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Sortir de la caverne, entrer dans la grotte : étude épistémologique sur l’art paléolithique et la préhistoire, au carrefour des sciences naturelles et humaines

Abstract : Ever since Plato’s allegory the practice of philosophy has traditionally been linked to stepping out of a cavern. What this work aims at doing is to go in the very opposite direction, by examining with a philosophical approach the caves and ornamented artefacts which men ventured into and used in Europe before the end of the last ice age. This particular issue cannot be tackled without defining first what the sciences of prehistory consist in, as they can’t be confined to the study of what happened before the beginning of history. Another important issue to address is that of the unity of what has been labelled « Palaeolithic Art ». However, the double challenge laid down by the discovery of that form of art must be reckoned with, beyond all those conceptual considerations. Indeed, it has enabled researchers to ponder about man’s identity and origins on the one hand, and about what makes sciences of prehistory stand out from other scientific fields, and how they relate to those other sciences on the other hand. As regards the first question under scrutiny, the discovery of fossil men made it increasingly possible throughout the 19th century to consider that they lived at the same time as some now extinguished animal species, but the discovery of their artistic work raised initially a lot of controversy. However, it revealed then that those men had a sense of aesthetics, some spiritual abilities, and that they were, in a nutshell, fully-fledged human beings. As for the second issue, Palaeolithic Art has made the blurred status of research on prehistory both more blatant and more tangible, as such research intertwines various sciences, especially those of nature and Humanities. A deeper examination of the approaches and practices of researchers on prehistory shows that that field of studies can be considered as an experimental one, where different scientific model systems are driven to merge. Yet, the scientific approach of prehistory implies an underlying conception of mankind and sciences, which was challenged in the last decades of the 20th century, when new paradigms were introduced by naturalised anthropology. Since they stand at the junction point of sciences of nature and Humanities, the studies on Palaeolithic Art offer the opportunity to get a privileged insight into various ways to see the world, to understand mankind, and to define the principles of sciences.
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Ségolène Lepiller. Sortir de la caverne, entrer dans la grotte : étude épistémologique sur l’art paléolithique et la préhistoire, au carrefour des sciences naturelles et humaines. Philosophie. Université Paris sciences et lettres, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019PSLEE044⟩. ⟨tel-03002253⟩

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