As Bernard-Henri Levy Could Tell You, The French Word For Schadenfreude is Schadenfreude[*]


Celebrated tuxedo-shirt-wearing philosopher, one-time Reason cover beefcake, human rights activist, and Roman Polanski defender and Christmas greeting amanuensis Bernard-Henri Levy has stepped in some real deep merde regarding a recent attack on Immanuel Kant.

When France's most dashing philosopher took aim at Immanuel Kant in his latest book, calling him "raving mad" and a "fake", his observations were greeted with the usual adulation. To support his attack, Bernard-Henri Lévy — a showman-penseur known simply by his initials, BHL — cited the little-known 20th-century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul.

There was one problem: Botul was invented by a journalist in 1999 as an elaborate joke, and BHL has become the laughing stock of the Left Bank….

Mr Lévy, a leader among the nouveaux philosophes school of the 1970s, was unaware. In On War in Philosophy, he writes that Botul 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".

Read the whole thing in (London) Times Online here. on BHL (read especially Michael Moynihan's "The God That Flails.")

Hat tip: Margaret Griffis.

[*] Translation courtesy of Babel Fish, which like Botul is probably an elaborate hoax.

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  1. Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?
    Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.
    Dole Office Clerk: What?
    Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
    Dole Office Clerk: Oh, a bullshit artist. Did you bullshit last week?
    Comicus: No.
    Dole Office Clerk: Did you try to bullshit last week?
    Comicus: Yes!

    1. And then there’s Fraud!

    2. Empress Nympho: Say Bob, do I have any openings that this man might fit?
      Crowd: Whooooaaaaaaa!
      Bob: Well, we could use another wine steward.
      Josephus: I got a great corkscrew!
      Crowd: Whoooaaaaaaa!
      Josephus: Damn, this a hip crowd!

  2. Oh WOw, I never really thought about it that way before.


    1. This reminds of the time I cited anonymity-bot in my Masters thesis.

      1. + EVERYTHING!

        1. Bravo, Hugh Akston. Really, bravo, old bean.

  3. When France’s most dashing philosopher took aim at Immanuel Kant in his latest book

    Kant has a new book? That includes immanent critique? Fordmide!

  4. France’s most dashing philosopher…

    …was punked big time. At least his cig makes him look cool.

    1. Does self-punking really count as punking?

    2. Is the pic of his cig third or fourth hand smoke?

      1. In my expert and peer-reviewed opinion, it is just the same as seeing a cigarette in a movie, so fifth-hand.

        But, since it is a real person actually smoking, it probably could be considered third-hand. Especially if that old Reason cover was scratch n’ sniff.

        1. Is it just to the first power? I think an exponent is in order here, but I defer to the expert.

      2. dan’t look at it you’ll get cancer!

        1. DoHn’t

          1. It seems odd to resolve the typo by inserting a letter that doesn’t belong and then emphasizing it. Interesting technique.

            You might have just gone for “dOn’t”.

            1. doh! stupid keyboard

              1. A craftsman never blames his tools for his failings.

      3. Fourth.

  5. A poncey French philosopher cites a fake French philosopher to undermine an incomprehensible German lunatic/philosopher?

    Oh boy, it must be a slow news day.

    1. You must be psychic. Take a peek at the Net Neutrality thread.

  6. L?vy is, with his third wife, a regular fixture in Paris Match magazine, wearing his trademark unbuttoned white shirts and designer suits. L?vy’s reputation for narcissism is legendary. One article about him coined the dictum, “God is dead but my hair is perfect.”

    I want that t-shirt.

    1. ‘God is dead, and I haven’t been feeling so good myself.’

      (apologies to Lewis Grizzard)

      1. Apology not accepted.

          1. He is/was one of my favorites living or dead.

    2. I have that one. I got it from Nietzsche. I also have one that says “THUS SPRAK YO MOMMA”.

      1. I have a Nietzsche beanie-baby doll. He glowers from atop the liquor cabinet.

        “The two great European narcotics: Alcohol and Christianity.”

