La traduction est derangeante, translation is disturbing, as I stated in my paper delivered in French at the Facultes Universitaires Saint-Louis (FUSL) in Brussels this past May to a largely academic audience that was gathered, ostensibly, to examine and discuss the literary and artistic implications of the work of the revolutionary political thinker and social philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis. So, too, I discovered, can this message itself be disturbing when delivered in a cross-cultural setting. "As was easy to foresee, and as was, moreover, almost predicted in the text itself,"[1] my wager -- that an American might talk honestly, meaningfully, and successfully to a French-speaking audience in its own language about the difficulties and challenges involved in the project of transforming Castoriadis's words from French into English for an American audience -- was going to have, at best, mixed results. Like translation, the presentation and reception of words in such a setting are fraught with difficulties, obstacles, complications. Protocols, habits, and prejudices differ from one society -- one social-imaginary institution -- to another. And these differences can indeed be a source of potential friction, indeed conflicts, though they may also be an opportunity for revealing reflections upon such encounters.

Already, tone can pose a problem. As a sympathetic French-Canadian friend noted after reading my paper, it was unclear to her whether I had written the text directly in French (as I had indeed done) or had someone translate it, and she found its tone, on paper at least, rather sec (dry). This apparent dryness of tone was perhaps a function, in part, of my not having perfect mastery of the French language. Interestingly, though, the paper was delivered orally in French with, on the contrary, a passion that might have been unsettling, perhaps especially when combined with an American accent foreign to French speakers' ears. (However, I distributed copies of my paper to the audience, in case some people might want to follow on the written page what my pronunciation might not make clear.) Criticisms, or simple visceral reactions, about "tone" may, of course, hide other, more deep-seated rifts or biases: discomfort with the content of my propositions could be "translated," so to speak, into "mere" complaints about the "tone" this American had employed.[2] And yet, such responses on the level of hearing/reading are not alien to how one imaginary world is instituted in relation to, and sometimes against, another imaginary one. Adopting a plainspoken and forthright, if not downright outspoken, American intonation in French[3] -- wherein, for example, I announced that I had reserved the autonomous right to judge very selectively which authors I, as a French-to-English translator, would choose from the "overpopulated desert" of current literary production -- was not necessarily going to endear me to this French-speaking audience.[4] Reminding them in this way of Castoriadis's own virulent attacks on what he called, in remembrance of Marx/Engels, the "French Ideology" could have been (and indeed was) taken negatively by some. The published authors present[5] might receive such words as a blanket condemnation, by a foreigner, of these listeners camped on their own home ground -- though, certainly, each one could equally have welcomed my words as an open invitation for his or her own potentially nonconformist prose to be translated into English by me.[6] But then again, who was this American setting himself up as arbiter of what French-language writing was worthy of publication in translation?

As a context for "tone," the specificity of the setting for cross-cultural exchange is quite important and contains its share of holes, misunderstandings, and preexisting fault lines. In specific response to an audience member's question about the relationship of translation to chaos, I had answered that God does not exist as some sort of guarantee any more than there is a satisfactory computer translation program. It only occurred to me afterward that in a communitarian country like Belgium, where religion and linguistic identity overlap, such a reminder of God's nonexistence[7] might not be too well received. For me, "Saint Louis" generally goes with "Blues" and the Cardinals baseball team, not institutions of higher learning. As a naive American, I had already unknowingly and embarrassingly stepped right into a large hole in my own cross-cultural understanding.[8]

