Conference - Reframing Maine de Biran: Readings, Effects, Resonances

This is an in-person event open to the public. Online attendance is also possible. To receive the link to attend online please email the conference organizer:

Maine de Biran (1766-1824) was one of the most original and influential thinkers of the 19th century, whose ideas circulated widely in France and in Europe, often anonymously, crossing paths with and sometimes determining the developments of modern and contemporary literature and philosophy, from Félix Ravaisson to Henri Bergson up to Existentialism and Phenomenology. At the end of the twentieth century, Gilles Deleuze refers to Maine de Biran in his lectures as well as in his writings, where Biran’s philosophy is evoked in dialogue with cinema and literature as well as with the reflections of Husserl and Sartre. Recent studies have seen in Maine de Biran the premises for an alternative conception of the unconscious and the body that can be particularly cutting-edge today, responding to the most urgent challenges that the cognitive sciences present to philosophy and psychoanalysis.

Even though Biran’s name is largely forgotten today, this scattered constellation of references allows us to grasp the decisive although hidden importance of Biranian thought. It is only recently, thanks to the monumental critical edition of Biran’s works directed by François Azouvi (Vrin, 1984-2001), that scholars have started to acquire a growing understanding of the importance of this neglected thinker, beyond the different political, religious, and ideological frameworks that had hitherto prevented its full reception.

This conference follows up on the English translation of some of Biran’s most significant works, including The Relationship between the Physical and the Moral in Man (Bloomsbury, 2016) and Of Immediate Apperception (Bloomsbury, 2020). It will also be a unique opportunity to discuss and ‘reframe’ the multifaceted work of Maine de Biran in the light of recent publications, such as the journal special issue ‘Maine de Biran and the Afterlives of Biranism’, edited by Alessandra Aloisi (Oxford) and Delphine Antoine-Mahut (ENS-Lyon) and forthcoming from the journal Perspectives on Science (MIT Press) (

This event is supported by the British Society for the History of Philosophy and the University of Roma Tre.


10:30-11:00 Opening remarks by Alessandra Aloisi (Oxford)

Morning Session (chair Mogens Laerke, CNRS, IHRIM, Lyon / MFO, Oxford)
11:00-11:30 Mark Sinclair (Queen’s University Belfast) ‘The Question of Free Will in Biran’s Voluntarism’
11:30-12:00 Denise Vincenti (Milano-Bicocca): ‘A “touchy” question: Maine de Biran on Molyneux’s problem and the role of touch in spatial perception’
12:00-12:30 Discussion
12:30-14:30 Lunch Break

Afternoon Session (chair Alessandra Aloisi)
14:30-15:00 Luis Umbelino (Universidad de Coimbra) ‘Maine de Biran on the experience of the touching-touched body’
15:00-15:30 Benjamin Bâcle (UCL) ‘De l’effort à la reprise: Jean Nabert continuateur de Maine de Biran’
15:30-16:00 Discussion
16:30-17:00 Marco Piazza (Roma Tre) ‘Presentation of the Centre for the Philosophies of Habit’

17:00-18:30 Drinks reception