Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Montaignian Meditations

Zahi Zalloua


In Pascalian Meditations, Pierre Bourdieu counters Husserl’s disembodied, solipsistic Cartesian
subjectivity with his well-known notion of habitus—that is, the self as embodied history, a history internalized
as second nature and thus forgotten as history. Bourdieu turns to Blaise Pascal—the great anti-Cartesian—not
only for inspiration but in order to establish a new interpretive ethos that transcends the seemingly intractable
dilemma between objectivism and subjectivism. Bourdieu credits his predecessor with refusing to perpetuate
philosophy’s self-blindness, exposing the subject of philosophy’s wretched condition, its mixture of reason and
affect. This article looks to Michel de Montaigne as an alternative to Bourdieu’s own Pascalian counter-model.
This effort is not so much a critique of Bourdieu’s Pascalian model as an attempt to pursue a different type of
critical dialogue with philosophy. If Bourdieu’s Pascalian alternative runs the risk of severing dialogue with
contemporary philosophy, transforming Descartes’ solipsistic meditations into sociological meditations on
symbolic power, Montaignian meditations are more hospitable to and yet not any less critical of philosophical
thinking—be it ancient, humanist or contemporary.

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