Enchantment of the Virtual

Enchantment of the Virtual
Mathematics, Physics, Philosophy

Gilles Châtelet

Charles Alunni, Catherine Paoletti (Editors)

Translated by Taylor Adkins, Jack Cox, Matt Hare, John Paetsch, Robin Mackay, Cecile Malaspina, Dan Mellamphy, Thomas Murphy, Ben Woodard

Paperback 175 x 115mm, 432pp.
64 b&w diagrams, 4 b&w photographs
ISBN 978-1-7336281-1-2

A collection of newly translated texts by Gilles Châtelet (1944–1999)—philosopher, political theorist, and thinker of individuation and the magnification of human freedoms, but also a talented mathematician and an original theorist of the virtual, the diagram, and the gesture. With his characteristic ebullience and speculative agility in transporting concepts between different fields, Châtelet’s polymath interrogations were an acknowledged inspiration of fellow philosophers including Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou.

In the texts collected in this volume Châtelet explores the articulation between mathematics and physical reality, between algebra and geometry, between the operations of a finite being and the manifestations of nature. Also included in the collection are interviews with Châtelet and review articles in which he reckons with major contemporary figures including Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, Roger Penrose, and René Thom.

The extensive introduction by Châtelet’s former colleague Charles Alunni outlines the life and career of this “last romantic philosopher” and its continuing importance for our understanding of the relations between the mathematical and the physical, the abstract and the concrete, and the politics of liberation.


Gilles Châtelet (1944-1999) began his studies at the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud. During the late 1960s he was a member of an anti-Stalinist student faction of the French Communist Party. After 1968, a stay at UC Berkeley brought him into contact with key protagonists of the Beat Generation. He returned to France and joined the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire (FHAR), and befriended Roland Barthes, Daniel Guérin and Guy Hocquenghem. Meeting Michel Foucault was an important marker in the development of his political thinking; as was his friendship with Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, who played a decisive role in renewing his passion for philosophy. He obtained his PhD in Pure Mathematics from the University of Paris XI in 1975, writing his thesis on differential topology. In 1979 he became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Paris VIII. Around this time he established a dialogue with René Thom that continued until his death. He was programme director at the Collège International de Philosophie from 1989 to 1995, during which period he published the important work Les Enjeux du Mobile: Mathématique, Physique, Philosophie. In 1994 he joined the Laboratoire Disciplinaire Pensée des Sciences, founded by Charles Alunni at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. There, he had an active and influential role in the seminar, “Actuality, Potentiality and Virtuality.” In the year before his death he published Vivre et Penser Comme des Porcs (Éditions Exils, 1998), which became an unexpected bestseller. Posthumous collections of his work include Les Animaux Malades du Consensus (Lignes, 2010) and L’Enchantement du Virtuel (Éditions Rue d’Ulm, 2010).