From a negative hole to positive grounds for misunderstanding is but one additional leap. Certainly, academia today is one site where, with greater or lesser clarity, there is a pronounced interest in Castoriadis's work. And it is here that money is fairly readily available to organize colloquia -- which, materially speaking, involve organization, the invitation of competent speakers willing and able to attend, often with payment for their travel and lodging, and so on. Yet for me, it was absurd to hold a conference on a revolutionary thinker that would be exclusively academic in orientation and tone. It was perhaps also considered presumptuous on my part, in the academic setting into which I was being invited, to assume that others in attendance would share that assumption. Indeed, beyond the brief introductory remarks of conference organizer Laurent Van Eynde, the first afternoon of this day-and-a-half-long academic get-together that was billed as a conference around Castoriadis had practically nothing to do with Castoriadis at all! The first invited speaker, James Boyd White of the University of Chicago, said he had never even heard Castoriadis's name before. "Castoriadis" had thus become the emblem under which a distinguished scholar totally unfamiliar with the man's work could be transported across an ocean.[9] And beyond the title and a few introductory remarks, the paper of the other speaker that first afternoon, FUSL's own Vice Rector and distinguished legal scholar Francois Ost, made little more than passing mention to Castoriadis at the beginning of a talk centered instead around the application, to established legal thinking and practice, of literary notions about "narrative" formulated by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur. Despite Ost's proud declaration that L'Institution imaginaire de la societe had been "sitting on his desk" for almost three decades, there was scant indication, from his lecture at least, that Castoriadis's magnum opus had very often been lifted therefrom and opened for reading and reflection.[10]

At this point, ethnological customs peculiar to academia came into play. Ost had introduced White as a leading light of a burgeoning international "law and literature" movement in which Ost himself had also taken a local interest. White was certainly an eloquent scourge of the political publicists and advertising men who dominate and pollute the public space today in the United States.[11] Indeed, had this amiable American academic been informed of the nature of this conference that was presumably footing all or part of his travel and lodging bill, he might have conscientiously informed himself about Castoriadis's work in advance and made at least some substantive references to it in his talk. Alas, that never happened. White appeared to be Ost's prize invitee, not to be burdened with such details as the actual theme of the conference he was attending.[12] At our conference-paid dinner that evening in one of the most attractive art-deco restaurants in Brussels, White sat at a table large enough to seat only Ost, FUSL colleagues, and some fellow speakers. Never introduced by van Eynde to White or any of the other speakers, I sat with various students who were attending the conference.[13] Nevertheless, I wanted to congratulate White for his strong and moving words and so ventured over to the important persons' table at the end of the dinner. Having no idea who I was, but noting that his good-natured colleague was speaking warmly with me in English, Ost became visibly agitated.[14] Later, Ost's assistant came up to ask me whether I was traveling with White on to his next "law and literature" tour stop, Amsterdam. The conventions of academic hierarchy had suddenly been violated by a (two-minute) unauthorized conversation with the coveted guest. A wave of paranoia seemed to have swept over this "collegial" gathering.

This was, then, perhaps not the ideal cross-cultural setting into which to introduce controversial points that challenge prevailing notions of proper behavior. It is one thing, as an American, to denounce, abroad, the low level of one's own country's political and legal discourse. Indeed, many an American expatriate has made a career out of such statements -- which are all the more likely to obtain a warm reception in today's climate of worldwide anti-Americanism that ranges from profound disappointment to seething hatred. From our internationalist, libertarian socialist standpoint of the autonomy project and movement, however, such anti-Americanism serves almost invariably as a cover for complacency about other forms of oppression or injustice located elsewhere, plus it can dull non-Americans' appetite to confront the powers-that-be in their own country. So, it is quite another thing to stand up, as an American, and tell Belgians (French, Europeans, the world), at least implicitly, that on the whole they have perhaps chosen the worst of America and/or missed the best, the most radical, part of it. Even more difficult would be the reception one would experience when it is explained to them that the labor of translation -- of taking something of one individual written instantiation of an imaginary institution of society and transforming it beyond initial recognition for the purposes of making it readable and relevant to others from a different such institution -- can come to exemplify this contentious transfiguration of accepted and neglected values: in translation, a text may take on a significance and weight it never had in its original language, and those in the native linguistic area may somehow feel themselves robbed or otherwise cheated.


When this academic seminar centered around Castoriadis began in earnest the next morning, I was the lead-off speaker. Things began badly. A kindly gentleman assigned to chair this first panel politely asked me for my academic credentials, so that he could introduce me. I had to explain to him that in all honesty I had no established institutional connection at all anywhere, beyond an organization (Agora International) I myself had cofounded, and that, anyway, a self-presentation was going to be a thematic feature in my talk. Already, I had exposed myself as a possible interloper in a social setting where the distinction of credentials is sometimes the only thing the social actors involved have going for themselves.

