Black Hole & “French Theory”

“French Theory” is how American humanists qualified the body of work of a great number of 1960s French philosophers. “French Theory” puts under suspicion all and any mental work.

French Theory is an American observation. “French Theory” is not known to the French as such: the expression was born, and thrived, in the USA. Some professors in the USA love it, others hate it (the resulting conflict is called the culture wars).

According to those Americans who defined it, French Theory is supposed to emanate from  an impressive assemblage of disparate French philosophers (and, as we will see in a further essay, increasingly desperate).  That exotic assemblage is the most surprising part to the French, as many of those philosophers did not agree with each other’s work.

"French Theory" Says Something About Black Hole Theory, Or Lack Thereof

“French Theory” Says Something About Black Hole Theory, Or Lack Thereof

It goes without saying that the herd of physicists whose entire religion is “Shut Up And Calculate” hate “French Theory” with a passion. This went on until they finally understood that hatred from intellectual to intellectual did not serve the honor of the human spirit, nor the intellectual cause, in the eye of the increasingly suspicious public.

“French Theory” was influenced (in my idiosyncratic opinion) by a formidable array of deep thinkers: Sade, Herder, Hugo, Nietzsche. According to them, following even earlier authors such as Julius Caesar (who walked the talk, or rather fought his way through), much human psychology is explained by the “Will To Power”. “French theory” insists that much social and institutional organizations, theories, and countless “truths” are truly all about the will to power. Society, its institutions, works, and art, come to be viewed as a generalized calculus of power.

The principal architects of French Theory are:

Louis Althusser , Jean Baudrillard, Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Félix Guattari, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Rancière, Monique Wittig. I would add to this traditional list Alain Badiou.

What does “French Theory” see? Not just suspicious motives all over. Not just suspicious structures all over. Suspicious neurology all over.


When The Will to Power Darkens Black Holes:

A particularly controversial aspect of “French Theory” has been its suspicion of established science.

Let me give a sharp personal example of French Theory in action: when I exposed to some of the best Black Hole theorists in the world, that Black Holes, by a particular strand of logic, ought to drop out of the universe gravitationally, I was teasing them (out of their self-satisfied complacency). From that particular point of view (which is what theory means in Greek), which I rolled out, Black Hole theory leaves much to be desired.

If those gentlemen had been sincerely interested primarily by the science, they ought to have engaged me in a passionate debate. Instead, they ignored the subject, after showing signs of impotent rage. Why? All what those famous brains could feel, and see, was that their position is society was compromised by my idiotic theory.

My theory was idiotic, because, should it become widely known, it may have compromised the standing of Black Hole theory, hence of Black Hole theorists, in the eyes of the public. Should my observation disseminate, those worthies were in danger, those sacred monsters, to turn, in the public eye, from great gurus, mysterious oracles, to uncomprehending toddlers. Thus it was safer to ignore the problem altogether, while giving a warning that it ought not to be broached again, with a discrete show of deep rage. So Black Hole theorists kept on thinking of Black Holes as gathering geodesics, a very classical picture.

This personal example (and I came across a few others) told me that, for many of these professors who are household names, social standing was more important than real understanding. If anything, I have come across way worse since: watch economists ignoring plutocracy and the banking system, when they ponder what’s wrong with the world socioeconomy.

The Will to Power is all over learning, and sometimes, it reduces to the will to money. Academic editions sell books at outrageous prices, which nobody can afford… except the taxpayer supported libraries. And in the USA (followed by the UK) private or pseudo-public “universities” universally serve the richest class, by providing taxpayer supported exclusive education to the very few.

And so on. Black Hole theory may not be clear, but the Dark Side is pretty transparent. By making the will to power in all the metaphysics that counts, it reduces humanity to a crab basket, solving all problems in one stroke. Indeed, what do crabs know about problem? Nothing. Thus, no problem!

Patrice Ayme’


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25 Responses to “Black Hole & “French Theory””

  1. indravaruna Says:

    France is a gay and jew.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Why are you so anxious to sound maniacal? In any case “gay”, the French “gai” means happy, and will mean “happy” again, once homosexuality is found to be all over sexist males (who are obsessed by sexist males, just as Nazis are obsessed by Jews). Besides, Christianism is a form of Judaism. So, maybe, after all, you are not slightly unhinged, but highly perceptive in a stealthy way…

    • gmax Says:

      Gay French Jews annihilated Nazis good

  2. 1truegarcol Says:

    Patrice – Your banter and observations on history, politics, art and philosophy are entertaining and often trenchant.
    Your adumbrations on Physics and Astronomy, not so much.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Should one want to advance the debate, one ought to point at something precise in my adumbrations which comes short of being entertaining. I don’t want my sketches to be boring.

