Saturday, 20 June 2009

Le Bac Philo - sit down with an exam question and wax philosophical

Last Thursday all those taking the baccalaureate in France sat the philosophy exam with which the "le bac" traditionally begins. It provides some diversion for conversation at dining tables around the country at this time of year and tends to be seen as one of the more difficult parts of le bac.
Marc Vernon
over on Philosophy and Life provides these translations of the choice of questions from this year's philosophy baccalaureate in France

  • What is gained by exchange?
  • Does technological development transform mankind?
  • Is it absurd to desire the impossible?
  • Are there questions which no science can answer?
  • Does objectivity in history suppose impartiality in the historian?
  • Does language betray thought?
Not sure I quite agree with this rendering of number 2 on that list - I tend to think that "les hommes" sexist as it is in French - should probably be rendered by a plural into English and I would probably choose human beings. There is a subtle but important difference between humankind (l'homme) and human beings (les hommes) which may be quite important in a philosophy exam, perhaps so as to argue that because technological development can transform human beings it may also transform humankind.
However all this goes to show that I would almost certainly have chosen to try to wax philosophical on Does language betray thought? All of these discourses on "l'homme" couldn't possibly betray any layers of sexism could they now, rendering "la femme" invisible linguistically betrays nothing at all.
You can read the full list for the sujet du bac by clicking on the link, one of the alternatives is to comment a text by Schophenhauer - translated into French of course.