204: The French Way of Thinking.

The French way of thinking is a matter of substance, but also style. This is most notably reflected in the emphasis on rhetorical elegance and analytical lucidity, often claimed to stem from the very properties of the French language: ‘What is not clear,’ affirmed the writer Antoine de Rivarol in 1784, somewhat ambitiously, ‘is not French.’ Typically French, too, is a questioning and adversarial tendency, also arising from Descartes’ skeptical method. The historian Jules Michelet summed up this French trait in the following way: ‘We gossip, we quarrel, we expend our energy in words; we use strong language, and fly into great rages over the smallest of subjects.’ A British Army manual issued before the Normandy landings in 1944 sounded this warning about the cultural habits of the natives: ‘By and large, Frenchmen enjoy intellectual argument more than we do. You will often think that two Frenchmen are having a violent quarrel when they are simply arguing about some abstract point.’

(Sudhir Hazareesingh, “The Dimming of the Light,” Aeon, September 22, 2015).

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204: The French Way of Thinking.