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Renouvier, Charles Bernard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1815-1903) French philosopher who emphasized in his work – a continuation of the idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) – that the nature of the world in which we live is necessarily structured by human Perception and cognition, leading to a sustained dislike of concepts of infinity, of the unknowable, and of Transcendence in general. A consequence of his refusal to credit Religion-based assertions as to the nature of an infinite universe in God's hand beyond our senses generated a pragmatic but far-reaching political pluralism which in itself led him to a concept of the uchronia, or Alternate History, as being extractable from the past of our secular world.

In general the term uchronia tends to be used for alternate histories set in the relatively distant past, with highly generalized disjunctions from real history (what in this encyclopedia are referred to as Jonbar Points) with an emphasis on distant perspectives: a tale set perhaps in Merry England, as distinguished from a Steampunk narrative; but this is not a firm distinction. More specifically, in his lightly fictionalized Uchronie [for full title see Checklist] (1876), Renouvier located his argument, that the past could be responsibly examined, through a speculative exposition on the course of history when Marcus Aurelius (121-180) makes the philosopher Avidius Cassius (130- real death 175) his co-ruler, and heir as Roman Emperor. The narrative extends into the sixteenth century, a period during which – with setbacks – Christianity is kept at bay (see Religion) and Europe enjoys a relative, secular peace. The end result of this presentation, for many of Renouvier's readers, was a renovated sense that Utopia was conceivable in a properly examined world. His insistence that uchronia was a conceptual tool to create secular speculative outcomes remains refreshing. [JC]

Charles Bernard Renouvier

born Montpelier, France: 1 January 1815

died Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France: 1 September 1903

works (highly selected)


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