  7. He should have cited Ayn Rand. She was real, as far as I know.

    1. You may also find it hard to believe that anyone could advocate the things Kant is advocating. If you doubt it, I suggest that you look up the references given and read the original works. Do not seek to escape the subject by thinking: “Oh, Kant didn’t mean it!” He did . . . .

      Kant is the most evil man in mankind’s history.

      Ayn Rand

      (though I still thik Rosseau was at least as evil if not more)

      1. Kant is like a male Sarah Palin for me. I don’t think he’s any great shakes in and of himself, but since he made the right enemies, he must have *something* going for him.

        1. Kant is like a male Sarah Palin for me.


          1. For me, not for you.


  8. L?vy: Excuse me. Are you the Paraguayan neo-Kantians?
    Botul: Fuck off! We’re the neo-Kantians of Paraguay.

    1. Splitters!

      1. Is this seriously a taxonomy reference?

  9. Did the journalist conjure up the lecture notes?

    More importantly, was he right?

  10. It’s exactly like that time I enlisted the help of a sockpuppet that wasn’t even my own. Bit me in the derriere bigtime.

    1. At least you didn’t get kicked in the beignets.

  11. I once visited Kant’s hometown of Kaliningrad, n? Koenigsberg. The man’s still much revered there. They even considered renaming the city “Kantgrad.”

    Levy should pick on someone his own size.

    1. Kant touch this.

    2. “n?”? Can you use this for cities? You know it means “born”, right, as in when a person changes his or her birth name?
      (e.g. Judy Garland, n?e Frances Gumm.)

  12. The French Word For Schadenfreude is Schadenfreude

    Makes perfect sense. Tree lined streets and all.

    Did you ever notice that motor racing world-wide uses the French flag to signal the last lap to the drivers?

    1. Funny that an Italian would rag on the French Army. Italy inavded Greece in 1940, and had to beg Hitler for help as the Greeks kicked Italy’s ass back into Albania.

      They also invaded France a few weeks after Germany did. Despite France having moved nearly all of their Italian border troops north to fight the Germans, in two weeks of fighting, the Italians made an advance that could be measured in dozens of yards.

      But hey, they did conquer Ethiopia. and they even held on to it, until a handful of British SAS paratroopers defeated them.

      1. Funny that an Italian would rag on the French Army.

        (John Belushi voice)

        Look, pal, since the Romans stopped running the show the list of countries to pick on has been running low for us Italians.

        But I happen to be an American damn it! We kick everybody’s ass! We kicked the asses of everybody you listed up there, so fish that from your bong water and eat it!

        GO USA! USA!

    2. Did you ever notice that motor racing world-wide uses the French flag to signal the last lap to the drivers?

      And a modified French flag to denote victory: A white flag… modified with some black squares on it.

  13. The sad thing is, this poncey poseur probably gets all kinds of top-notch French tail.

    1. Poodle pounds are everywhere. Don’t think of it as a delicacy.

    2. Something to be envied, especially if you have a body hair fetish.

      1. What is it with you yanks and this “joke?” It’s as lame as it is untrue. You’re far more likely to run into a non-shaving feminist in any US university town or metropolitan area than you are in France.

        1. It’s just jealousy. We have to run down a country with that many attractive women who want nothing to do with us.

          And the French are great stand-ins for everything we don’t like about Europe.

          If the French didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.

          1. No, SF, they want nothing to do with you. Matt Welch has done well for himself.

            1. And kudos to Matt… but he stands out as an oddity, at least to the vast majority of Americans.

              I think it’s unfortunate that France and America doesn’t have more social interaction. Look at the great relationship we forged with Japan, partly based on the fact that they are hated in Asia like we are hated by the world.

              1. And Japanese women, on average, are perhaps the most unattractive in the world, right up there with British women. We really need to improve relations with Russia and Ethiopia.

                1. vanya? Do your eyes not work so good? Maybe about the British women you have a point, a little point.

