The Philosophy Behind the Question
Philippe Huneman



THE ROAD IS BLOCK ED. A TREE LIES STRETCHED ACROSS it. The weather is fine with no trace of a storm, but the tree has just fallen, crushing a gray car in its path whose occupants are able to extract themselves, with difficulty but unharmed. The body of the car is completely wrecked, its windows shattered. Firefighters, rapidly on the scene, comfort the shaken victims, keeping the onlookers at bay while other workers, who also have arrived with remarkable haste, begin to cut the tree into pieces to remove it as quickly as possible. All around there is the ballet of tourist smartphones and wandering Parisians immortalizing the event, sharing it on multiple more or less well-known platforms, hoping to gather a maximum of likes and retweets and expressions of interest coming from other individuals who are amazed that their “friends” could have witnessed such an extraordinary event—as if they had accomplished something difficult like holding their breath for six minutes, climbing a particularly formidable peak, or writing a poem without vowels.

And I was driving just a few meters behind that car. Without thinking, I asked myself: “Why him? Why did the tree fall on his car rather than on mine or someone else’s?”

Of course, there are responses: as a specialist in natural history who just happened to be there told me, the tree was completely eaten through. Rot could be clearly seen in the now visible interior of the trunk; and in the end, only a slight gust of wind would have been needed to topple it—or it could have toppled on its own once the parasites had finished their destructive work. Certainly, but why at this moment, while the gray Passat with the Dutch driver was passing beneath it?

In one sense, we know why. I can go through the chain of causes and inventory the circumstances: on the one hand, dryness, wind, internal infiltration of the tree; and on the other, the Dutchman’s schedule—his plans which made it so that he happened to be on this avenue at this precise minute. The explanation is long and gets lost in countless fastidious details but it is available. Why then was I frustrated with this impression that my question—“Why him instead of me?”—did not have a response? Without a doubt, it is because there is no why for this precise question; or rather, the “why” that would satisfy me has no meaning here. Does that mean there are many whys, then? Or perhaps things without a why?

Starting from three or four years old, not long after the moment when they learn how to speak with clarity and coherence, it is well known that children never stop asking “why?” It is true that they gain precious knowledge about the world in this way. But by asking these kinds of questions, they also learn how the question “why?” works. When my five-year-old daughter asks “Why is it Sunday?”, she learns that one does not or should not ask such a question. Perhaps the question “Why him?” regarding the tree accident and the unfortunate Dutchman is of the same order. But my daughter also learns through these questions that certain responses to the question “why?” only have a limited validity: “Why does water boil?” cannot be explained with “Because it wants to boil,” while “Why do dogs drink water?” can potentially receive the response “Because they get thirsty”—or, said differently, “Because they want to drink.” As she grows, my daughter will learn science, which will tell her why this and why that. In this way, the sciences develop a system of responses to a certain type of question “why?” But they do not include precisely those responses that would satisfy my desire to know why the tree fell on the Dutchman’s car and not mine—hence my frustrating feeling that it was pure chance, a feeling that for others, on the contrary, could mean that it was the Dutchman’s “destiny.” But why in the end is it so frustrating to recognize that the tree fell on him by chance?

This small word “why” seems to weave strange links between the non-knowledge of children, the science of adults, and the idea of destiny. But what are these links then?

Asking Why

Language has interrogative words that spread out the sizable dimensions in which we can understand an event, a fact, an action, or a thing: What? Where? When? How many? How? and Why?

Let’s imagine something like a gnu. A complete knowledge of the gnu clearly entails being able to respond to all these questions. In Categories, Aristotle explains that the first five questions determine the broad articulations of a living being or something that exists: a thing has a nature or an essence (“what is a gnu?”), encompasses temporal and spatial dimensions (“where is the gnu?” “when will we find this gnu?”), quantity (“how many gnus are there?”), and a certain mode of existence or appearance (“this gnu was fast, was shimmering, etc.”). These dimensions are not always independent: the “how” will include measurements of acceleration, for example. For Aristotle, these “categories” are at the same time the major articulations of being and the sizable divisions within language—namely, that through which language has the capacity to really understand what is there. In the later philosophical tradition, one has sometimes questioned this homogeneity of language and being but—without entirely subscribing to it—we can already imagine that such a systematicity of language tells us something about being in how it is susceptible to being said or brought into language.

