish world in German lands, and who were strongly influenced by Judaic thought and Messianism even. His book Witnesses for the Future goes over the thought of Hermann Cohen, Emmanuel Lévinas, Ernst Bloch, Leo Strauss, Franz Rosenzweig, Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, and Hans Jonas.

He has also studied Hannah Arendt's work, looking at the first French edition of her book on totalitarianism, that he edited for the Gallimard Quarto collection, and analyzing her notebooks. Recently his research has examined the history of medieval philosophy in the Jewish and Arab worlds. He has published a book about Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher from Cordoba.

Lumières du Moyen Âge: Maïmonide philosophe, Paris, Gallimard, 2015.

“Avec et contre Léo Strauss: les Lumières médiévales entre ésotérisme et ‘philosophie populaire’”, in D. Cohen-Levinas (ed.), La Pensée juive, Paris, Collège des Bernardins, 2014, p. 35-52.

“Jeunesses berlinoises. Walter Benjamin et Gershom Scholem (1915-1923)”, Europe, 91e année, n° 1008, avril 2013, p. 34-46.

Witnesses for the Future. Philosophy and Messianism [2003], Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Les Lumières du messianisme, Paris, Hermann, 2008.

Qu’appelle-t-on philosopher?, Paris, Gallimard, 2006.

La République et l’universel, Paris, Gallimard, 2000.

Les Promesses du monde. Philosophie de Max Weber, Paris, Gallimard, 1996.

(ed.), La Force du droit : panorama des débats contemporains, Éditions Esprit, 1991.

Hannah Arendt, Les Origines du totalitarisme et Eichmann à Jérusalem [1951 and 1963], Paris, Gallimard, 2002.

Louis Dumont, Homo aequalis II: L'idéologie allemande. France-Allemagne et retour, Paris, Gallimard, 1991.

Marcel Gauchet, Le Désenchantement du monde. Une histoire politique de la religion, Paris, Gallimard, 1985.

Jürgen Habermas, Écrits politiques: culture, droit, histoire, Paris, Cerf, 1990.

Immanuel Kant, Vers la paix perpétuelle: un projet philosophique [1795], Paris, Librairie Philosophique Vrin, 2007.

John Rawls, Théorie de la justice [1971], Paris, Le Seuil, 1987.

Max Weber, Œuvres Politiques (1895-1919), Paris, Albin Michel, 2004.