              2. Hmmm…I’m not particularly popular with American women which must mean…French women would love me!

                1. BHL is currently having an affair with an AngloIrish heiress socialite fashionista and Niarchos ex-wife, the sublimely whacky Daphne Guinness.

        2. Whether it be true or not, the fact it gets on your nerves is all that matters.

          The same thing with the use of ‘yanks’; it is boorish and despicable of you to use that word when the majority of the people in this nation don’t think of themselves as ‘yanks’, but it gets on my nerves and that of many others, so I suggest you keep using it.

          The other matter, ‘pond’ as a quaint descriptor for a ocean. Sure, if your ancestors stayed back and didn’t cross the motherfucker, it might not be the archetypical motherfucker haunting your collective unconscious, but here, it will always be the ocean.

          1. I think “yanks” is as valid a synecdoche as “Brits.” And I don’t think any American is using “Brits” to be insulting.

            If you’re going to mad at the UK for something, Jamie Oliver is far more offensive than “yanks.”

            1. Jamie Oliver is far more offensive than “yanks.”

              Now there you have a poseur (of the “mockney” variety).

              “Yank” isn’t necessarily used as a derogatory term when Americans are not involved in the conversation. It can be used as shorthand for “listen up Americans, we are now going to talk down to you” when addressing said Americans. i.e. the kind of thing one might do when one is being a bit dickish to make a point with one’s “christ, knock it off with the lame-ass french womens’ armpits jokes already” post.

              1. Although, I will say… the only French woman I’ve ever met out here in the wilds of Kentucky had a ton of armpit hair and smelled like a kiddie pool full of rotting brie.

                But then, she did have all the other cultural markers of being a filthy hippie. Including going barefoot so much the sole of her feet were jet black.

                1. She “went native”.

                  P.S.: SugarFree, please forgive me.

                  1. Maybe. We do have our share of hippies.

                    I was sitting beside her in a computer lab. She smelled fairly bad, but when she leaned back and raised her arms to stretch, it was like being sprayed in the face with cat piss. And not getting to trip balls in Booblandia.

                    But to truly go native she’d have to have far less teeth and reek of Doral 120s, Mountain Dew and bologna.

                    1. It’s bad enough when dudes give off some sort of stench. When females do it I don’t really even know what to say.

              2. “christ, knock it off with the lame-ass french womens’ armpits jokes already” post.

                To be honest, I’m bored by those remarks as well. However, I believe the comments are just sublimated national pride because our porn industry popularized the landing strip.

                Yes, one is not the other, but sublimation plays by its own rules.

        3. What is it with you yanks and this “joke?” It’s as lame as it is untrue. You’re far more likely to run into a non-shaving feminist in any US university town or metropolitan area than you are in France.

          They only do it here because they want to be French.

          What’s with the yanks schtick? Quite a few of us are from the South part of the US.

          1. To the world, all Americans are Yanks.To Americans, Northerners are Yanks. To Northerners, New Englanders are Yanks. To New Englanders, Vermonters are Yanks. And to Vermonters, those without indoor plumbing are the Yanks.

            1. No, in New England Vermonters are not Yankees. New Hampshirites/Mainers are Yanks. Vermonters are “socialists.”

            2. Maybe those guys who brush their teeth with sugar need to update their American.

          2. And why is it assumed that if we pick on someone, we do not like them? I pick up on differences and I use it to gain hand on you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you.

            If I hated you, I would ignore you instead.

        4. There was only one Frenchwoman that I knew at my university. She always wore leggings. One day, they rode up a little bit, revealing the hirstuteness beneath.

          That said, I remain surprised by the longevity of female shaving. It really didn’t get started until the 1920s, I believe, but has been gaining ground ever since, to the point that women with almost any body hair are the exception and are considered by many to be kind of disgusting. And yet the human race thrived for thousands of years, hairy legs and all.

