Presented at an international symposium, entitled ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man’, at The Johns Hopkins Center, Baltimore, USA, on 18th – 21st October 1966.

Presenter: Richard Macksey, René Girard & Jean Hyppolite

Title: Concluding Remarks

Availability: See below where it is republished.

All the contributions to this symposium are published in: ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man: the Structuralist Controversy’ edited by Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato: The Johns Hopkins Press Baltimore and London: 1970. Contents, Preface, Contributors and Colloquists (as published in Macksey & Donato): See this site /5 Other Authors A-Z (Macksey or Donato). Copy of the book available from /Texts by request.

Description of Richard Macksey, René Girard & Jean Hyppolite as in 1970

Richard Macksey: is the Acting Director of the Humanities Center and has published work in number theory, intellectual history, and hermeneutics, as well as poems and translations. He has been involved in film-making and has written on the semiotics of the film, music and critical studies of Sterne, Darwin, Henry James, Rilke, Proust, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Robbe-Grillet.

René Girard is the former chairman of the Department of Romance Languages at The Johns Hopkins University and one of the organizers of the Symposium. He has written widely on topics in French literature and is currently concerned with the psychological and philosophical implications of the Oedipus myth.

Jean Hyppolite: was professor of the History of Philosophy at the Collège de France and former Director of the École Normale Supérieure.

Description of the symposium from p iv of Preface (Macksey & Donato op. cit)

Quote from the Preface – Pix (the first two paragraphs)

‘Les théories et les écoles, comme les microbes et les globules, s’entre-dévorent et assurent par leur lutte la continuité de la vie.’ Marcel Proust

The papers and discussions collected in this volume constitute the proceedings of the international symposium entitled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” [“Les Langages Critiques et les Sciences de l’Homme”] enabled by a grant from the Ford Foundation. The sessions were convened under the auspices of the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center, during the week of October 18-21, 1966, when over one hundred humanists and social scientists from the United States and eight other countries gathered in Baltimore. The symposium inaugurated a two-year program of seminars and colloquia which sought to explore the impact of contemporary “structuralist” thought on critical methods in humanistic and social studies. The general title emphasized both the pluralism of the existing modes of discourse and the interaction of disciplines not entirely limited to the conventional rubric of the “humanities”.

By focusing the discussions on the structuralist phenomenon, the organizers were not seeking to promote a manifesto nor even to arrive at a fixed and unambiguous definition of structuralism itself. To many observers there seemed already to be too many manifestos, while satisfactory definitions of such polymorphic activities, or cultural events, are generally only achieved after the principals are safely dead. The danger was clearly that of deforming a method or a “family of methods” into a doctrine. The purpose of the meetings, rather, was to bring into an active and not uncritical contact leading European proponents of structural studies in a variety of disciplines with a wide spectrum of American scholars. It was hoped that this contact could in turn, stimulate innovations both in the received scholarship and in the training of scholars.

Concluding Remarks, p319-322 of Macksey & Donato (1970)

Richard Macksey: It is formulaic in the closing moments of any such co-operative enterprise as this Symposium to speak of the projects success, to assess the common ground we have won, the critical positions we may have demystified. Without

deliberately slighting this hallowed tradition, it may be more prudent to entrust such evaluations to the future and to recall, however briefly, that the phrase from Merleau-Ponty with which M. Hyppolite eloquently concluded his remarks could be adapted to our present purpose: “There is no Symposium without its shadow.” Measured against the participants’ original intentions, there have been, no doubt, a number of surprises, some shifts of emphasis, and a few clear lapses of programmatic aims. Further, there have been the topics which have acquired definition only through our reluctance or inability to address them directly.

The title under which the Symposium was conceived emphasized both the plurality of critical languages to be considered and the possibility of constituting as a frame for discussion the general methodology of the sciences de l’homme. In some respects the papers and debates only confirmed the first assumption and revealed the difficulties of achieving the latter. Many of the participants, while sharing certain crucial words in the critical vocabulary, clearly invested them with differing and even antithetical meanings. Yet these and other differences were debated and clarified—the first step toward any methodological review.

At the level of the discussions, some of you have observed that the announced concern for methodological and axiological questions was perhaps diverted by a recurrent preoccupation with a basically metaphysical question, namely, the status of the subject in the several disciplines before us. And yet this issue was clearly prolegomenous to any discussion of the constitutive discrepancy within intersubjective relationships, of the contest for priority between the sign [signifiant] and meaning [signifié], of the alleged privilege of any critical position whatever. At the opening of our sessions Rene Girard’s reading of the hazards facing Tiresias as blind critic could serve as both warning and challenge.