The talk itself went well. The questions and the discussion period were interesting, if not sparkling. I noticed afterward that more printed copies of my talk were taken than there were people in the lecture room -- always a good sign of continuing interest, and especially so when the paper in question is controversial in nature. The second speaker on my panel, a young classicist, was herself electrified by the tension in the atmosphere, and she directed almost her entire presentation to me in person, sitting beside her. As she told me later, she had been working on Castoriadis for five years in Belgium and Switzerland without knowing people directly involved in Castoriadis's work. I might have worried that some unfortunate sort of transference might be occurring, had not her splendid exposition of Castoriadis's views on the autonomy project in ancient Greece demonstrated that she already had a mature grasp of her subject.[15] Whatever the audience might have thought of either the content or the tone, I became confirmed in my belief that my message had gotten through when the panel chair hesitantly walked up to me after this first panel was over. Somewhat defensively, he first apologized that he, too, knew nothing about Castoriadis. Appearing agitated, he then said that he had to go back "upstairs," because, as a "bureaucrat" (he had indeed been listening to my presentation of Castoriadis's distinction between "directors" and "executants" in "bureaucratic capitalism"!), he had some paperwork to do. Finally, he turned nervously on his heels with the following parting shot, delivered in an embarrassed voice and truly pathetic in the bad conscience it thus expressed: "Vive l'administration!" The students of FUSL may not be about to instigate a new May '68 tomorrow, but the concern, on the part of those holding an illusion of power, that there may indeed be challenges to their authority flows like a steady undercurrent of fear through their daily lives.

Indeed, negative or otherwise problematic experiences regarding existing authority relations, which my talk had brought to the surface, became a recurring theme of discussion. Over lunch, a number of younger people attending the seminar related to me their own experiences and frustrations, taking my words that morning as being addressed specifically and directly to each one of them and to their respective conditions and concerns. Moreover, I have subsequently received many similar responses and heard analogous stories from other people who read a copy of my speech, which had evidently struck a chord already in vibration. Now, Castoriadis and Socialisme ou Barbarie were already beginning to emphasize by 1964 that the directors/executants split no longer fully and accurately describes the pyramidal relations of hierarchy in our "modern capitalist" societies (since most people find themselves -- often uncomfortably -- somewhere in the middle, exercising simultaneously or consecutively both directorial and executant functions).[16] But, as was also emphasized at that time, the relevance of this now somewhat historically mitigated distinction is still sensed as a meaningful analytical tool -- and thus it acts as a catalyst that can awaken people's experiences and encourage them, as an entry into the project of reconstructing society, to relate their dissatisfactions and their hopes, as well as their reflections upon the problems, both personal and collective, of the effectively actual societies in which they live.

In order to give a better flavor of this academic conference ostensibly devoted to the work of Castoriadis, I relate an anecdote. Like the students at lunchtime, a female faculty member had come up to me after my talk to obtain more information about my continuing difficulties with the Castoriadis heiresses. She then made a point of sitting by me later in the day. When a male faculty member made the statement, during his talk, that to love someone is to know them, she let out a loud guffaw at this man's statement and then looked over at me to see how I would respond. I felt that I had stepped into a Belgian remake of the Canadian films Le Declin de l'Empire americain and Les Invasions barbares. Her own talk, largely unprepared, had to stop in midstream of consciousness when she was unable to find one of the tiny pieces of paper, placed on the table in front of her, on which she had scribbled her lecture notes. During the question-and-answer period, a student pointedly challenged her for having cited a quotation from Jurgen Habermas about Castoriadis without having even bothered noting Castoriadis's pertinent response. The level of maturity and seriousness throughout this day-and-a-half-long seminar often seemed to be in inverse proportion to one's age and level of authority. As Castoriadis said back in 1968, what Edgar Morin called the "adulteration" of established society is accompanied by a juvenilization of its adult members, especially of those in positions of authority.

