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Lacan, Jacques (1901-1981)

French psychoanalyst whose The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis (1959) modified Freudian psychology's analysis of human sexuality by proposing that the individual unconscious is represented most accurately in linguistic and rhetorical structures like metonymy and metaphor, which disrupt the flow of ordinary communication and reveal a repressed message. Relying upon the imaginary and the symbolic, Lacan supposed, each person endeavors to establish not only working relationships with other people but also some accomodation with the insatiable desires of the Other, expressed in dreams. Lacan's analytic theory and practice, as expressed in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1960) and The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1964), were an influence (both positive and negative) on the philosophical work of Foucault, Derrida, and Irigaray.

Recommended Reading: Jacques Lacan, On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and Knowledge, ed. by Jacques-Alain Miller (Norton, 1999); Joel Dor, Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious Structured Like a Language (Other Press, 1998); Introducing Lacan, ed. by Darian Leader, Judy Groves, and Richard Appignanesi (Totem, 2000); Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan, tr. by Barbara Bray (Columbia, 1999); Richard Boothby, Freud as Philosopher: Metapsychology after Lacan (Routledge, 2001); Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 1996); and Yannis Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (Routledge, 1999).

Also see EB and ELC.


French vocative phrase meaning "Allow to do!" Hence, in political philosophy and economics, a presumption against the desirability of governmental interference with the natural order of society in general and with the conduct of free trade in particular.

Recommended Reading: Rajani Kannepalli Kanth, Political Economy and Laissez Faire: Economics and Ideology in the Ricardian Era (Rowman & Littlefield, 1986) and Gilbert Faccarello, Foundations of 'Laissez-Faire' (Routledge, 1999).

Also see EB.

Lakatos, Imre (1922-1974)

Hungarian-British philosopher of science. In Proofs and Refutations (1976) Lakatos applied Popper's account of scientific falsifiability to mathematical reasoning as well. Sharing Polya's emphasis on the role of heuristic methods, Lakatos regarded mathematical proof as an invitation to objection and criticism.

Recommended Reading: Imre Lakatos, For and Against Method, ed. by Matteo Motterlini (Chicago, 2000); Imre Lakatos, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, ed. by J. Worrall and Gregory Currie (Cambridge, 1980); Imre Lakatos, Mathematics, Science and Epistemology, ed. by J. Worrall and Gregory Currie (Cambridge, 1988); John David Kadvany, Imre Lakatos and the Guises of Reason (Duke, 2001); and Brendan Larvor, Lakatos: An Introduction (Routledge, 1998).

Also see SEP and ELC.

Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste de Monet, Chevalier de (1744-1829)

French biologist; author of Flore français (French Flora) (1773) and Philosophie zoologique (Zoology) (1809). Lamarck's study of invertebrates in Histoire des animaux sans vertèbres (Natural History of Invertebrate Animals) (1822) led to the conviction that species evolve through the hereditary transmission of acquired traits, by means of which species perfect their adaptation to their environment in an optimal fashion.

Recommended Reading: Alpheus Packard, Lamarck: The Founder of Evolution (Ayer, 1980); L.J. Jordanova, Lamarck (Oxford, 1984); and Richard W. Burkhardt, The Spirit of System: Lamarck and Evolutionary Biology (Belknap, 1995).

Also see EB and WSB.

La Mettrie, Julien Offray de (1709-1751)
La Mettrie

French physician and philosopher who offered a materialistic account of human nature. Rejecting Cartesian dualism, La Mettrie explained mental activity by reference to physiology in Histoire naturelle de l'âme (Natural History of the Soul) (1745) and then explained physiology in purely mechanistic terms in his L'homme machine (Man a Machine) (1747). On this view, human conduct inevitably flows from physical causes, leaving no grounds for free will or moral responsibility. The Cartesians were correct when they regarded all animal behavior as emerging from soulless machines, La Mettrie maintained, but the same explanation will also account for human behavior.

Recommended Reading: Julien Offray de La Mettrie, Machine Man and Other Writings, ed. by Ann Thomson (Cambridge, 1996).

Also see Bernd A. Laska, EB, and WSB.

Langer, Susanne (1895-1985)

American philosopher, author of Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling (1967, 1972, 1982). Extrapolating from the methods of Ernst Cassirer, Langer used aesthetic analysis of music as the starting point for her comprehensive account of human emotions that cannot be adequately expressed by language, in Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (1942) and Feeling and Form (1953).

Also see EB

Laplace, Pierre Simon de (1749-1827)

French mathematician and philosopher noted for his defense of strict determinism in the mechanical operation of the universe, independently of divine intervention in Traité de la mécanique céleste (On Celestial Mechanics) (1799-1826). Complete knowledge of the position and velocity of every particle in the universe, together with straightforward application of Newtonian mechanics would permit perfect prediction of every future event. Since we lack such knowledge, however, Laplace developed and applied relatively modern methods for the calculation of the probability of natural events in Théorie analytique des probabilités (Analytic Theory of Probabilities) (1812) and Essai philosophique sur les probabilités (Philosophical Essay on Probabilities) (1814).

Recommended Reading: Charles Coulston Gillispie, Ivor Grattan-Guinness, and Robert Fox, Pierre-Simon Laplace, 1749-1827 (Princeton, 2000).

Also see David Wilkins, WSB, EB, and MMT.

Le Dœuff, Michèle (1948- )
Le Doeuff

French philosopher; translator of Shakespeare. In Recherches sur l'Imaginaire Philosophique (The Philosophical Imaginary) (1980), she examines the use of imagery in the philosophical texts of More, Bacon, and Descartes. Le Dœuff points out that feminist criticism of gender categories demonstrates the susceptibility of purportedly objective philosophical discourse to social and political power in L'Étude et le rouet (Hipparchia's Choice) (1991).

Recommended Reading: Michele Le Doeuff: Operative Philosophy and Imaginary Practice, ed. by Max Deutscher (Humanity, 2001) and Joan Nordquist, French Feminist Theory II: Michele Le Doeuff, Monique Wittig, Catherine Clement: A Bibliography (Reference & Research, 1993).

legal positivism

Belief that the laws of a society express nothing other than the will of the sovereign that legislates them. Thus, in opposition natural law theory, legal positivist John Austin denied that the law is in grounded upon any higher morality.

Recommended Reading: John Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (Prometheus, 2000); Anthony James Sebok, Legal Positivism in American Jurisprudence (Cambridge, 1998); and The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism, ed. by Robert P. George (Oxford, 1999).

Also see SEP and IEP.

Lehrer, Keith (1936- )

American philosopher. In Knowledge (1979) and Theory of Knowledge (1990), Lehrer defends a coherence theory of knowledge, according to which beliefs are accepted in virtue of our preference for their satisfaction. Lehrer's Metamind (1990) and Self-Trust: A Study of Reason, Knowledge, and Autonomy (1997) ground this position on a comprehensive view of the self-reflective nature of all human intellectual activity.

Recommended Reading: Metamind, Knowledge, and Coherence: Essays on the Philosophy of Keith Lehrer, ed. by Johannes Brandl, Wolfgang Gombocz, and Christian Piller (Rodopi, 1992) and The Current State of the Coherence Theory: Critical Essays on the Epistemic Theories of Keith Lehrer and Laurence Bonjour, With Replies, ed. by John W. Bender (Kluwer, 1989).


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