      The very notion of curvature on a manifold is non-local (or holonomic). The very notion of particle is local. The putative graviton, I point out, is supposed to be both.

      I am perfectly aware, for the reasons I gave, that the big notions of physics and astronomy are tied to big careers, and to be suspicious of them, a no-go. It would be like suspecting official astronomy, or Plato/Aristotle physics in Alexandria, 19 centuries ago: not amusing at all. Still, a few “sketches” could have changed history then, had they been taken seriously (or so Count Tycho thought, as, using the same instruments, he found systematic deviations from Ptolemy’s predictions, and reality).

      In the last few decades, we heard lots of ferocious statements by the elite in biology about “Darwinism”. Natural selection was actually well known by Greeks and Romans (they used it to fabricate better horses and cattle, by setting them wild deliberately). .
      Lamarck was hated for proposing nature had more of a mind, than just blundering around. Now we see the rise of epigenetic.

      All I say is that we need more scientist, more thinkers, more experiments, more investment in science. The reigning paradigm in physics is borderline silly: massive investment ought to be directed to find out what I call the QUANTUM INTERACTION (some Chinese physicists have actually started, and they may actually use that name).

      Thinking is supposed to be fun (banter) yet, it is where survival of values come from.

    • De Brunet D'Ambiallet Says:

      Could you be more specific about what’s not funny in Patrice’s work, please?

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Unamusing critique of some of the physics establishment basic axiomatics? Not as bad as calling me unamusing because I critique some of the basic axiomatics of the Qur’an…

    • gmax Says:

      Condemnation by innuendo. Lovely

  3. brodix Says:


    To define something is to reduce it to its barest essentials, while to explain something is to place it in its fullest context. Physics does seem to have this confused, in that it is assumed that mathematical description provides the basis for physical explanation. Such that these equations derived from reality supposedly constitute its physical basis and not just an abstraction. The map is being assumed to be foundational to the territory. Unfortunately this has grown to the point of being a self-contained belief system and no one has found the lever to pry it open. Eventually all such systems fail, but as they say of stock market bubbles, it can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent. One can only wonder how many more generations will bow to the alter of inflationary multiverses, before the revolution happens.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear John: I don’t get your subtlety definition versus explanation. If one consider the electron, it’s a mix of definition, explanations, and observations.
      “Mathematics” is just speech. Equations describing how an electron will move are just speech relating what has been observed, when an electron is submitted to various fields (gravitation, electromagnetism).
      Of course, all these are abstractions. They form a set, call it E (for electron). Then one checks carefully E is not just correct, but complete.
      For example right now three different accelerators and experiments have detected an anomaly with mesons.

      LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland and the Belle experiment at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Japan, plus SLAC at Stanford have observed an excess of certain types of leptons compared to others produced when particles called B mesons (made of a bottom quark and an antiquark) decay. The excess is just around 20%-30%. The probability it’s due to chance is sigma 3.9 (less than the usual sigma 5 for certainty). Some is to be officially published… tomorrow (in Physical Review D).

      That’s .011%. One hundredth of one percent. Not enough to be sure it’s not just a fluke.

      Otherwise, I agree with the rest of what you say. Glad to see you back (I have avoided Scientia Salon since they turned down one of my comments because they could not see how it related; I explained kindly, then I think they published it from what friends told me; not that I would know…)

  4. brodix Says:


    Consider something normal, like a particular coffee cup. Now describing it would take a sentence or two, but explaining it, from the origins and appeal of coffee, hot drink in general, to its design, manufacture, history of pottery, etc and it could take a book.

    The problem with applying this to subatomic particles is that we really don’t know about lower levels, that might explain their properties and we would only need emergent properties to explain their function, so reality beyond chemistry isn’t necessary. So consequently, given our current levels of knowledge, there isn’t much space between description and explanation.

    The problem is when we mistake our description for a 1 to 1 explanation. For instance, epicycles and thinking the description of the observed motions of the heavens were directly based on a physical explanation, say giant cosmic gearwheels. I suspect the “fabric of spacetime” will prove to be a similar mistaking of description for explanation. Possibly the Copenhagen principle as well.

    Scientia Salon is no more. Dan and Dan are starting their own site and Massimo his. Have to say, I was blocked regularly as well.

    “The very notion of curvature on a manifold is non-local (or holonomic). The very notion of particle is local. The putative graviton, I point out, is supposed to be both.”

    Does there even have to be a graviton? Given gravity is the effect of contraction, might it simply arise from the act of any and all quantum waves collapsing into particles, as with photons, etc.? Energy to mass, not just a feature of mass. It might explain dark matter, given there is much radiant activity on the perimeters of galaxies that is not fully understood.

    Sort of hiding in plain sight.

    • brodix Says:

      Copenhagen interpretation

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Scientia Salon no more? Not really surprised (long story). I had given up on it.
      It’s not that I was blocked so much as the way it was done, and the reasons proffered: it made me work and worry too much… and, worse: too stupidly.