Some observers may feel the equally important issues relating to values in the transfer of investigative models from one discipline to another have been also unfortunately slighted. Or, again, others may feel that although the great European architects of our labyrinth—Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Saussure—have been given their due place in contemporary praxis, closer attention to the formative Anglo-American tradition of thought might have revealed important congruences and correctives, say in the work of Peirce and Dewey, of Kroeber, Lowie, and Sapir, of Harry Stack Sullivan, Mead, and Kenneth Burke. This bias no doubt reflects the distinctly Gallic flavor which our distinguished visitors have lent to the Symposium. It remains for the continuing seminars which these sessions have inaugurated to explore these other openings and possibly redress the balance.

The sessions have allowed us, however, not only to investigate some of the roots of the contemporary critical “crisis” but to assess some of the possible consequences for the humane sciences of new appropriations across disciplinary lines, to investigate contending interpretative models, and to consider such radical reappraisals of our assumptions as that advanced by M. Derrida on this final day.

Some of the vitality in the “structuralist adventure” as well as much of the confusion undoubtedly stems from the plurality of analytical languages and the internal divisions about status of the subject in the various disciplines. Yet we hope that the Symposium has demonstrated that this pluralism and these divisions were themselves susceptible to fruitful analysis. While dispelling any lingering dreams of a formalized and “pure” interpretative language which may have survived the philosophic onslaughts of the preceding generation, these sessions have, I think, renewed the urgency of Charles Peirce’s isolated plea for the systematic study of methods and for the semiotic analysis of adjacent sign systems, in all their individuality, as keys to the understanding of the way in which communication and its paradoxes constitute the human community.

This is certainly not the moment to draw any systematic conclusions from what has transpired here, but in considering the language which men use to discuss their languages we might turn again to that tenet which Merleau-Ponty, in a late essay, derives from the familiar structural view of ordinary language’s self-transcending power in the movement from the intention of the signifiant to the achieved expression of the signifié: “We who speak do not necessarily know what we express better than those who hear us.” This insight clearly applies to any retrospective interpretation of these sessions and it was this creative sense which animated the debates and which, we hope, made, “Les Langages Critiques et les Sciences de l’Homme” more of an exploration of new perspectives than a consolidation of those already held.

Rene Girard: I can only concur with my colleague that there is not time at this hour to draw any summary conclusions from the Symposium. There remains much to be said, but this must be part of the dialogue commenced here, which will be continued as a supplement to our sessions—through the Ford Seminars planned for the next two years, through the articles which the week’s topics will provoke, through the discussions and correspondence which will bind us together, and through the acts of the Symposium which will be published by The Johns Hopkins Press.

To conclude, in the name of the organizers of the Symposium, in the name of the new Humanities Center of The Johns Hopkins University and its Director, Charles Singleton, we wish to thank all our friends here for their collaboration, at once so active, so incisive, and so cordial. It was this cordial spirit of co-operation, so well defined by Professor Hyppolite, which we believe was essential to the success of the Symposium. We thank the participants, colloquists, and guests for their contributions to this dialogue and this spirit, for all that they have brought to Baltimore, and we resolve to keep open the lines of communication discovered here.

Jean Hyppolite [on behalf of the European delegates to the Symposium] : I wish to say quite simply, on behalf of all my colleagues who have charged me to do so, how grateful we are for the warm welcome which has been accorded us at this University, by the Humanities Center, and by the support of the Ford Foundation.

And I wish to say—and I think that I speak for all those who together asked me to take the floor today—I wish to say how deeply we have been impressed, not only by the thoughtfulness in every physical arrangement, by the courtesy of the welcome, but especially by the rare atmosphere which has presided over this colloquium, where (despite the linguistic difficulties) we have felt so acutely how close this University is to those questions which have elsewhere concerned each of us, with what care and solicitude our problems have been anticipated, and how amply the discussion of the central topic has been opened and advanced. Finally, I want to thank you, M. President, to thank the organizers, and to thank all those who have contributed to this fruitful encounter.

Richard Macksey: The eighth and final session of “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man” stands adjourned. We trust, however, that the critical exchanges and discussions have just begun.