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Philipp Albert Stapfer (born Bernmarker, 23 September 1766 - Parismarker, 27 March 1840) was a Swiss politician and philosopher.

He was the plenipotentiary envoi of the Helvetic Republic to the French consulate in Paris from 1801 till 1803. ( Act of Mediation )

He married and settled in France, at a summerhouse in Talcy (Loir-et-Cher) and in Paris where he became the friend of Maine de Biran -in 1805 at informal gatherings of Cabanis circle at Auteuil. He was also vice-president of the Paris Protestant society.

He is the recipient of Maine de Biran's essay:
"Réponses aux arguments contre l'aperception immédiate d'une liaison causale entre le vouloir primitif et la motion et contre la dérivation d'un principe universel et nécessaire de causalités de cette source." (1818);
an important résumé known as: "Réponses à Stapfer"


Philipp Albert Stapfer also shared with Maine de Biran a pronounced interest in the educational experiments of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.

As a Minister of Sciences and Arts of the Helvetic Republic in 1798 he arranged the nomination of Pestalozzi as chief editor of the government paper "Helvetisches Volksblatt" -a post from which Pestalozzi quickly resigned.

In Paris Stapfer pleaded Pestalozzi's case for educational reform with Napoleon Bonaparte, who denigrated the program for its lack of real science.

Maine de Biran however -following the encounters with Stapfer at Auteuil and his own appointement as "sous-préfet" of the Dordognemarker in 1806- reformed the education in his department by inviting to Bergerac a teacher formed by Pestalozzi at Yverdonmarker.


Apart from being an involved and tolerant Protestant philosopher Stapfer, with André-Marie Ampère, Joseph-Marie de Gérando, Pierre Paul Royer-Collard, Georges Cuvier and many others was a regular participant in the philosophical debates organised by Maine de Biran, after the latter finally settled in Paris as an administrator in 1812.

Together with Degérando, who introduced Kant studies in France, he was one of Maine de Biran's main sources on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant whose work he followed in its development by one of Kant's pupils: Friedrich Bouterwek (1766-1828), professor in Philosophy at the Georg August University in Göttingenmarker. Meyers Lexicon Mannheim 1990 links Bouterwek with Maine de Biran. Bouterwek was already lecturing on Kant at Göttingen when Stapfer studied there in 1789-1790.

The extent of Stapfer's knowledge of Kant can be judged from the substantial (pagelong) notes he appended to Maine de Biran's: "Exposition de la doctrine philosophique de Leibniz. Composée pour la Biographie Universelle" (Paris: Michaud ed 1819). This exposition written at the instigation of Stapfer is one of only two (authorised) philosophical texts by Maine de Biran published during his lifetime.(Stapfer's notes were republished by Pierre Tisserand in his Oeuvres de Maine de Biran,1939 -Tome XI pp435-489 )

Stapfer long survived his immediate contemporaries de Biran and Bouterwek. He arranged for his own salon, inviting guests such as Victor Cousin, Sainte-Beuve, Guizot to whom he became an important material witness of the preceding decades.

It took the untiring persistence of Stapfer to encourage Victor Cousin and Joseph Lainé to classify and publish the works of Maine de Biran.

External links


  • (Stapfer in:) de La Valette Monbrun: "Maine de Biran (1766-1824)" Paris: Librairie Philosophique J.Vrin, 1914 pp453-455
  • (Réponses à Stapfer in:) Henri Gouhier: "Maine de Biran: Oeuvres Choisies" Paris: Aubier Montaigne -Bibliothèque Philosophique, 1942
  • Max Liedtke: "Pestalozzi" Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1968

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