Brunschvicg, Léon

Brunschvicg, Léon

(lāôN` brün`shvēk), 1869–1944, French philosopher, b. Paris. From 1909 until his death he taught at the Sorbonne. Brunschvicg's philosophy, which has had considerable influence on modern European thought, is usually called critical idealism. He extended the teachings of Kant and Hegel and also drew upon Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, and Pascal. He regarded mathematics as the highest level yet reached by human thought and maintained that judgment preceded all other activities of the mind. For Brunschvicg, God was whatever enables us to live the life of the spirit. His principal works are La Modalité du jugement (1897); Les Étapes de la philosophie mathématique (1912); Le Progrès de la conscience dans la philosophie occidentale (2 vol., 1927); and La Raison et la religion (1939).

Brunschvicg, Léon


Born Nov. 10, 1869, in Paris; died there Feb. 18, 1944. French philosopher. Representative of so-called critical rationalism. From 1909 a professor at the Sorbonne.

Brunschvicg asserted the need to introduce the scientific method into philosophy in The Modality of Judgment (1897). However, for Brunschvicg, who had been influenced by the transcendental idealism of I. Kant, the scientific method (science) was the activity of reason, which is independent of the objective world, and which itself establishes the principles of its movement. These ideas were set forth in Introduction to the Life of the Spirit (1900). Brunschvicg, furthermore, was naively and optimistically convinced that the development of scientific knowledge ensures moral progress. According to Brunschvicg, reason, which gradually passes from direct perception of the external traits of reality to an ever more profound knowledge of its essence, also has an ethical function, leading toward refinement of conscience and recognition of moral autonomy as well as other spiritual values.


Les Progrès de la conscience dans la philosophic occidentale. Paris, 1927.
Les Étapes de la philosophic mathématique, 3rd ed. Paris, 1929.
La Raison et la religion. Paris, 1939.


Deschoux, M. La Philosophic de L. Brunschvicg. Paris, 1949.