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Jean Cavaillès

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Title: Jean Cavaillès  
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Subject: Libération-sud, Protestant philosophers, Heroes of the Resistance, Recipients of the Resistance Medal, Pierre Brossolette
Collection: 1903 Births, 1944 Deaths, 20Th-Century French Philosophers, 20Th-Century Mathematicians, Chevaliers of the Légion D'Honneur, Deaths by Firearm in France, École Normale Supérieure Alumni, Executed People from Poitou-Charentes, French Logicians, French Male Writers, French People Executed by Firing Squad, French People Executed by Nazi Germany, French Protestants, French Resistance Members, Members of Liberation-Sud, Officers of the Order of the Crown (Belgium), People Executed by Germany by Firing Squad, People from Niort, Philosophers of Mathematics, Protestant Philosophers, Recipients of the Croix De Guerre 1939–1945 (France), Recipients of the Médaille De La Résistance, Recipients of the Resistance Medal, Resistance Members Killed by Nazi Germany, University of Paris Alumni, University of Strasbourg Faculty
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Jean Cavaillès

Jean Cavaillès
Born (1903-05-15)May 15, 1903
Died February 17, 1944(1944-02-17) (aged 40)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of mathematics
Notable ideas
Dialectique du concept

Jean Cavaillès (French: ; May 15, 1903 – February 17, 1944), was a French philosopher and mathematician, specialized in philosophy of science. He took part in the French Resistance within the Libération movement and was shot by the Gestapo on February 17, 1944.


  • Early Life and Education 1
  • World War II 2
  • Legacy 3
    • Military honours 3.1
  • Works 4
  • Critical bibliography 5
  • Film 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early Life and Education

Cavaillès was born in Saint-Maixent, Deux-Sèvres. After a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, he integrated the École Normale Supérieure in 1923, lecturing philosophy. In 1927 he successfully passed the agrégation competitive exam. He began graduate studies in Philosophy in 1928. Cavaillès won a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship in 1929-1930. He was teaching assistant at the École Normale Supérieure between 1929 and 1935, then teacher at an Amiens lycée in 1936. In 1937, he successfully defended his doctoral theses and became a Doctor of Letters in Philosophy. He then became a lecturer in General and Logical Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Strasbourg.

World War II

After the outbreaks of World War II, he was mobilized in 1939 as an infantry lieutenant with the 43rd Regiment, and was later attached to the Staff of the 4th Colonial Division. He was honoured for bravery twice, and was captured on June 11, 1940. At the end of July 1940 he escaped from Belgium and fled to Clermont-Ferrand, where the university of Strasbourg was re-organized.

At the end of December 1940, he met Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, with whom he created a small group of resistance fighters, known as "the Last Column". To reach a broader audience, it was decided to create a newspaper, which was to become Libération, the mouthpiece of both Libération-Sud and Libération-Nord. Cavaillès took an active part in editing the paper. The first edition appeared in July 1941.

He was appointed professor at the Sorbonne in 1941, and left Clermont-Ferrand for Paris, where he helped form the Libération-Nord resistance group, becoming part of its management committee.

In April 1942, at the instigation of Christian Pineau, the central Office of Information and Action (BCRA) of London charged him with the task of forming an intelligence network in the Northern Zone, known as "Cohors". He was ordered by Christian Pineau to pass into the Southern Zone, and Cavaillès headed the network and formed similar groups in Belgium and the north of France.

In Charles Ehresmann under the title Sur la logique et la theorie de la science.

Denounced as a public enemy by the Vichy regime, and sought by the police, he fled clandestinely to London in February 1943. There he met General Charles de Gaulle on several occasions.

Back in France on April 15 he resigned from the management Committee of the Libération movement in order to dedicate himself entirely to direct action. He was in charge of the sabotage of the stores of the Kriegsmarine in Brittany and German radio installations on the coast.

Betrayed by one of his liaison officers, he was arrested on August 28, 1943 in Paris with his sister and her brother-in-law. Tortured, imprisoned in Fresnes then in Compiègne, he was transferred to the Citadel from Arras and was shot on February 17, 1944. Buried in Arras under a wooden cross marked "unknown n°5", his body was exhumed in 1946 to be buried in the Crypt in the Sorbonne, in Paris.


The 'Centre Cavaillès de l'Georges Canguilhem said:

A philosopher-mathematician loaded with explosives, lucid and reckless, resolute without optimism. If that's not a hero, what is a hero?
Un philosophe mathématicien bourré d'explosifs, un lucide téméraire, un résolu sans optimisme. Si ce n'est pas un héros, qu'est-ce qu'un héros?[2]

Cavaillès is one of twenty-six Resistance members to be featured in the Heroes of the Resistance postage stamp set.

Military honours


  • Briefwechsel Cantor-Dedekind, hrsg. von E. Noether und J. Cavaillès, Paris, Hermann, 1937.
  • Axiomatic method and formalism, Paris, Hermann, 1938.
  • Remarks on the formation of the abstract set theory, Paris, Hermann, 1938.
  • Philosophical tests, Paris, Hermann, 1939
  • "Of the collective with the bet", Review of metaphysics and morals, XLVII, 1940, pp. 139–163.
  • "The mathematical thought", discussion with Albert Lautman (February 4, 1939), Bulletin of the French Company of philosophy, T. XL, 1946.
  • Transfinite and continuous, Paris, Hermann, 1947.
  • On the Logic and the theory of science, Paris, PUF, 1947.
  • Complete works of philosophy of sciences, Paris, Hermann, 1994.

Critical bibliography

  • Canguilhem, Georges. Life and death of Jean Cavaillès, Paris: Allia, 1996
  • Cassou-Noguès, Pierre. Of the mathematical experiment: test on the philosophy of sciences of Jean Cavaillès, Paris: Vrin, 2001
  • Azema, Jean-Pierre and Aglan, Alya. Jean Cavaillès – Resisting or the thought in acts, Paris, Flammarion, 2002
  • Gabrielle, Jean. Cavaillès: a philosopher in the war, 1903–1944, Paris: Félin, 2003



  1. ^ Joseph W. Dauben and Christoph J. Scriba (eds.), Writing the History of Mathematics – Its Historical Development, 2002, p. 33.
  2. ^ Georges Canguihem, Vie et mort de Jean Cavaillès, Paris: Éditions Allia, 2004, p. 35.

External links

  • Ordre de la Libération at
  • Jean Cavaillès. The philosophy of the concept today _Congrès 2004 Jean Cavaillès
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