Philosophe Alain

Le site de référence sur le philosophe français Emile Chartier, dit Alain (1868-1951), par l’Association des Amis d’Alain, fondée par ses proches après sa mort.

Le site de référence sur le philosophe français Emile Chartier, dit Alain (1868-1951), par l’Association des Amis d’Alain, fondée par ses proches après sa mort.


There are marvellous joys in friendship. This is easily understood if we notice that joy is contagious. If my presence gives joy to a friend, the sight of this joy is enough to make me feel joy in turn; so the joy that each person gives is returned; at the same time the treasures of joy are liberated and both can say to themselves: “There was a happiness within me with which I was doing nothing.”

The source of joy is within, I agree; and nothing is sadder than to see people discontented with themselves and with everything, who tickle each other to make themselves laugh. But it also has to be said that a person who is content, if he or she is alone, soon forgets their contentment; all their joy soon falls asleep, followed by a kind of stupidity or almost insensitivity. The feeling inside needs movement outside. If a tyrant imprisoned me to teach me to respect his power, my rule for health would be to laugh alone every day; I would exercise my joy as I would exercise my legs.


Achilles bandages the arm of Patroclus, 500 BC

Here is a bundle of dry branches. They seem as lifeless as the earth; if you leave them there, they will become earth. But they contain a hidden heat which they have drawn from the sun. Bring a tiny flame close to them and you will soon have a crackling blaze. A rattle of the door was all that was needed to wake the prisoner.

This is how a kind of kick-start is needed to awaken joy. When a small child laughs for the first time, his laugh doesn’t express anything; he didn’t laugh because he is happy; I’d say rather that he is happy because he’s laughing; it’s a pleasure for him to laugh, as it is to eat; but first he has to eat. This is true not only for laughter; we also need words to know that we are thinking. As soon as we are alone we cannot be ourselves. The half-wit moralists say that to love is to forget oneself; too simple a view; the more we come out of ourselves, the more we are ourselves; and the more we feel ourselves alive. Don’t let your wood rot in your cellar.

Decembre 27th, 1907

Traduction par Michel Petheram, seul détenteur des droits sur le texte anglais. / English translation copyright © Michel Petheram

Pour lire la version originale en français sur le site. 


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