Poor BHL. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy–who some people just love to hate–was fingered as a fraud yesterday (on French TV, nonetheless) when he referenced a fictional philosopher in order to defend his recent book on Immanuel Kant. According to The Times Levy had not checked his sources before writing the book and was blissfully unaware that Jean-Baptiste Botul was actually a fictional character and worse, an elaborate literary joke. Come on BHL, there’s Google! Or Wikepedia? Or, I don’t know, a library! From the Times:
When France’s most dashing philosopher took aim at Immanuel Kant in his latest book, calling him “raving mad” and a “fake”, his observations were greeted with the usual adulation. To support his attack, Bernard-Henri Lévy — a showman-penseur known simply by his initials, BHL — cited the little-known 20th-century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul.
There was one problem: Botul was invented by a journalist in 1999 as an elaborate joke, and BHL has become the laughing stock of the Left Bank.
There were clues. One supposed work by Botul — from which BHL quoted — was entitled The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant. The philosopher’s school is known as Botulism and subscribes to his theory of “La Metaphysique du Mou” — the Metaphysics of the Flabby. Botul even has a Wikipedia entry that explains that he is a “fictional French philosopher”.
Now, let’s see. Bring on the predicable lectures on how French philosophy is populated by a bunch of wannabee avant-garde hipters who take great delight in spouting forth a bunch of nonsense! At least nobody called BHL the “Black Forest Babbler!”