Celebrating Edgar Morin's 100th birthday

Edgar Morin's 100th birthday - Lessons from a century of life

The French sociologist and philosopher, Edgar Morin, is about to celebrate his 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, he is publishing his testament book, Leçons d’un siècle de vie.

This is sufficiently singular to be highlighted and commented on. All the more so as " the planetary humanist " according to UNESCO, has kept a fresh mind to think about the contemporary world and to teach how to live, without being a teacher of lessons. 

He wrote a lot. How should we approach his work? His more than 70 works can be classified into a few broad categories: thought reform; complex thought in a systemic approach; the human condition, with reflections on culture, art and cinema; education, with The Seven Necessary Skills for the Education of the Future; ecology, including The Earth as a Fatherland and Ecologising Man; political thought; reflections on his intellectual career; autobiographical works.

What lessons can be drawn from what matters to him? The important thing is to live the human adventure with risks, maintaining the activity of one's mind in contact with the world in permanent movement. In 1943, in the middle of the war, he joined the Resistance at the age of 22. Edgar Morin speaks today of the fraternitý of the Resistance as being among the most beautiful moments of his life: the fraternitý lived in oases linked together as places of resistance and culture of a complex thought. For Edgar Morin, today we must respond to the duty to "inscribe ourselves in the local adventures of the oases, rearguards of humanitý in triumphant barbarities, vanguards of humanitý if the possibilitý of a better future is glimpsed" (Edgar Morin, La Fraternité́, pourquoi?)

At the end of the war, he was enlightened by the Communist ideology with the excesses that made him believe that the end could justify the means, and that loyalty to the Party was worth more than freedom of conscience and expression. But four years later, he was disillusioned. He then took on board the profound rightness of humanists like Camus. This episode made Edgar Morin say that today, "beautiful souls and great hearts are the most important thing in the world".

For Edgar Morin, the very essence of thought is to help us stand in the midst of contradiction. Not to try to make a synthesis to resolve oppositions (dialectic), but to live in the unity of opposites, by making them dialogue (dialogic). This is how we find the path to wisdom, for example, by living passion and reason simultaneously, 'passion regulated by reason, and reason nourished by passion'

At 100 years of age, Edgar Morin remains animated by the forces of life, because they make it possible, he says, to repress the anxieties of death. One must be astonished by the spectacle of life, by its mystery. Writing and reading, poetry, help us to live, and also love.