      The whole idea of the Internet is not to be cramped so much, and dare to float ideas, and debate them freely.
      OK, all right, let me address the philosophy of physics you offer in a separate comment

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I vaguely agree with what you say. A point made by Quantum Officialdom is that the QUANTUM WAVE MECHANICS is NOT emergent. “Johnny” Von Neumann even claimed to have demonstrated it (although De Broglie had an explicit counter-example; De Broglie was written off as a clown who did not know what a C* algebra was).

      I do believe that QWM is emergent, and Dark Matter is its Prophet.

      QFT’s philosophy says that a carrier, exchange particle, is associated to any force. If you tell physicists it’s a philosophy, they will react like 1truegarcol, and offer that you don’t know what you are talking about. Feynman (for example, and he is a late friend of mine) would claim philosophers hang around like flies, trying to say something, but we don’t know what it is. However, it’s physics is full of philosophy, and even its detailed computations, sometimes…

      Anyway QFT says gravity exists, thus so does graviton. What’s clear, and experimentally demonstrated, is that gravitational WAVES exist. That’s simply equivalent to saying that gravity propagates as a field at finite speed.

      To reward Feynman, the gods made sure that his son studied philosophy, not physics.

      • brodix Says:


        The internet is still people and people are judgmental, for better or worse. You can only play the hand you are dealt.
        The moderating did get a little too fussy when it was handed off to Dan. As a field of study today, philosophy is more about nitpicking, than intellectual audacity. As I pointed out to field theorist, in one of my unblocked comments, science needs more hackers, than careerists. Same for philosophy.

        I think I would have heard if they had actually found gravity waves.

        If history is any guide, it is more likely the reason physics has been stuck for thirty years is because they are off on the wrong track, somewhere along the line, not that all the patches that have been added are real, just beyond the realm of proof. If that were the case, there would still be a study of epicycles, because new patches can always be added and we are the center of our frame.

        At some point, a new generation of theorists is going to rebel.

        Of course, it took a thousand years to go beyond epicycles.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Good point about needing more hackers than careerists, in all matters of thought.
          Gravity waves have been observed in binary pulsar orbital decay. All right ain’t a gravity wave radio, but to do that you would need to do Morse code by collapsing stars…

          They are, they have been on the wrong track, and that enrages them. Proof? Quantum Computer, or lack thereof… This is being corrected by two guys in Paris, one in Austria, and one in Colorado (all got the Nobel and/or the Wolf prize). But most physicists have lured us away from reality: gigantic spending and humongous theories for very little progress… OK, the so-called “Higgs” holds it all together…

          Because of the Quantum Computer, the “rebellion” is already on.

  5. dominique deux Says:

    Much philosophical-sounding cant was produced in France in the Sixties. Much of it has gone down the drain. Labelling that brew “French theory” is rather like labelling hotdogs and hamburgers “US cuisine”. Close to a casus belli if you ask me.

    In addition – and I hope you’ll find time in a coming essay to address this – that group of intellectuals, who did oppose each others but were, as a caste, close-knit, proved the perfect feathered nest for Heidegger to land safely in one piece and lay philosophical eggs in – after his side lost WWII. And this shows: Badiou was a Khmer Rouge fan, up to and including their genocidal programme.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Dominique: “French Theory” was not meant to be disparaging. Considering the void of ideas in USA philosophy, “French Theory” was a cornucopia of what was not found in empty American minds.

      In my opinion, same as yours it seems, French philosophy was pretty awful (except say in philosophy of science) from the 1930s on. Most awful, but for all the others, that is. As an African, I am particularly incensed against all its many aspects affecting Africa and the like. It was actually a cause for war, indeed, and war it caused. Ultimately, when not justifying Hitler (see Heidegger) and Stalin, Mao or the Khmer Rouge, it justified Wall Street/Washington’s rule.

      This being said, “French Theory” has some (very) positive aspects. It was just abused. Water, abused, kills.
      The Black Hole/French Theory essay was extracted from a larger piece on French Theory.
      Badiou now sounds like a wise specimen, considering the outrage of the ruling plutos…

    • Kevin Berger Says:

      “Labelling that brew “French theory” is rather like labelling hotdogs and hamburgers “US cuisine”.”
      Unable to comment intelligently, so I’ll just quip that when Americans call something “French” (“French kisses”, “French toasts”, “French fries”, “French horns”,…), as a rule…… it just isn’t.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Well, agreed with the general remark. However, in the case of philosophical “French Theory”, there is something to it: generalized suspicion, beyond Nietzsche. However, this something had a pernicious effect on civilization, all the more has it is all too correct… An essay will be coming (on something which deserves a 1,000 pages book…)

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