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Home > Publications > Bulletin > > The Academy in Paris
Fall 2000 Bulletin

The Academy in Paris

By Felix Rohatyn, James O. Freedman, Paul Germain, Yves Quéré, Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, Adam Zagajewski

The first Stated Meeting in the 220-year history of the Academy to be held outside the United States took place at the residence of the US Ambassador to France on June 6, 2000. President James O. Freedman and Executive Officer Leslie Berlowitz led a delegation of American Fellows that included Councilor James Kinsey (Rice University) and former Western Center Vice President Jesse Choper (University of California, Berkeley). The Paris meeting was attended by Foreign Honorary Members representing many different fields and professions, including physicist Pierre Aigrain, philosopher Jacques Derrida, anthropologist Mary Douglas, geneticist Francois Jacob, composer Betsy Jolas, and sociologist Wolf Lepenies.

In his words of welcome, Felix Rohatyn, Ambassador of the United States to France and an Academy Fellow, spoke of the current state of Franco-American relations, particularly with respect to the globalization of ideas and culture. Academy President James O. Freedman responded with a note of appreciation to the French for providing a model for a fledgling Academy in America and went on to describe the Academy's current programs in the context of the role intellectuals must play in a democratic society.

Representatives of the Institut de France, the Académie des sciences, and the Académie française presented greetings on behalf of their historic institutions. Also in attendance were representatives of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Polish Academy of Sciences. The meeting concluded with a poetry reading by Adam Zagajewski, the leading Polish poet of his generation. A Foreign Honorary Member now resident in France, Zagajewski teaches each spring in the writing program of the University of Houston.

The Academy is grateful to the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation for its generous support of this first Stated Meeting in Europe. In conjunction with the Paris meeting, guests were invited to a lecture tour of the National Museum of Franco-American Cooperation at the Chateau de Blerancourt, made possible by John Young of the Florence Gould Foundation of New York. In addition, Foreign Honorary Member Pierre Rosenberg, president-director of the Musee du Louvre, welcomed members of the group for tours of the classical archaeology rooms and the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish and Italian rooms at the Louvre.

Following is a condensed version of the remarks presented in Paris:

Welcome

By The Honorable Felix Rohatyn

President Freedman, distinguished members of the American Academy, representatives of your sister Académies in Europe, and honored guests, I want to welcome you to this special occasion.

The intellectual partnership between the United States and France can be traced back to the French ideas that inspired the American Declaration of Independence. Today I would like to make a few observations on the current state of the French-American relationship, based on my last three years as ambassador here. First, the relationship is changing as Europe moves toward integration. Today's Europe is testimony to the power of ideas and imagination - the ideas of Jean Monnet. The Euro has been criticized occasionally, but I believe the Euro has been a great success, and that it has created new economic growth, financial stability, and greater employment throughout Europe. The political barriers ahead to further enlargement and integration are difficult, but they can and will be overcome. Europe is now halfway across the river to integration, and there is no turning back. The United States will support this process, as it has since the days of the Marshall Plan.

Second, the French-American relationship is changing as new interactions are formed between cities, regions, businesses, and institutions. Today, nearly half a million French people work for American companies, and about the same number of Americans work for French firms. Our economies and markets are closely interconnected, and that link will be strengthened in the new century as we move toward an economy without any borders. In France, we have opened new offices in dynamic French regions—in Lyon, in Toulouse, and in Rennes, with two more to come in Bordeaux and Lille. New relationships are being created directly between institutions at all levels. Our embassy, with the help of the US embassy in Germany and the Aspen Institute of France, recently sponsored a meeting of French, German, and American mayors to discuss common problems. We have also launched a consortium of French and American regional museums, so that museums outside of Paris, New York, and Washington can share their collections and experience with a larger audience.

Third, technology is changing the nature of the economic and social relationships between our continents. Cities and regions with clusters of high-tech industries are gaining the importance that seaports and rail centers had in the last century. Universities are becoming the idea generators of this new economy, in which knowledge and information are the most valuable commodities. Cambridge, the home of the American Academy, is a good example. MIT alone has spun off some four thousand companies that now employ about a million people. The same process is beginning in French cities. The countries and regions that succeed will be those which support basic research, bring together ideas and investments, and create a climate for innovation and continual change.