If there was a central theme running through most of the invited speakers' talks, it was, however, that Castoriadis's views on autonomy were outlandish, too demanding, even impossible, and, in any case, overly neglectful of the remanent or resurgent power of heteronomy. And this theme was presented in most of these official talks not as a criticism that would spur the listeners, and the speakers themselves, to redouble their efforts and their reflections in order to foster and advance an autonomy project now facing extremely hard times but, rather, as the prelude to an apology for, and as a call for an accommodation with, (existing) heteronomy. Not that there was much coherence in such presentations, since the problem of how (and upon what principles) one would adopt or make room for heteronomy -- recognize for it, so to speak, its rights -- was never broached. Instead, one heard one caricature after another of Castoriadis's position, usually with a conflation of heteronomy with "the Other" in general and a marked failure to take notice, as I had already pointed out in an endnote for my paper, that Castoriadis's elucidation of autonomy involves not an elimination of "the discourse of the other" but, rather, the establishment of another relation to that ever inevitable discourse, through reflection and deliberation as well as through the origination and pursuit of autonomous self-activity. The general impression that could be gathered from many of the seminar speakers was that Castoriadis was asking too much of people, including themselves, who were judged as not being up to the task.[17] "Castoriadis" had thus become the emblem under which academics from many countries could gather together in order to legitimize compromise with heteronomy.


We must return to the question of tone in a cross-cultural setting. In attempting to fulfill the terms of the invitation to this Castoriadis conference on literature and imagination, I spoke about effective actuality and potential reflectiveness in his American translator's experience, introducing elements of contingency, experimentation, and even embarrassment into the social constitution of that (hopefully) creative and artistic experience. Abrupt changes in tone resulting from surprises -- and, more generally, from unforeseen events or from circumstances beyond the translator's personal control -- should therefore not have been too surprising, for they were part and parcel of this explicitly nonphenomenological reflective account of socially effective actuality. Nevertheless, I could have provided the reader/listener with a clearer warning of surprises to come,[18] and even with an apology that unpleasant things, perhaps even conflicts, might have to be discussed. I do so now with regard to the present Postscript.

The main surprise for the reader/listener, I discovered, was the seemingly abrupt change in tone in the last section of my paper.[19] For me, the first surprise was that Castoriadis's widow and heiress had been invited by Van Eynde at the last minute to attend this seminar at which I had already elected to inform the audience of some of the conflicts between the Castoriadis heiresses and myself (among many, many other persons).[20] In order to soften the conflict that was about to be voiced and to speak the truth of the matter at hand (and not knowing for sure until I began my speech whether or not Madame Castoriadis would attend), I decided I would dedicate my talk to her as follows: "Ma conference est dediee a Madame Zoe Castoriadis, la veuve de Cornelius Castoriadis. Je la connais depuis vingt ans et je l'aime beaucoup et toujours." As it turned out, Castoriadis's widow decided to attend all of the seminar talks except my own, and so did not hear my conciliatory and heartfelt words.[21]

A greater surprise, however, was in store for me. After my speech, Van Eynde came up to me repeatedly during breaks in the seminar to tell me that he would talk to me "soon." Which never happened during the entire rest of the seminar. A veil of mystery had thus been thrown over the ambient paranoia and heightened tension. As soon as the conference ended, however, Van Eynde approached me once again and began a wild, one-sided conversation that seemed the continuation of some internal dialogue (or perhaps of his half of a conversation with Ost to which I had not been privy?). In any case, I could not understand a word he was saying in his suddenly loquacious and emotionally distressed French. Eventually, after asking him to take a seat, calm down, and start again at the beginning, I was able to gather that he thought that I had done something terribly wrong and that I already knew what it was. More difficult to discern, however, was what he thought that unpardonable error might be.