Among these large questions, “why” is perhaps the least understandable. Aristotle, moreover, does not include it in his Categories but evokes it in what we call Physics—his treatise on things in movement that he calls natural things (“physical” comes from the Greek phusis, nature). The Categories correspond to dimensions of being that one can easily name: substance (the response to “What?”), place (the response to “Where?”), time (the response to “When?”), and so on. The response to “Why?” is not, however, unequivocal.

An example will help us to see how “why” is so delicate. As an event, let’s look at the victory of the French team at the 2018 World Cup. It is easy to respond to the five questions: What? It was the final of a global soccer competition. Where? In Moscow. When? July 15, 2018. How many? Some figures are pertinent: a 90-minute match between two teams of 11 players in front of 60,000 people. How? By a score of 4–2. And Why? “Because France scored four goals and Croatia two.” Certainly; but is this not another more precise way of simply saying that France won? What we have now allows for me to legitimately say that France is the world champion, but not what made it so that France was world champion. Do we not rather want to know the reason why France won? It could be a question of identifying who were the scorers, who passed them the ball, etc. But we could also think beyond goals to distinct strategies in conflict with each other: France was more effective in defense, Croatia less effective in attack. Perhaps previous matches played a role in terms of the fatigue of the players, their motivation, etc. Croatia had one less rest day than France after their respective semifinals and had gone into extra time in each of its direct elimination matches. And outside of the World Cup itself, we could highlight the differences in soccer traditions between France and Croatia—their experiences in major competitions, the failure of the French in the Euro Final two years previously, etc. Barely broached, and even with such a simple subject, the question “why?” leads us into a tangle of explanations that are reminiscent of the scientific controversies of the genre: Is it the recent usage of pesticides that is responsible for the declining number of birds, or rather the expansion of agriculture that is destroying their habitats, or perhaps climate change that is disturbing their migratory and reproductive habits, or one of the many combinations thereof?

At the same time, this question “why?” traverses the expansive domains of speech and habit in which we all live together. In front of a certain animal, a child or even an adult may spontaneously ask: Why does a zebra have stripes? Why does a duck have webbed feet? “Why?” is also a question for historians: Why did war break out in 1940? Why did Christianity conquer Europe?

Of course, scientists make abundant usage of “why”—whether it is a question of simple things, like falling bodies; or of very sophisticated things, like the physicist who asks, “Why is the universe cooling?” But it is also a daily question: “Why do you say that?” we regularly exclaim when someone announces an unknown piece of information. This is what we say to a child who returns from school stating that “Marc is mean.”

The varied scale of human feelings thus easily gives rise to such questions: “Why does Edith love Marcel?” we think, especially if Edith and Marcel seem badly suited for each other. But “why?” is also a doubtful question, that of an investigator. One thinks of television detective Columbo, who, after having questioned a business owner or a gallerist (always someone important) whom we know is the killer, puts on his beige raincoat as though to leave (assuming he ever took it off), and then turns around to ask the fatal question: “But Mr. So-and-So, why did you say that you were playing golf in Santa Monica when we know you were having dinner on Sunset Boulevard at the same time?” And these conspiracy theories that have been talked about so much recently suggest a generalized version of this detective-like doubt: “Why did the Charlie Hebdo killers forget their ID cards in the car?”

And last, the occurrences of this question “why?” go from the trivial to the vertiginous, like the “Why not me?” with which I opened this book; the “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that Jesus could not help but utter during the crucifixion in the Gospels; or in a still more metaphysical sense, “Why am I me instead of another?”

Conceived to unravel the complexities that envelop the usage of the question “why?”, this book will consider in detail some of the questions that I have just mentioned. The book proposes a geography of thought, in the distant tradition of Kant—the philosopher whose university career was in great part devoted to teaching geography, and whose language is haunted by geographical metaphor (borders, territories, domains, maps, etc.).

