Victor Cousin: (1792-1867), a French philosopher known for "eclecticism," considered himself a follower of Descartes, Locke, and Kant. He insisted that his philosophical methd, which that emphasized observation, analysis, and induction, applied to both consciousness and experiences and was the only way of doing philosophy. Cousn who was born in Paris, studied at Lycée Charlemagne until the age of eighteen and then taught at the École Normale in Paris, where he became known for his Latin orations and knowledge of Greek.

Abel-Francois Villemain (1790-1870), a French politician and writer, was born in Paris, educated at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, became assistant master at Lycée Charlemagne, and later at the École Normale of Paris. He was then appointed professor of French eloquence at the Sorbonne, where he delivered a series of literary lectures that greatly influenced his young contemporaries, particularly many of the generation's scholars, but his reputation declined in his later years.

Cousin and Villemain were two of the only academics at the time who achieved considerable fame and success beyond the University. Villemain sometimes had an audience of more than one thousand at his lectures, about which debate and criticism often appeared in the press. After the death of Louis XVIII, France's very conservative governmenr removed Villemain from his teaching position, and Cousin's courses were suspended. After th revoution of 1830, Villemain was named Minister of Public Instruction. He took this position again in 1841 after Cousin held it in 1840. Cousin and Villemain represented the way in which the university, humanities, and politics merged in nineteenth-century France.

In "Signs of the Times" Carlyle uses Cousin and Villemain as a contrast to the great philosophers of the seventeenth century, such as Descartes and Pascal. He uses the example of them to demonstrate the way in which philosophy has diminished in most of Europe, leaving only a few relatively obscure thinkers.


Brewer, Daniel. The Enlightement Past: Reconstructing Eighteenth-Century French Thought. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. 127-136.

"Abel Franois Villemain." Wikipedia. Viewed 30 March 2009.

"Victor Cousin." Wikipedia. Viewed 30 March 2009.

Last modified 30 March 2009