          1. There are plenty of men and women in this country who don’t really care.

          2. There are plenty of men and women in this country who don’t really care.

    3. He’s married to the actress Arielle Dombasle, but I’m sure they have an entente.

      1. I’m sure she uses a dentata around him.

        1. I read that and thought of Bernini’s Anima Dannata. Apropos, given the expression on the sculpture’s face.

    4. Dude, BHL is a pretty slick guy. He’s always had style. That’s something beyond “poncey.”

      1. Does poncey have a explicit connotation of homosexual in the UK? I understand that it means what Americns with a vocabulary would term effete, but does it carry the notion that it has become a slur against gay men?

        And, if you don’t mind, what are the practical differences, if any, of ponce(y) and fop(pish)?

        1. Fop is normally used for someone who is somewhat of a dandy, and can mean that the person overdoes it a bit with dressing/grooming and appears to be vain.

          Ponce used to mean a pimp, but is used more for someone who is a bit of a poseur, someone “affected,” often a bit effeminate. Can also go as far as gay, but not used to strongly indicate homosexuality very often. Ponce isn’t used so often now.

          1. In terms of appearance, ponce has pretty strong negative connotations – as BHL normally looks pretty slick in his suits and white charvet shirts, ponce isn’t an appropriate word. He is a bit of a wanker though. 🙂

            1. I love international insults. Thanks.

  14. “We,” said Majikthise, “are Philosophers.”

    “Though we may not be,” said Vroomfondel waving a warning finger at the programmers.

    “Yes we are,” insisted Majikthise. “We are quite definitely here as representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Thinking Persons, and we want this machine off, and we want it off now!”

    “What’s the problem?” said Lunkwill.

    “I’ll tell you what the problem is mate,” said Majikthise, “demarcation, that’s the problem!”

    “We demand,” yelled Vroomfondel, “that demarcation may or may not be the problem!”

    “You just let the machines get on with the adding up,” warned Majikthise, “and we’ll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much. You want to check your legal position you do mate. Under law the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and we’re straight out of a job aren’t we? I mean what’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?”

    “That’s right!” shouted Vroomfondel, “we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

    Suddenly a stentorian voice boomed across the room.

    “Might I make an observation at this point?” inquired Deep Thought.

    “We’ll go on strike!” yelled Vroomfondel.

    “That’s right!” agreed Majikthise. “You’ll have a national Philosopher’s strike on your hands!”

    The hum level in the room suddenly increased as several ancillary bass driver units, mounted in sedately carved and varnished cabinet speakers around the room, cut in to give Deep Thought’s voice a little more power.

    “All I wanted to say,” bellowed the computer, “is that my circuits are now irrevocably committed to calculating the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything -” he paused and satisfied himself that he now had everyone’s attention, before continuing more quietly, “but the programme will take me a little while to run.”

    Fook glanced impatiently at his watch.

    “How long?” he said.

    “Seven and a half million years,” said Deep Thought.

    Lunkwill and Fook blinked at each other.

    “Seven and a half million years …!” they cried in chorus.

    “Yes,” declaimed Deep Thought, “I said I’d have to think about it, didn’t I? And it occurs to me that running a programme like this is bound to create an enormous amount of popular publicity for the whole area of philosophy in general. Everyone’s going to have their own theories about what answer I’m eventually to come up with, and who better to capitalize on that media market than you yourself? So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each other off in the popular press, you can keep yourself on the gravy train for life. How does that sound?”

    The two philosophers gaped at him.

    “Bloody hell,” said Majikthise, “now that is what I call thinking. Here Vroomfondel, why do we never think of things like that?” “Dunno,” said Vroomfondel in an awed whisper, “think our brains must be too highly trained Majikthise.”

    So saying, they turned on their heels and walked out of the door and into a lifestyle beyond their wildest dreams.

  15. Fucking amateur.

  16. So the magazine cover says “BHL masterminds a radical new anti-statism”. I guess he’s been about as effective as any other philosopher in putting his philosophy into action, huh?

    1. Philosophers are some of the most effective and influential individuals in history.

      1. And sometimes not. And sometimes their influence was less good than bad. It’s a mixed bag.

        Kant was an important philosopher, in any event.