In response to my question, Van Eynde made a broad statement that the entire end of my speech was unacceptable. The possibility of a lawsuit by the Castoriadis heiresses was brandished, and I was told I would have to cut out an unspecified amount of my speech if I wanted it published later in the acts of the colloquium.[22] When I asked what, specifically, might pose such a legal problem, all Van Eynde could mention was my reference to Castoriadis's requested burial opposite my apartment window -- the least disputable fact, since it was Madame Castoriadis herself who had informed me about this request before Castoriadis's death. I suggested to Van Eynde that he might take some time and put down his exact concerns in writing, so that I might accommodate any reasonable requests. He refused. Given that there was no substance to his fear of a lawsuit that he was willing or able to articulate to me, he then changed his explanation to say that, in the "scientific" setting of a seminar publication (this claim sounds slightly less pompous in French than it does in English), nothing "controversial" is to be included. When I gently pointed out that academia is not necessarily immune to debate and disagreement, and that perhaps he might take the advice, based on White's talk,[23] that he find a judicious language in which all of points of view might be respected without any exclusions, he again refused. A third, and even weaker, rationalization on his way down the slippery slope of censorship was then put forward: it might be "discouraging" for younger researchers to be exposed to "conflict" when they are only now beginning to learn about Castoriadis's work. With this solicitous appeal to the tender sensibilities of his youthful students, the "scientific" study of "Castoriadis" has become the emblem under which avoidance of "conflict" is now a justification for censorship. In fact, this prepublication demand that I practice self-censorship was wholly irrational, because the request never even specified what exactly would have to be removed.

One will perhaps now not be surprised to learn that, in nonresponse to a formal written request, the Castoriadis heiresses and its Association Cornelius Castoriadis (ACC) have refused to either detail which parts of my talk might be actionable in a court of law or confirm that they will not sue if this talk delivered by Castoriadis's translator were to be published in Van Eynde's collective volume.[24] ACC President Pierre Vidal-Naquet, it would seem, is determined to prove to his detractors (such as Noam Chomsky) that they were right when they stated that, behind Vidal-Naquet's own controversy with the negationist Robert Faurisson, lay not a high-minded concern with scholarly standards but a consistently disreputable will to impede freedom of speech.[25]


In incorporating a reflective account of my experience as a translator into each of the Translator's Forewords I write and in continuing that process in my talk, I have tried to speak from actual knowledge, instead of feigning to provide a general "theory" of translation that would somehow be applicable to all translators even before they have had experiences of their own to relate that might differ from mine or that could even place mine in a different light. I have again proceeded in this fashion by recounting here the cross-cultural experience I had in relating this experience.[26] Implicit in the idea that the translator -- however lowly his status -- participates creatively and fully in a Transnational Republic of Letters, is that, as Thoreau said of his "experiment," the "experience" of which was described in Walden, one is not "to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up,"[27] and that, as was quoted earlier, if one's experience of life at some point "proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world." In such a public as well as personal expository exercise -- this "song of oneself" that seeks to speak one's "latent conviction" with the Emersonian belief that that experience might indeed become a "universal sense" (open, of course, to further contributions and modifications) -- one is to be, Whitman advised us, "no more modest than immodest." In this sense, my whole enterprise has been directed unabashedly toward encouraging, especially, young people -- those who see the disarray of their elders and the falseness and hypocrisy of the world in which they presently find themselves -- as well as those at the bottom rungs of established society, to trust (and to examine critically) their own experience while endeavoring to make something new and different out of it, first of all through giving themselves and others an honest and clear-eyed account thereof.[28]

Now, I have also wanted to share some of the responses this effort has elicited. Because repeated embarrassment, as well as frustrations and surprises -- embarrassments, frustrations, and surprises I have not hesitated to relate -- have accompanied my exploits, many of these responses have focused inordinately on the difficulties. Why do I not give up, it is often asked, if I have been blacklisted, replaced by scab labor, treated as a pariah after having had the full confidence of Castoriadis during the last thirteen years of his life? It is, in short, too painful for many a reader or listener to contemplate how I could go on and too hard for them to imagine how I could continue to pursue the project of autonomy in this way. Others, after hearing or reading my talk and concluding that I am in an impasse, wonder whether I might not more usefully become a "translation theorist" now -- thus ignoring the specificity and the direction of the approach that talk describes in detail, with its privileging of directly-recounted experience and ongoing experimentation. Perhaps the composer John Cage, another American deeply affected by Thoreau,[29] best expressed this persevering determination in his lecture entitled Indeterminacy:

After I had been studying with him for two years, Schoenberg said, "In order to write music, you must have a feeling for harmony." I explained to him that I had no feeling for harmony. He then said that I would always encounter an obstacle, that it would be as though I came to a wall through which I could not pass. I said, "In that case I will devote my life to beating my head against that wall."[30]

In a metaphorical sense, the (rhythmically-based and time-based) music Cage subsequently created was the sound he made while repeatedly "beating [his] head against that wall."[31]

In another response, someone who has known me since I first awoke to a life of philosophy instead spoke fittingly of my "lifelong effort to take the Taylorism out of translation work." It is in this spirit that I have suggested that my contribution to the Archiv fur Geschichte des Widerstandes und der Arbeit not be framed with my own conclusion but, rather, extended by what the translator or translators of my French- and English-language pieces might wish to add in the way of their own reflective remarks on the experience of transforming these words for a German-speaking audience.[32]

David Ames Curtis
Paris-Versonnex-Paris, September 2004

Postscript to the Postscript

Since the time this Postscript was drafted, a second volume of Castoriadis/Cardan's writings has appeared on the internet in English, again "translated from the French and edited anonymously as a public service." Figures of the Thinkable (Including Passion and Knowledge) was posted in early February 2005 on the website of the Greek artist and Castoriadis comrade Costis as well as on the Not Bored! website In response, I have published on my person/professional webpages a "Statement of David Ames Curtis concerning the announcement of the PDF electronic publication of Cornelius "Castoriadis/Paul Cardan's Figures of the Thinkable (Including Passion and Knowledge)", which presents my own positive views about this new electronic publication, updates the situation surrounding my labor dispute with the Castoriadis literary heirs, and comments on the conduct of the Association Cornelius Castoriadis.

April 2005

(*) This Postscript is to my 2004 talk, "Effectivite et reflexivite dans l 'experience d 'un traducteur de Cornelius Castoriadis" (Effective actuality and reflectiveness in the experience of a translator of Cornelius Castoriadis), delivered to the Interdisciplinary Literary Research Seminar (SIRL) colloquium entitled "The Imaginary at the Crossroads of Interdisciplinarity: Around the Work of Cornelius Castoriadis," the first lecture of the "Castoriadis Days" (May 27-28, 2004) on the occasion of the first year of these "Castoriadis Days" now held each year at the Facultes Universitaires Saint-Louis (FUSL) in Brussels, Belgium. The talk itself is now available online in the original French at Michael Halfbrodt's German translation of this talk, "Konkrete Wirklichkeit und Reflexion in der Erfahrung eines Uebersetzers von Cornelius Castoriadis," appeared, along with his translation of my Postscript, in the German review Archiv fur die Geschichte des Widerstandes und der Arbeit, 18: 563-92. Archiv editor Wolfgang Braunschaedel, who commissioned this Postscript expressly to accompany the translation of my talk for his review, has kindly given his support to Not Bored!'s generous suggestion that the original English-language version of my Postscript appear on the Not Bored! website. Interested readers may also wish to consult "Censorship and the Cahiers Castoriadis (Open Letter)" at Philiippe Coutant has kindly posted the French original of my May 2009 Open Letter at the end of the original French version of my 2004 talk

Notes to the Postscript

1. I borrow this phrase from a note to the published version ("Le monde morcele", Textures, 4-5 [1972]: 3) of the first text Castoriadis presented to an academic gathering, the October 1970 organizing committee for a conference on interdisciplinary studies to be held at Royaumont in February 1971. If I have understood the publication note correctly (Les Carrefours du labyrinthe [Paris: Seuil, 1970], p. 25), while a printed copy of this text was distributed to the forty or so participants, it was never read to the conference participants.

2. Such complaints were indeed lodged. See below.

3. A stance that was not at all foreign, however, to Castoriadis's own practice of parrhesia. A quite funny idea has arisen since his death that Castoriadis was always highly prudent and polite, not the extremely plainspoken and often polemical person he really was.

4. Moreover, I emphasized the highly convoluted style of much current French-language literary production, in order to contrast it precisely with Castoriadis's own direct, assertive style.