A Single Word for Many Questions

Regarding this singular question—why?—metaphysical reflection wavers between two opposed positions. The first suggests that the question “why?” is so indispensable that it conditions the possibility of having experiences. Without the capacity to ask “why X?” and to respond “Because Y,” experience would just be a web of disjointed events with no link between them. And from a practical point of view, the simplest action demands an identification of the means for the ends, of choosing, for example, a type of transport for a trip; yet this relationship involves an implicitly formulated question: “Why did I (or why must I) do something?”, with its response, “Because I wanted something else.” And, independent of us, events that occur only take on meaning in light of this question “why?” The small Pacific islands that will soon be submerged by the ocean owe their annihilation to the climate change generated by human industrial activity from the past two hundred years: I can thus respond to the question “Why will they vanish?” Starting from this rather dramatic point, my worldview acquires a certain meaning—one that I can also consider in light of my own goals and desires, while reflecting on what we could do to avoid the destruction of other islands.

A diametrically opposed position has been argued by philosophers according to which the question “why?” is merely the residue of a past pre-rationalist age, an antiscientific question that is thereby opposed to true rationality. Pierre Duhem—the physicist, historian of physics, and author of a major book about the philosophy of science in 1917 entitled La Théorie physique: Son objet, sa structure (The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory)—contested the idea that science had to ask why things are as they are. This question, as with the desire to explain in a more general sense, would later pertain more to metaphysics than to science, which tries to describe how phenomena occur and according to what regularities. And positivists like Auguste Comte pre-dated Duhem in relegating questions concerning “why” to the domain of what they called “metaphysics”—namely, wild speculation about the first principles—as if a newly ripened mind should be diverted more toward questions of the nature of “How does this work?”1

In this book, I will not align myself with this skeptical latter argument; the subsistence of the question “why?” as a crucial vector for the interpretation of our experience and the justification of our actions seems to me to be a fundamental fact that should be understood. I am not in bad company: Aristotle, as was mentioned above, dedicates a major work—Physics—to the explication of this question; Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, even proposes a justification of the possibility of asking “why?” about each event. Indeed, in his language, what he calls the “second analogy of experience” in the Critique of Pure Reason stipulates that “everything that happens presupposes something that it follows in accordance with a rule.” This principle, which governs the use of the category of causality, is justified by Kant in this text—taking over in some way within the framework of his so-called transcendental philosophy from the more general idea that “everything has a reason,” which Leibniz was among the first to formulate.2

About a century before Kant, Leibniz named this idea the “principle of sufficient reason” and saw it as a fundamental ontological and epistemological principle according to which “we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason, why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us” (Monadology, §32). This principle legitimized our always asking why, even though in a well-known text Schopenhauer wondered why such an obvious idea waited for centuries to be explicitly stated by a philosopher.3

I will thus take the question “why?” seriously, because it plays a decisive role in the manner in which language can make sense of the human experience. And above all, it should be asked if the object of this “why” is unique, since this word is everywhere in our speech: it questions things and events—“Why do planets follow elliptical orbits?”—but also actions—“Why should I run away?”; it lastly concerns beliefs, as I can always ask “Why do you think that?” to someone expressing an opinion.4 Thus, “why?” turns out to be a central question not only in science but also in logic (the justification of beliefs) and within what one could call the language of action.

This plurality of “why?” suggests that the types of legitimate contexts and of appropriate response formats are multiple. Such a plurality immediately raises a debate about its reducibility to a single, more elementary notion. Philosophers call this kind of debate “monism vs. pluralism”: Is there an ultimate object that the question “why?” (“monism”) aims toward? Or are all of its meanings, in different orders, fundamentally heterogeneous (“pluralism”)? In other words, is the concept of “why”—to adopt Aristotle’s words—“homonymous” (denoting that it bears only a nominal and arbitrary identity, like the verb “object” and the unrelated but similarly spelled noun “object”) or “synonymous” (denoting that all meanings are truly connected and join together into one sole meaning)? This enigmatic multiplicity is one of the problems addressed in this book, which will propose that there exists a certain grammar behind “why?” according to which contexts and legitimate forms of response are organized.

When asking “why?” we can expect in response a cause, or a reason for believing something, or a motive and thus a reason for acting (a goal, in particular). These three types of “because” are perhaps not independent but they are distinct. Through their insistence on indiscriminately asking “why?”, children between three and five years old learn precisely this kind of grammar for why. The particular responses to different “why?” s are perhaps less important for their cognitive development than the acquisition of a general sense of which “why?” s are pertinent and which are not. Children learn through this which kind of response is called for by which kind of why-question: for example, they ultimately accept that if ocean waves always destroy the sand castles that they obstinately rebuild, this is not out of ill will but because the wind or a sea swell gives the waves a rhythm and amplitude that results in them regularly coming to lap at and then dismantle the fragile structures.

