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Philosophy - United Kingdom

Research topics


The Concept of Habit in Modern French Philosophy

This project addresses the concept of habit in modern French philosophy from the beginning of the nineteenth-century up to the present day. The project shows how the concept of habit is fundamental and pivotal in this period, and how competing schools of thought not only offer diverging views on habit, but also define and establish themselves in doing so. The fundamental question–one which is still an open question in contemporary thinking–is whether habit can be understood as a third-person, objective principle that could be explained mechanically, in the third person, in terms of efficient causal processes. The French tradition provides a range of vitalist, animist and phenomenological alternatives to mechanical hypotheses, and these alternatives have quite different consequences in relation to a range of philosophical issues, including the relation of mind and body, the nature of the self, the nature of memory, and the idea of the temporality—the ‘duration’—of the self as irreducible to time as measured by clocks.
The project examines a wealth of little-known and under-examined material in this tradition of French philosophy, and it does so with the aim of developing the possibilities of present-day reflection on habit. The project will contrast ideas about habit in this period with those advanced in the classical age of philosophy, and it will show how the nineteenth-century challenges the materialist and mechanistic paradigms that emerged in seventeenth-century thinking. The project will thereby reveal how French reflection on habit allows us to question and challenge dominant materialist paradigms concerning habit in the contemporary neurosciences. Notions of neural plasticity, for example, have come to prominence in the last decades of neuroscientific research, and it is crucial to situate these notions in the light of historical developments in order to evaluate them.

Activities / Resume


Mark Sinclair is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton, London. Previously he was a Senior Lecturer and a Research Fellow at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He has degrees in Philosophy from The University of Warwick, Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), and Manchester Metropolitan University. After a doctoral thesis on Martin Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy (Heidegger, Aristotle and the Work of Art, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006), his research has been concerned with the history of French philosophy and with the contemporary metaphysics of powers. He has just finished Being Inclined : Félix Ravaisson’s Philosophy of Habit (Oxford University Press, 2019), which examines Ravaisson’s account of inclination in the light of ideas about tendency and inclination in contemporary metaphysics. He has also recently completed a book on the philosophy of Henri Bergson (Bergson, Routledge, 2019). He is a member of the Conseil d’administration of the Société des amis de Bergson, Associate Editor at the British Journal for the History of Philosophy and member of the Management Committe of the British Society for the History of Philosophy.


  • Being Inclined: Félix Ravaisson’s Philosophy of Habit (Oxford University Press, in press, 2019)
  • Bergson, The Routledge Philosophers (Routledge, in press, 2019)
  • ‘Bergson’s Philosophy of Art’ in Interpreting Bergson, ed. A. Lefebvre and N. Schott (Cambridge University Press, in press, 2019)
  • ‘Habit and Time in Nineteenth-Century French Philosophy: Albert Lemoine between Bergson and Ravaisson’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26/1 (2018) 131-153
  • ‘Heidegger on “Possibility”’ in Mark Sinclair (ed.), The Actual and the Possible: Modality and Metaphysics in Modern Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2017), 186-216
  • The Actual and the Possible: Modality and Metaphysics in Modern Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • ‘Bergson’s Philosophy of Will and the War of 1914-18’, Journal of the History of Ideas 77/3 (2016) 467-87
  • ‘Is There a “Dispositional Modality”? Maine de Biran and Ravaisson on Agency and Inclination’, History of Philosophy Quarterly 32/3 (2015) 161-80
  • Félix Ravaisson, Of Habit (London: Continuum, 2008), edited with C. Carlisle