5. I say "present," for, as noted above, Fabio Ciaramelli -- the most penetrating writer to examine the properly philosophical aspects of Castoriadis's work and one of the authors whom I have chosen to translate on a regular basis -- was unable to attend the colloquium. It was thanks to Ciaramelli that I was invited to this conference in the first place.

6. I do not think that this was the general response of those old enough to be published authors; the responses of many of the younger people differed markedly, however, from those of their elders and teachers.

7. Except, of course, as a central imaginary signification of certain heteronomous societies, as Castoriadis would say.

8. The naivete of Americans can be a very studied naivete -- a point oftentimes missed by persons interacting with my fellow countrymen. Yet such naivete need not always adopt the form of wilful ignorance it often takes on today; it can express, rather, an insistent and incessant desire to see the world anew each day. Thoreau expressed this attitude at the very end of Walden as follows: "Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star" (p. 351). Castoriadis the anti-bureaucratic social philosopher instead turned directly to a pre-Socratic philosopher in order to affirm a similar sentiment at the end of his talk, "The 'End of Philosophy'?" (Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, p. 32): "Night has fallen only for those who have let themselves fall into the night. For those who are living, helios neos eph'hemerei estin, the sun is new each day (Heraclitus, Diels, 22B6)."

9. This could mean, too, that funds would thus not be available to invite some younger scholar or activist with some effectively actual knowledge of Castoriadis. Of particular note here is that, in such an extreme academicization of "Castoriadis," it is ultimately any familiarity at all with his work that disappears.

10. It should be noted, however, that I have found a brief reference to Castoriadis andL'Institution imaginaire in Michel van de Kerchove and Francois Ost's Le systeme juridique entre ordre et desordre (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1988), p. 160 and n34.

11. I think White might have had in mind, among others, American President George W. Bush's principal political advisor Karl Rove.

12. White politely apologized at the beginning of his talk that he did not know anything at all about Castoriadis.

13. Which was no doubt a much more refreshing experience. It is always interesting to hear young people's take on their elders who are in positions of authority over them.

14. As reported to me by another person in attendance.

15. Sophie Klimis, whose talk was entitled "Les sources grecques de l'auto-creation humaine selon Castoriadis," kindly dedicated to me a copy of her published thesis (Archeologie du sujet tragique [Paris: Editions Kime, 2003]) with the following inscription, "Pour David Curtis. En hommage a son projet de traduction autonome, et esperant avoir l'occasion de poursuivre un travail commun sur Castoriadis!"

16. See point 18 of "Recommencing the Revolution," in Political and Social Writings, vol. 3 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), p. 39.

17. Of course, it is not "Castoriadis's project of autonomy" that is at issue but, rather, at the very least, an engaged discussion of whether or how far Castoriadis succeeded in accurately depicting, elucidating, and fostering an existing and ongoing autonomy project that is centuries old and that emanates not from specific personalities (even Castoriadis's) but, rather, from the anonymous collective.

18. Castoriadis himself concluded the preliminary remarks for his "Reflections on Racism" by saying, " let me add one thing: what I have to say will often be in the interrogative and almost as often disagreeable" (World in Fragments, p. 20).

19. I had nevertheless explicitly prepared the reader/listener for the potential surprise of a change in tone by ending the penultimate section with, "Un oeuvre de traducteur, meme si poursuivi d'une facon aussi consciente et voulue que le mien, est ne de telles contingences et est le fruit, en grande partie, de rencontres effectives dont l'issue reste souvent imprevisible," and by commencing the last section with, "Ce n'est pas du tout etonnant que, tot ou tard, cette insistance sur le role du traducteur et sur le respect ainsi que la reconnaissance dus a son statut culturel, se heurtent aux nettes tendances au sein de notre societe."

20. It is still unclear whether it was the presence of Castoriadis's widow or an overall lack of social graces that explains Van Eynde's failure to introduce me to the other seminar speakers.

