Gauss Seminar with Philosopher Catherine Malabou

March 19, 2018

The Gauss Seminars in Criticism recently hosted the world-renowned philosopher, Catherine Malabou, on Princeton’s campus February 13 and 14, 2018.

On the first day of her visit, Professor Malabou delivered a lecture entitled, “Floating Signifiers Revisited,” in which she reassessed a school of thought called poststructuralism—chiefly, ideas about language proposed by Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, and others. She argued that we cannot think so abstractly about language as to neglect its biological basis for the sake of strange things like “floating signifiers.” Her lecture was followed by an invigorating question/answer period lasting over an hour, which is a Gauss custom.

Catherine Malabou and the Director of the Gauss Seminars Andrew Cole were joined by members of the Princeton community for a seminar on the second day.

On the second day of her stay at Princeton, Professor Malabou conducted a lively seminar that was attended by thirty-five people from departments across campus in the humanities and sciences, as well as scholars in the region. Participants discussed with Malabou her ideas about the “epigenesis” or biological development of human subjectivity, with the conversation ranging over such important thinkers as Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Lacan, and Deleuze.

The director of the Gauss Seminars, Andrew Cole, remarks that “Professor Malabou was an exemplary Gauss speaker, presenting a probing and wide-ranging lecture on the philosophy of language within continental thought and connecting it to developments in the neurosciences. Her seminar the next day revealed her to be a generously learned interlocutor. All told, this entire event was an opportunity for members of our community to explore some pressing philosophical problems with such an exhilarating intellectual.”

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