As communism collapses around the world, is there still a place for the study of Marxism? Should philosophy students study other forms of materialism instead?
Two radically different philosophies: Eastern with its emphasis on Confucianism, Western with its foundation in Platonism. Can the modern student of philosophy meet somewhere in between?
Is there a place for the study of philosophy in other disciplines, say, in anthropology? Would a 21st-century scholar study the philosophical discourse of a primitive culture which has never encountered deconstructionism, existentialism or nihilism?
This Friday and Saturday, a group of scholars in the humanities and social sciences will examine questions like these for a symposium titled "Philosophie and Philosophy: Timely Questions between Two Worlds."
The symposium marks the beginnings of an association between the Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences and the College International de Philosophie in Paris, a highly regarded think tank of French philosophers. The friendship blossomed last year when Classics Department chair Giulia Sissa (pictured at right) invited philosopher, psychoanalyst and CIPh vice director Monique David-Menard to an international conference on skepticism in Paris.
The project was enthusiastically endorsed by art history professor Michael Fried, who is on the board of the institute.
CIPh, which is not part of a university, was founded in the early 1980s by famed philosophers Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard. It is a place where philosophers of vastly different backgrounds are selected to participate in six years of seminars and research.
"What I like so much about the institute is that all the seminars are free and open to anyone who wants to attend," says Sissa. "It is a space that offers general illumination for the public. It is very connected to the city."
That is the mood this week's symposium hopes to bring to Hopkins. It is free, and anyone who wants to attend is welcome. And though the sessions will be unquestionably cerebral, Sissa assures participants that the dialogue and subject matter will be accessible to anyone interested in the directions philosophy may be taking in the next century.
On Friday, seven scholars, a few philosophers, a psychoanalyst, an anthropologist, a classicist and a French history professor will discuss whether the study of philosophy can cross the disciplines. Saturday's them_"Do We Need Materialism?"_will acknowledge the dwindling supply of new work on Marxism, once so dominant in the social sciences and humanities but today, apparently, forgotten.
Within those two themes will be all sorts of issues for the intellectual to sink his teeth into. Philosophy Department chair George Wilson says he plans to talk about "the tension and the promise" of crossing philosophy with film studies. Anthropology Department chair Rolph Trouillot will remind participants that attempting to cross disciplines can create a whole new bag of questions.
"When we start talking about crossing disciplines, we need to keep in mind that most academic disciplines were created in the 19th century in Europe at precisely the same time Europe was chopping apart the world," Trouillot explains. "So part of the discussion, as we talk about crossing disciplines needs to be, 'How do we cross the world, with its cultural, political and racial boundaries?'"
This is just the start of such transcontinental meetings of the mind here at Homewood, says Sissa. In spring 1999, another symposium is scheduled that will discuss skepticism and representation. The following spring will tackle sexuality, gender and the body.
For more information, call the Classics Department at 410-516-7556.