21. Interestingly, her unilateral decision to absent herself at the moment when I was to speak served to foster an additional level of tension that made it appear that we were both equally responsible for a conflict of a strictly personal nature. The labor issues at the heart of this conflict thus were eclipsed, along with the paramount issues of democratic organization that pertain to the de facto operation of the Association Cornelius Castoriadis.

22. This was the carrot to accompany the stick. A subsequent letter from this organizer of a seminar centered around Castoriadis referred to a "collective" volume which he, individually, was going to "direct."

23. In an opening remark added in my oral presentation, I stated, "Je voudrais temoigner de mon appreciation de l'intervention, hier, de James Boyd White, qui parlait de 'thoughtful experimentation and experience' -- des themes qui se recoupent etroitement avec mon intervention ce matin. Cette expression nous fait rappeler du tout dernier paragraphe de L'Institution imaginaire de la societe, ou Castoriadis parle du 'faire pensant.'"

24. I of course apologize in advance if anything in either my talk or this Postscript is inaccurate (not that I think that there is anything of the sort), and it goes without saying that I would gladly rectify in print any such potential inaccuracies, for I have meant no one any undue harm. In particular, the Castoriadis literary heiresses could prove I was wrong when I stated that they had a "haine inexpiable" in my regard by resuming their labor negotiations with me forthwith. Those negotiations were suspended in September 2003 when the heiresses could not agree among themselves about the language of a written agreement that was to be signed between themselves and me.

25. Despite Vidal-Naquet's apparent collusion in this attempt to censor me by refusing to lift imagined threats of censorship, I continue to stand behind Vidal-Naquet's position with regard to Chomsky -- see p. xxxi of the anonymous translator's Foreword to The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep).

26. Attempts at censorship, however, are not interesting cross-cultural experiences but an ugly reality, wherever they are found.

27. It is in this paragraph (Walden, pp. 167-68) that Thoreau also speaks of his "experiment" and the concomitant description of his "experience."

28. In fact, my talk was originally conceived and written as a response to a young student who wrote to me at Agora International in order to ask whether, as a beginning translator, he needed to study "translation theory" as a prelude to undertaking this vocation. Since Madame Castoriadis, to whom I had previously wanted dedicate my talk, refused even to listen to it, I now dedicate my talk and this Postscript to Alex Gezerlis. I also wish to mention here the inspiration I drew from a young graduate student in anthropology, Marcella Tovar, who devoted a section of her 2004 New School of Social Research thesis to an examination of her own difficulties in receiving adequate support for her work at a North American institution of higher learning that proved less sophisticated and more narrow-minded than institutions located in her native Colombia (see her Appendix A, Section III: "Institutional Obstacles," in Fields of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Configuration of Anthropology: The Case of Cornelius Castoriadis), a fine example of self-reflective narrative from below that ties the topic one has chosen in one's field of study to one's own experience of working in that field.

29. Thoreau, who attended Harvard, later "went to the woods to live deliberately." In an installation piece I experienced back in the late 1970s, Cage reversed this process by bringing the woods to Harvard: in a large room on campus, he suspended large pieces of timber that served, so to speak, as sounding boards for ambient music he had created; one had to approach one's ear to the logs in order to hear the sounds being transmitted.

30. I rediscovered this passage on the internet at

31. Personally, the musical theory that has most influenced my sense of form in writing is, rather, the composer Ornette Coleman's tripartite (and almost Greek) theory of "Harmolodics," where equal value is given to harmony, motion (or rhythm), and melody and where each participant may contribute democratically, on his or her own initiative, to the creation of an overall, evolving form. Coleman kindly provided a drawing and a painting of his own as cover illustrations for two of my Castoriadis translations into English, The Castoriadis Reader and World in Fragments. At his request, Coleman was introduced to Castoriadis after one of his concerts in Paris, and Castoriadis later participated in a colloquium Coleman organized at La Villette.

32. I wish to thank here Harald Wolf for having, on his own initiative, contacted Archiv editor Wolfgang Braunschaedel about publishing a German translation of my talk. It is my hope that there might be further translations of this talk and its Postscript into other languages, with additional translator forewords or afterwords eventually appended thereto as concrete instantiations of a creatively evolving form of reflection on effectively actual experience.