“Universalist, I have been since the beginning of my intellectual life”

Ihe Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, appointed on April 13, five new members to the Council of Elders of Secularism and Values ​​of the Republic (plus a sixth, shortly after). The intention, obviously, was to diversify the points of view on an issue that lends itself to a strong interpretative plurality.

Who, from a democratic point of view, could regret it? It was therefore difficult to imagine the turmoil that, essentially, my appointment caused. Beyond my person, the relentlessness in transforming my positions to better condemn them worries about the state of the public debate.

It cannot, of course, be denied that my conception of secularism is significantly different from that of the majority of the members of the council, installed in 2018 by Jean-Michel Blanquer, then Minister of National Education. Nevertheless, in my mind, this difference stems from what are usually called “reasonable disagreements”, those which bear not on the principles, but on the hierarchy, which can be revised according to the circumstances.

This is by no means how a certain press, little attentive to the concern for complexity, as well as some intellectuals have presented my theoretical commitments. You really have to not read the texts (or not understand them: I don’t know what the most serious intellectual vice is) to affirm that Minister Pap Ndiaye, who is the real target of this reactionary offensive, wanted a seat in said body an anti-universalist, favorable to multiculturalism, even to communitarianism, and to so-called secularism of cooperation, as it is practiced in Anglo-Saxon countries. However, unless you imagine that my work does not express my real intentions, I do not correspond on any point to this malevolent portrait.

Alternative “Truths”

Universalist, I have been since the beginning of my intellectual life. Besides, I wouldn’t know how to orient myself in thought without this comp. From my first works, even before teaching at the university, I undertook to research what could constitute the universal concepts applicable to all the individuals of the same species, in other words the universals. A substantial universalism must, in my view, be based on the fact that there are structures of thought that are transcendent and common to all cultures.

Difficult then to instruct a lawsuit in anti-universalism! It is however, undoubtedly on the basis of the title of a book, Universalism on trial (Le Bord de l’eau, 2021), which has not been read, that my critics do not hesitate to state such an untruth, sometimes going so far as to make four of the new members co-accused. These “readers” in a hurry therefore allow themselves to expose alternative “truths”.

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