        1. And really, if you want to shit on someone who truly deserves it, Bentham is right there.

      2. Influential? Sometimes. Effective? Not so much. Almost every influential philosopher owes his influence to followers who are far better at spreading the philosophy than the philosopher.

  17. Does this meet the defrinition of Schadenfreude?:

    What is the carbon cost of recalling 437,000 Prius hybrids?

    1. Zero. They were blessed by the Unicorn in Chief.

  18. The time when libertarians thought academic philosophy could be wrested from the state (which alone breeds and houses it, for its own purposes) and put to anti-statist use was weird.

    It is over, right?

  19. Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
    Who was very rarely stable.

    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
    Who could think you under the table.

    David Hume could out-consume
    Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,

    And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
    Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.

    1. iowahawk’s too hard to remember. We’ll just call you Bruce.

    2. And, of course, who can forget Philosophers’ Football.

      Kant was a defender for Germany, for the record.

  20. When France’s most dashing philosopher took aim at Immanuel Kant in his latest book, calling him “raving mad” and a “fake”, his observations were greeted with the usual adulation.

    Only a retarded French man could come up with that claim against the Johnny Unitas of modern philosophy. It is like they are sipping warm beer all and not even trying.

  21. During one of our frequent Existentialist debates, my Iowa pig farmer father once argued that “I tell you hwat, them French academic philosophistes are as useless as tits on a boar.”

    “Mai non, Papa,” I retorted, “they serve as exemplars of man’s tragic narcissism and gullibility.”

    That’s when he smacked me upside the head with a snout shears.

  22. Plato was raving mad and an idiot.

    Am I now a French intellectual?

    1. Very well done, PL.

    2. I guess that depends on how dashing you look while you smoke a Gauloise with an unbuttoned shirt. If you can’t get a magazine cover, you’re not in the club.

    3. If Rush Limbaugh was born a Frenchman, he would be lauded a modern Voltaire, given their standards. Here, he is considered pedestrian and somewhat of a clown because our standards are much more rigorous. So much so, that the public intellectual barely exist in America, not because of a deficit of talent, or anti-intellectualism, but because it takes a much greater deal of acumen to make any kind of impression.

      Witness, Bernard-Henri Levy, for instance. Would he be anything more than a local disc jockey at near flat signal talk show oriented radio station in the middle of Oklahoma if he had the fortune of being born here?

      1. He’d be a blog commenter here.

        1. He could have been the balance against Weigel, during the Weigel years. He sold out for radio instead.

        2. He’d be a blog commenter here.

          Hit’n’Run held me blue in the face and flailing,
          Though I flung my feces into the breeze.

    4. Either that or you’re Ayn Rand

      1. Oh, good point. Then again, Russian, French, what’s the difference?

  23. Obligatory Monty Python Meaning of Life philosophy segment. “Do all philosophers names begin with an ‘S’?”

    Starting at 2:20ish.

  24. All this philosophy talk is giving me the urge to stand up in this coffee shop and speak loudly in verse.

  25. Philosophy and philosophers make me puke.

    1. I paid too much for this coffee for that. Moving on to another thread.

  26. Only a retarded French man could come up with that claim against the Johnny Unitas of modern philosophy

    Oh please – Immanuel Kant:Philosophy :: Lawrence Taylor:Joe Theismann

    1. It was said you could set your watch by Kant’s daily schedule, and Grandpa Simpson once said you could set your watch by Unitas’ hair cut.

  27. That’s rather harsh. Why do you hate Kant? What’s he ever done to you?

    1. These always degenerate into showing us on the doll where Kant touched him. Can we skip that today and just assume that’s the issue?

      1. I find that unlikely. Kant has been dead far too long to have molested anyone posting here.

        Unless we’re talking Zombie Kant.

  28. OK, I guess someone had to.

    Babel Fish says that the French for Schadenfreude is “Joie sadique.”

  29. That was a long sentence to explain Immanuel Kant. Definitely one of journalism’s more funnier moments.

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