The “grammar” that I am talking about is not exactly that of grammarians. It encompasses a necessity that we will call intermediary between logical necessity—namely, the certitude of deduction—and pure linguistic convention, which strangely assigns the masculine gender to the French word véhicule (vehicle) and the feminine to voiture (car). But like proper grammar, it separates what can and cannot legitimately be said. I borrow this use of the concept of “grammar” from Wittgenstein, although I don’t accept all of Wittgenstein’s views; it suffices that this term establishes a set of constraints that are not logical, but that still govern our way of speaking and thinking.

The Possibility of “Why?”

Many philosophical controversies concern precisely the use of such a grammar. When, echoing the Cartesians of his time, Molière in the caustic play Le médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself) mocks how doctors turn to the “dormitive virtue” of opium, it is precisely a question of restricting the legitimate “because” s to a certain type of causes—in this case, antecedent mechanisms. Today, Molière appears to have been correct in mocking these ridiculous pedants, these doctors who are passionate about quoting Latin and incapable of examining a sick patient. Historically, however, this reflects a major moment in modern science that we somewhat unimaginatively call in traditional history “the Scientific Revolution,” which runs from Galileo to Descartes—the moment where the very idea of what constitutes a legitimate response to the question “why?” was changed.5 To the question “Why do stones fall when we let them go?” we could indeed respond, along with Aristotle: “Because they tend toward the ground, which is their natural place.” After Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, this response is excluded: the Aristotelian tendency to fall appears to be made out of the same stuff as the Molièresque dormitive virtue—namely, a simple description of an effect, then portrayed as a trend or a power instead of a true explanation. Modern physics understands that the cosmos is inert, that nothing has any desire to go anywhere; this is even the first principle of Newton’s Principia Mathematica Scientia Naturalis (1686), which named it the “principle of inertia.” Galileo’s inert stone simply follows the law of falling bodies, awaiting Newton to demonstrate that it is subject to Earth’s gravity.

Debating the legitimate form of response to the question “why?”—as Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, and their contemporaries did—forms a crucial philosophical challenge—crucial, in particular, in the sense that what can be accepted as a manner of making science depends on it. I do not intend to put forth a solution to these debates with this “grammar for why”; on the contrary, it is metaphorically more of a question of the space in which they can take place. In this sense, this book will examine what the question “why?” is actually asking so that a specific discussion about what response can be given to it is possible.

However, if “why?” is undeniably a proper question for raising a philosophically intense interrogation, this is also because before even asking what the legitimate form of response to “why?” could be, we presuppose that there is a response; and thus, that it is possible to ask why. This may seem trivial or far-fetched, but even the possibility of “why?” is undeniably problematic: why should there even be an answer? Is it necessary for the world to be of a certain nature in order for this question to be formulable and to receive responses? Or does every possible or conceivable world allow for us to rightly hope that we can respond “Because of this” to any question in the form of “Why is that?” In other words, if there are rules for the usage of “why?” or something that resembles them, we must understand their reason; what makes them this and not that; on what they are based; and, if they are indeed grounded on something, whether this foundation is more than a simple convention.

The Limits of “Why?”

The mastery of this grammar is never perfect. Saying why something will happen does not necessarily mean the reason why I believe it will happen; and the responses to these questions should not be of the same order as those of why I would act in such and such a way in regard to this thing. It does, though, occur that we unintentionally mistake one for the other, and the effects are far from insignificant. For a long time, identifying these confusions has been a part of the philosophical tradition.

Similar to how one makes ordinary grammatical errors when one wants to say something despite the rules, we likewise—according to the type of grammar considered here—want to ask why and respond where “why?” no longer makes sense. It is also these limits of “why?” that trace out its grammar. What does “limit” mean here? Good examples of this can be found in questions like “Why is a line a line?” or “Why does Tuesday come after Monday?”, where we can only respond in a tautological way: a line is a line, Tuesday is the day after Monday, thus Tuesday. We often have the feeling here that “Yes, it’s obvious.” Obviousness is thus a limit of why. The other limit was already illustrated by the anecdote of the driving Dutchman: “Why him?” Technically, in philosophy we talk about contingent events to designate what could have or could not have been: the tree could also have fallen on a Nepalese tourist, a Sinhalese electrician, or myself. This is something akin to chance, yet chance is incompatible with “because”—unless “by chance” was a legitimate response to “why?”, which would then quickly become the subject of metaphysical discussions. “Contingence,” along with “obviousness” (or self-evidence), thus declares the “limits” of this territory that delineates the grammar of why.

