Jacques Bouveresse ([buvʁɛs]; born August 20, 1940) is a philosopher who has written on subjects including Ludwig Wittgenstein, Robert Musil, Karl Kraus, philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophy of mathematics and analytical philosophy. Bouveresse has been called "an avis rara among the better known French philosophers in his championing of critical standards of thought."
He is now Emeritus Professor at the Collège de France where until 2010 he held the chair of philosophy of language and epistemology. His disciple Claudine Tiercelin was appointed to a chair of metaphysics and philosophy of knowledge upon his retirement.
Born on 20 August 1940 in Épenoy in the Doubs département of France into a farming family, Jacques Bouveresse completed his secondary education at the seminary of Besançon. He spent two years of preparation for the baccalauréat in philosophy and scholastic theology at Faverney in Haute-Saône. He followed his preparatory literary classes at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, and in 1961 entered the École normale supérieure in Paris.
He presented his doctoral thesis in philosophy on Wittgenstein, entitled "Le mythe de l'intériorité. Expérience, signification et langage privé chez Wittgenstein" .
Beginning with his earliest works, he has consistently constructed his own philosophical and intellectual path, without following the normal routes and modes of academia. In 1976, Wittgenstein was practically unknown in France, as were Musil and the logic and analytical philosophy which he had begun to study in the 1960s. These two last domains notably propelled him towards the lectures of Jules Vuillemin and Gilles Gaston Granger, who at the time were practically alone in occupying themselves with these problems, and with whom he has maintained a lasting friendship.
Academic career :1966–1969 : Assistant to the Section de Philosophie of the Sorbonne (teaching logic)
1969–1971 : Maître-Assistant to the UER de Philosophie of the Université Paris I
1971–1975 : Attached to the CNRS
1975–1979 : Maître de Conférences at the Université Paris I
1979–1983 : Professor at the University of Geneva
1983–1995 : Professor at the University of Paris
From 1995 : Professor at the Collège de France in the chair of philosophie du langage et de la connaissance.
Bouveresse's philosophy is a continuation of the intellectual and philosophical tradition of central Europe (Brentano, Boltzmann, Helmholtz, Frege, the Vienna Circle, Kurt Gödel). His philosophical programme is in nearly all respects similar to the one conducted by many present day Analytic Philosophers.
Jacques Bouveresse is interested in the thought of the early 20th-century Austrian novelist Robert Musil (who wrote a thesis on philosophy), famous for his novel The Man Without Qualities, as well as the aversion/fascination with which Paul Valéry regarded philosophy.
Apart from his work on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Bouveresse is interested in the incompleteness theorems of Kurt Gödel and their philosophical consequences. It is on this account that he has attacked, in a popular work Prodiges et vertiges de l'analogie, the use made of these theorems by Régis Debray. Bouveresse denounces the literary distortion of a scientific concept for the purpose of a thesis. This distortion, according to him, has no other purpose than to overwhelm a readership which lacks the training necessary to comprehend such complex theorems. Bouveresse's reproach to Debray is not that he uses a scientific concept for the purpose of an analogy, but that he uses such a difficult to understand theorem in the attempt to provide an absolute justification in the form of the classic sophism of the argument from authority.
According to Bouveresse, the incompleteness of a formal system which applies to certain mathematical systems in no way implies the incompleteness of sociology, which is not a formal system.