The Wording of Thoughts. Philosophy from the Standpoint of its Manuscripts and Archives

International Conference

Organizers: Benedetta Zaccarello (CNRS-CEFRES) and Thomas C. Mercier (CEFRES / FHS UK)
When & Where: 7-9 June 2018 at the French Institute of Prague, 5th Floor, Štěpánská 35, 110 00 Prague 1
Partners: FHS UK, The Jan Patočka Archive, FLÚ AV ČR, ITEM (CNRS-ENS), Bibliothèque Nationale de France, The Wittgenstein Archives at Bergen University, with the support of the French Institute in Prague and the program PARCECO of the MENESR

The conference will comprise four sections:

  1. Archive (Hi)stories: Thinking Theory through Authors’ Manuscripts.
  2. Archives in the digital age.
  3. What archives do to philosophy: methodologies in editing and interpreting.
  4. The Political Implications of Archives and their Conservation.

The afternoon session of the first day (7th June) will be dedicated to Jan Patočka and his archives.

See the program below

The international conference “The Wording of Thoughts: Philosophy from the Standpoint of its Manuscripts and Archives” aims to establish a dialogue between experts of different archival corpuses coming from various countries and continents, so as to sketch methodological lines and to build a pioneer network focused on philosophical archives. Philosophy is written, practiced, lived through: it is the translation of the experience of a thinking subjectivity in a conceptual alphabet and a verbal fabric. The “making of a philosophical text”, including its cultural features and societal contingencies, challenges the representation of the discipline’s history as a series of abstract findings and innovative intuitions that constitute the landmarks of our paradigms. The philosopher who writes is the first inclined to erase the complex intricacies of the negotiations between existence and theory, between conceptual inventiveness and shared vocabulary inherited from a centuries-old tradition. Yet it is obvious that the dynamics of philosophy production and reception are a complex phenomenon whose writing nature is a crucial stake.

For all these reasons, the philosophical manuscript is an odd object that has only recently started to receive proper appraisal. In Europe, nevertheless, the creation of archive centres gathering major philosophical data has sustained the memory of philosophical writing and enabled such “arches” to cross time. It is beyond doubt that accessing these archives often enables to better understand the appearance, the method, the approach and even the sources, along with the polemical targets and the hints that published books tend to excise or dim. Moreover, in exploring the history of several philosophical archives and their rooting in specific social and cultural contexts, we aim to appreciate the role of such archival materials and their importance so as to develop new approaches to philosophical studies, including the history of philosophy and the exegesis of theoretical thought.



7th June 2018
Morning session Archive (Hi)stories: Thinking philosophy and Theory through Authors’ Manuscripts

Opening remarks: Benedetta Zaccarello (CEFRES, CNRS-MEAE): What I have learned from manuscripts

Frédéric Worms (ENS, Paris): The Archive of Philosophical Works, Problems, and Moments

Jean-Claude Monod (Archives Husserl, Paris): Publication in Philosophy: Practices of Thinking and Writing, from Husserl to Blumenberg


Fabrizio Desideri (University of Florence): The autographic dimension in philosophy. Before and after the work. Manuscripts, fragments, schemes, sketches, annotations and their relevance for the definition of philosophical textuality

Giuseppe Bianco (USP, Brazil/EHESS, Paris): The authority of the manual, the authority of the document: About the recent fashion of the archive in philosophy

Lunch break

Afternoon session Jan Patočka and his archives

Jan Frei (Patočka Archives, Prague): Jan Patočka: The work, the edition, and the bibliography

Ondřej Švec (AV ČR/Charles University, Prague): The false unity of the scattered work of Jan Patočka


Roundtable about philosophical archives and practices of dissent, with:
Ivan Chvátik (Patočka Archives, Prague)
Ivan Landa (FLU AV CR, Prague)
Anna Nakai (CEU, Budapest)
Sylva Fischerová (FF Charles University Prague, editor of J. L. Fischer’s works)

8th June 2018
Morning session — What the archive does to philosophy: Methodologies in editing and interpreting philosophical archives


Thomas C. Mercier
(CEFRES, Charles University, Prague): Before the Specters: Marxism and Deconstruction in Derrida’s Archives

Arianna Sforzini (Sciences Po, Paris): The Foucault archives as a case study: Editing a ‘tool box’ 

Guillaume Fagniez (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels): Exile and Return: Karl Löwith’s papers at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach


Richard Hartz (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, Pondicherry): The Genesis of a Philosophical Poem: Thought, Word and Vision in the Writing of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri

Tomáš Koblížek (Academy of Sciences, Prague): From Linguistics to Phenomenology and Back: Émile Benveniste’s Notes on Baudelaire

Lunch break

Afternoon session– Archives of philosophy in the digital age

Paolo D’Iorio (ITEM, CNRS, Paris): Nietzsche Source: Digital Editions of Nietzsche’s works and manuscripts

Alois Pichler (The Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen, Norway): Forms of textual genesis in Wittgenstein’s Nachlass

Isabelle Alfandary (Collège International de Philosophie, Paris): The Archive Project


Daniela Helbig (University of Sidney): Reading the products of ‘thinking pen in hand’: The digital archive of Kant’s Opus postumum as a challenge to interpretative practices

Andrew Parker (Rutgers University, US): Marx’s Archive Fever

Conference Dinner

9th June 2018
Morning session The Political Implications of Archives and of Their Conservation

Peter Heehs (former archivist – Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, Pondicherry): Eternal Truth’ and the ‘Mutations of Time’: Archival documents between historical texts and claims of timeless truth

Jean Khalfa (Cambridge University, UK): Rereading Frantz Fanon’s work in the light of his unpublished texts


Roundtable on the conservation of philosophical archives and their history:

  • Laurence Le Bras (BNF, Paris)
  • François Bordes (IMEC, CAEN, Normandie, France)
  • Emanuele Caminada (Husserl Archives, Leuven)

Closing remarks

International Research Network (IRN) “Archives of International Theory (AITIA)” partners’ meeting