There are then, in the end, two kinds of grammatical errors: mistaking one kind of “why?” for another (confusion of category) or asking “why?” where no “because” makes sense (transgression of limits). The equivalent is produced in ordinary grammar: a proposition like “Green numbers yearn for calm,” which has no meaning because the involved terms pertain to heterogeneous ontological domains (colors/numbers), is different from a proposition like “The green is or” (a favorite among logicians), which does not even respect syntax and thus does not really say anything.6 Asking why when no reason holds or is thinkable would be like stating “The green is or”; while mixing the types of “why?” produces something that has the appearance of meaning but ultimately has none, as is seen in the sentence “Green numbers yearn for calm.”7

These grammatical errors allow for “idols” to emerge. This is a word used by Nietzsche in the title of his last work, Twilight of the Idols—a very short book conceived of as a handbook for his philosophy. God, the ultimate cause, values in themselves; for Nietzsche, these are idols that some kind of almost inevitable thought mechanism pushed Western humanity to forge and venerate—a mechanism that has a great deal to do with the question “why?” since it involves notions of cause and effect. The present book will also concern itself with what happens to thought when it mixes the different usages of “why?” and supposes that all “why?” s demand the same kind of response—or any response at all.

Likewise, in a great number of cultures there exist myths that are supposed to answer why-questions: Why must we die? Why are there men and women? Why is there good and evil? Without even leaving European culture, the biblical myth of the Garden of Eden responds to the first question, the myth of united souls transcribed by Plato (in the Symposium) to the second, the Greek legend of Pandora’s Box to the third. It is clearly difficult to know exactly what our ancestors believed when they recounted these myths and very plausible that they did not believe in them the way that one believes the sun will rise tomorrow, as it has been forcefully argued by historian Paul Veyne.8 However, it was through them that discussion about essential why-questions could take place.

Indeed, myths offer a response to “why?” where none is accessible; and where, I would add, it could be that the question “why?” makes no sense. The romanticized history of the birth of philosophy and science at the heart of occidental rationality speaks often of how logos—reason, as a giver of reasons (logos is the same word)—was substituted for muthos—the myth, a fiction transmitted with small variations from generation to generation.9 After having established the grammar of why, it will thus be necessary to very generally address those cases where we in some way fill the void left by an absence of why. Stated bluntly, the possibility of responding to why-questions establishes a coherent and compact universe of events and beliefs: “This because of that, because of that, etc.” It is in this sense that David Hume called causality, which is a paradigmatical “because,” the “cement of the universe.”10 When this possibility comes up short, we have something like a hole; and a certain number of discursive, mental, or ideational constructions are deployed to fill this hole.

Such holes are, however, crucial. In a famous text from 1950, Claude Lévi-Strauss tries to explain the word “mana,” often associated with the practice of magic by sorcerers and shamans from Indigenous American tribes.11 This word defies translation in how it is used in so many diverse contexts and seems to gather together totally heterogeneous usages. Actually, according to Lévi-Strauss, mana marks the gaps between language and knowledge. Mana objects, animals, or people doubtlessly have something special about them, but in a way that is not necessarily always the same and whose existence is precisely established without being formally identified in its nature. As this thing was not at all known, the founder of the myth attempted to grasp it with the resources of language, even if language could articulate nothing that is consistent beyond the fact of qualifying it as mana. The thing thus became mana.

This well-known analysis—which is contested and doubtlessly more suggestive than robust—sheds light on these “holes” and “idols.” There where no why is needed, “pseudo-because” s appear and sometimes acquire a special, almost honorific status. The notion of destiny could illustrate it: as stories often show, it responds to questions like “Why was this person born?” The expression “to fulfill one’s destiny” means that the agent accomplishes that for which she was put on Earth, while one can reasonably claim that asking “Why were you put on Earth?” is a meaningless question.

