Lucien Lévy-Bruhl

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Lévy-Bruhl, Lucien


Born Apr. 10, 1857, in Paris; died there Mar. 13, 1939. French philosopher and positivist psychologist whose views were close to those of the sociological school of E. Durkheim.

Lévy-Bruhl is best known for his theory of primitive “prelogical” thinking. He opposed the views of E. Tylor and other evolutionists who held that primitive human beings (”the philosophizing savage”) thought just as logically as modern-day people. Lévy-Bruhl maintained that in primitive societies, “collective representations” (a concept developed by the Durkheim school), differing in principle from individual ideas, predominate.

According to Lévy-Bruhl, prelogical thinking, which is related to collective representations, is governed not by logical laws of identity, contradiction, and so forth, but by the law of participation. Although Lévy-Bruhl thought that different types of thinking are characteristic of different social structures, he did not feel that prelogical thinking was characteristic of backward peoples alone: in his personal experience, “primitive man” acts and thinks like modern man. On the other hand, even in contemporary life there are phenomena (religion and ethics) that reflect collective representations, which are characterized by the principle of participation, and the inapplicability of logical laws.

Although somewhat sketchy and one-sided, Lévy-Bruhl’s views are of interest as an attempt to study historical changes in the psychology of thinking.


Les Fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures, 6th ed. Paris, 1922.
In Russian translation:
Pervobytnoe myshlenie. Moscow, 1930.
Sverkh “estestvennoe v pervobytnom myshlenii. Moscow, 1937.


References in periodicals archive ?
En faisant front commun avec l'lnstitut ethnologique de la Sorbonne, cree en 1925, que preside Lucien Levy-Bruhl et ou il enseigne aux cotes de Marcel Mauss ou du prehistorien Henri Breuil, Rivet donne une assise perenne aux nouvelles sciences humaines.
Ritual mimetism, as Lucien Levy-Bruhl remarks, derives from a well-rooted pattern of "prelogical" mentality: the image is consubstantial with the original and vice versa (13).
Although, the keynote of Gilson's philosophy is certainly Thomistic, Gilson incorporated insights from thinkers as diverse as Henri Bergson, Dante, Erasmus, Lucien Levy-Bruhl, Bonaventure, and Blaise Pascal.
Constant references to Lucien Levy-Bruhl and Charles Blondel underscored their pronouncement of the Algerian as "psychically entirely other.
Particularly interesting to the author is the early work of Lucien Levy-Bruhl, who jettisoned concepts of universal human nature and moral absolutes.