The Times’ Paris correspondent Charles Bremner is in gleeful mood this morning recounting the woes of famous French philosopher Bernard-Herni Lévy. “BHL” as he is known is “the laughing stock of the Left Bank” having referenced a philosopher who does not exist in his latest book.
“Existential problem of the philosopher who did not exist,” says the Timesheadline and indeed Bernard-Henri Lévy might be going through an existential crisis after a massive gaffe in his new book “On War in Philosophy”. France’s most dashing philosopher took aim at Immanuel Kant calling him “raving mad” and a “fake” in his new book and to support his attack, he cited a little-known 20th century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul.
The problem: Botul was invented by a journalist in 1999 as an elaborate joke. He even has a Wikipedia page which explains that he is a “fictional French philosopher.” Yet Lévy referred to Botul’s faked book “The Sex Life of Emmanuel Kant” saying the fictitious philosopher had proved once and for all “just after the Second World War in his series of lectures to the neo-Kantians of Paraguay that their hero was an abstract fake, a pure spirit of pure appearance.”
Aude Lancelin, a journalist at Le Nouvel Observateur, says that this was a “nuclear gaffe that raises questions about Lévy’s methods.”
She said she burst out laughing when she read the extracts from the book. Indeed, it is a particularly embarrassing episode for the prominent thinker who was a founding member of the “nouvelles philosophes” movement in the 1970s and is a regular guest on French television talk shows.