Now leaving religion, myths, and mana aside, the quest for “why?” manifests itself in other more contemporary auspices. Everyone is familiar with what are called “conspiracy theories.” Believing, as certain conspiracy theorists do, that world history is directed by a malevolent secret society called the Illuminati—or in a less colorful and more serious fashion, groups such as the Jews and the Freemasons—often reflects a yearning for a unique theory that can give reason to important or tragic world events. Thus, certain psychologists have shown that the tendency to believe conspiracy theories—such as “the moon landing was faked” or “the CIA planned 9/11”—is broadly correlated to what they call a “need for cognitive closure”; or in other words, a loathing of these explanatory “holes” in the fabric of the world.12


1. In Auguste Comte’s positivism, humanity crosses three successive cognitive ages: a mythical or religious age, a metaphysical age where people seek the essence of things, and a positive age where the positive sciences describe laws that govern phenomena. See Auguste Comte, Cours de philosophie positive (Paris: Vrin, 1980); translated by Frederick Ferré, Introduction to Positive Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1988).

2. Today, this “second analogy” recalls what is sometimes called determinism (by Claude Bernard among others). For Kant, the Second Analogy was essential because it alone allowed for us to distinguish between a subjective time (the succession of my perceptions: I can indifferently look at a person by beginning with the face or the head) and an objective time (an airplane taking off cannot be seen in reverse). The existence of the “rule” that the principle stipulates indeed forbids all objective successions except for one.

3. In Schopenhauer’s first writing before his masterwork The World as Will and Representation, namely his dissertation On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813).

4. I am using “belief” in the minimal sense that is used in analytical philosophy: “to believe p” means “considering proposition p to be true.” Discussions about the opposition between belief and knowledge are thus irrelevant as they consider belief in the sense of “nonjustified belief”—here, belief is a very general term that in no way involves the question of justifying what one believes to be true.

5. Of course, I am not pretending to describe the true history of science here, which is much more complex and elaborate, but rather to simply propose a useful schematization for this book’s goals. On Galileo, see Alexandre Koyré’s books: From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957), and Galileo Studies (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, [1939] 1978); see also Maurice Clavelin, Natural Philosophy of Galileo: Essays on the Origins and Formation of Classical Mechanics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974), or the chapters that Karl Feyerabend devotes to him in Against Method, 4th ed. (New York: Verso, 2010).

6. A major objection could be made here right from the start. In short, it deals with what we call pragmatics—or the conditions of understanding for a statement that falls within the context of interlocution. We traditionally distinguish semantics—namely, the dimension according to which statements have a meaning—from pragmatics. Semantically speaking, the meaning of “I already ate” is that I ate before the current moment. But pragmatically speaking, if the statement is preceded by the question “Do you want to have lunch?”, it could mean “I don’t want to have lunch.” Pragmatics enriches the meaning of a claim.

The border between pragmatics and semantics seems relatively simple. However, some thinkers show that it is not so simple: they can thus support the idea that semantics by itself is an abstraction, that true meaning is always pragmatic. According to this radical argument, the examples of senseless sentences that I just listed are no longer so. We can find a context of interlocution in which “green numbers yearn for calm” means something (for example, it could be a question of political ecology, the absence of ideological conflicts, etc.).

In this book, I am on principle discarding this radical argument concerning pragmatics, although I will say a word about it in the last chapters.

7. The question of knowing, whether it is ultimately a question of two types of nonmeaning or just one, is discussed in the philosophy of language. Wittgenstein argues that it is, in short, the same thing, which involves radical consequences regarding what we understand by “meaning,” but they go well beyond the scope of this book.

8. Paul Veyne, Writing History: Essay on Epistemology (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).

9. In very diverse ways, the great Hellenist Jean-Pierre Vernant (Les origines de la pensée grecque, 1965) and the philosopher of science Karl Popper (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963) exposed such an opposition-succession. Whatever the historical truth of this story, it says something correct about the difference between two types of discourse and legitimation.

10. In his Abstract of the Treatise on Human Nature (1740) Hume writes that resemblance, contiguity, and causation “are really to us the cement of the universe, and all the operations of the mind must, in a great measure, depend on them.” The phrase is now mostly cited when philosophers investigate causality, as in J. L. Mackie, The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1974] 1980).

11. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss, trans. Felicity Baker (London: Routledge, [1950], 1987).

12. Patrick J. Leman and Marco Cinnirella, “Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories and the Need for Cognitive Closure,” Frontiers in Psychology 4 (2013): 378.