Cousin, Victor

Cousin, Victor vēktôrˈ [key], 1792–1867, French educational leader and philosopher, founder of the eclectic school. He lectured at the Sorbonne from 1814 until 1821, when political reaction forced him to leave. Recalled to teaching in 1828, Cousin was named in 1830 to the council of public instruction and was made councillor of state. In 1832 he became a peer of France, and in 1840 he accepted the position of minister of public instruction. He became virtually the national arbiter of educational and philosophical matters. His chief works in education were the complete reorganization and centralization of the primary system and the establishment of a policy of philosophical freedom in the universities. As an eclectic, Cousin sought to develop a system that combined the psychological insights of Maine de Biran, the common sense of the Scottish school, and the idealism of Hegel and Schelling. He argued that each of these philosophies contains an element of truth that can be grasped by intuition. Cousin's approach to philosophy was historical, and he introduced the study of the history of philosophy into the French academic course. His works include Fragments philosophiques (1826), Du vrai, du beau et du bien (1836; tr. Lectures on the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, 1854), Cours de l'histoire de la philosophie (8 vol., 1815–29), various studies of educational systems, and a brilliant translation of Plato.

See G. Boas, French Philosophies of the Romantic Period (1925); W. V. Brewer, Victor Cousin as a Comparative Educator (1971).

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