Comments on French Philosophy exams at Bacalaureat (High school exams)

Today is the first day of french national exams called Bacalaureat. This general exam begins with Philosophy exams and as we are surprised by the level of some of the subjects (very high, the elite) we will wonder which eighteen years old Frenchy student could answer to those subjects.

So from the literary branch of the students we have these subjects:

“Le langage n’est-il qu’un outil ?”, is language just a tool ?

From artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences background, we should answer yes, language is a tool used to give instructions in computer science and there is a field of linguistics sciences aimed at produce computer aided language acquisition and translation. We are surprised from the contradiction which came from the query, because thinking to the language as a tool is precisely usefull to build information technology on the subject. Why should we wonder that language is not just a tool whereas thinking to language as a tool could produce innovative technology. For us the formulating of the question leads for young men or a young women to very confuse state of mind on the subject. This is not a question which is a motor to action, that seems rather be an inhibitor for action and learning.

“La science se limite-t-elle à constater les faits ?”, Is science limited to the facts notice ?

Ironically when we read free available thesis on the repository in the social sciences fields, asking this question would be very embarasting for the author, especially in sociology. Sociology is something that always put political power in embarasting situation due to its closeness with criminology. Answering to this subject will surely lead to the under estimation of observation for a young student. That seems also be an inhibitor to society observation.

From the economical field of studies we have these subjects :

“Que devons-nous à l’Etat ?” What do we owe to governmental state ?

This subject is something to ask to industry CEO, I agree, and often the answer is not a good mark at the end of the exam. Eighteen years old is the age to make mistakes, because mistakes are usefull to learn. Why should eighteen years old students politely lying on the subject or being sacked by the examinator ? We do not need someone who politely lie, we need someone who has convictions, convictions that are helpers for action. And we should add that conviction often comes from experience.

“Interprète-t-on à défaut de connaître ?” Do we do interpretation instead of knowing ?

This subject is the heart of Google Research and Development laboratory ‘s work …

The eighteen years old student who answer to the question will finished millionaire in the silicon valley … (And Inria is doing partnership with Microsoft …)

More seriously, the level of the subject is so high that even cognitive scientists will produce thesis on the subject. This subject seems rather to be a one over hundred thousand students selector. Is it really the age to have this selection ?

In the field of sciences we have these subjects:

“Peut-on agir moralement sans s’intéresser à la politique ?” Could we act morally without being interested in politics ?

A young student who is obliged to have written answer if he should act morally, furthermore if he had not followed the Cahuzac or the Strauss Kahn affair, seems to be in a “grand oral” for some (religious ?) society integration. For me eighteen years old student should know how to behave morally but does not have necessarily to explain it, because he is just eighteen years old and only elite students who had some spiritual master could answer the subject. To my knowledge there is no spiritual masters in french public school …

“Le travail permet-il de prendre conscience de soi ?” Does work allow to be conscious of ourself ?

To answer the subject is to consider ourself and the work, things that are very difficult for eighteen years old student because if work is to be considered as labour, we need to say that child labour is prohibited in France and also, that biochemistry says brain is in transformation until around 25 years old. So being conscious of the self phenomenon for eighteen years old teenager should be very difficult. We really do not see the interest of the subject. Should the subject be able to avoid binge drinking ? Maybe a subject on sport would have been more usefull ?


We could be a little teasing at the exams, but if we summarize, we found in the subjects some inhibitors for action, and something like an elite segregation between the eighteen years old student who had experimented spiritual master who has successfully transmitted knowledge that is usefull for experimented adults and the others. This is the kind of challenge faced by our french teenagers …

Note: Subjects have been quoted from this newspaper article:


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