Finally, there is an increasing globalization of ideas and culture. In France, this has sometimes been criticized as the Americanization, or the uniformization, of culture, but I believe the contrary is true. Globalization can result in a richer and greater diversity of culture. Thanks to globalization, we have not only a higher standard of living but also an unparalleled and increasing access to culture, to education, to ideas, and to art. Globalization has led to economic growth that creates wealth and a greater demand for cultural products, from movies to books to theater and museums. The city of Seattle is a good example. Using the benefits of globalization, as well as both private and public funding, Seattle has recently completed a new symphony hall and is building a new opera house, as well as twenty-five new libraries.

Globalization alone does not ensure diversity. American films and television dominate world markets because of their audience appeal and marketing power. But globalization can serve as an engine for diversity. With the Internet, European filmmakers, musicians, and artists will have direct access to a global audience. In France, receipts from very successful museums with a huge international audience, such as the Louvre, already finance smaller French museums with a very limited public. Globalization can mean more, not less, choice.

How can we encourage greater cultural diversity? I believe we need enlightened government support for arts and education, as well as tax policies that encourage giving to educational and cultural institutions. Most of all, we need an educated and discerning public that seeks out quality and originality. We need to teach students at all levels that art and knowledge are not luxuries but necessities of life. In this area, Europe is a very good model for the United States.

We are moving rapidly toward a world of culture and ideas also without borders. In this world, Europe and the United States are destined to be different but also destined to be leaders. Europe and the United States have different histories and cultures and different economic and political systems, but we both value innovation and originality—and the liberty of expression. We both recognize that if they are heard, great men with great ideas, from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to Jean Monnet, have the power to change minds, to change lives, and to change the world.

Mr. President, distinguished guests, I hope that this partnership between the American Academy and its sister Académies in Europe, which has been so active and productive, will continue to flourish in the years ahead and that we will have occasion to greet you again in this house.

The Role of the Intellectual in the Twenty-First Century

By James O. Freedman

It is a great honor for me, as the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to participate in this, the 1835th Stated Meeting and the first in the 220-year history of the American Academy to be held outside of the United States. We welcome the opportunity to hold this historic meeting at the residence of Ambassador and Mrs. Rohatyn in Paris, and we thank them very much for their gracious hospitality.

At our most recent Annual Meeting, held in Cambridge in May, we celebrated the 220th anniversary of the Academy with a special program dedicated to our principal founder, John Adams. Bernard Bailyn, a Fellow of the Academy and a distinguished historian of colonial America, described the thoughts and events surrounding the Academy's creation. I would like to borrow from his remarks to provide some background on the historic link between the American Academy and the French Academy of Sciences.

John Adams first came in contact with the work of a learned society in the 1770s when he was in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Continental Congress. The American Philosophical Society has been founded in Philadelphia in 1743. Two years later, while the United States was still engaged in its War of Independence, Adams was sent as our representative to the French court, where he drew further inspiration for an academy in America from the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris. The French Academy embodied everything that Adams sought to establish in America: an organization of intellectuals that prized the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and the improvement of mankind - what would become known in America as "useful knowledge."

Established only six years apart, the Royal Society of London (founded in 1660) and the French Academy of Sciences (founded in 1666) had a long rivalry for scientific leadership in Europe. Adams himself had a similar sense of rivalry as he sought to create in Boston what Benjamin Franklin had established in Philadelphia.

While Adams was in Paris, he often heard questions and compliments about the American Philosophical Society from members of the French Academy, and these inquiries further strengthened his determination to found what he termed "his own" learned society. Recalling these conversations, Adams later wrote that they "suggested to me the idea of such an establishment at Boston, where I knew there was as much love of science, and as many gentlemen who were capable of pursuing it, as in any other city of its size."

The fact that the American Academy was founded in the midst of a revolution further inspired Adams to look to France for a model rather than to voice a cultural debt to Great Britain. The concept of the intellectual in service to society—a hallmark of the French Academy—was reflected in the preface to the first volume of the Academy's Memoirs (1785): "Knowledge of various kinds, and greatly useful to mankind, has taken the place of dry and uninteresting speculations of schoolmen; and bold and erroneous hypothesis has been obliged to give way to demonstrative experiment." The medal struck for the inaugural meeting of the French Academy depicts Minerva surrounded by symbols of astronomy, anatomy, and chemistry; the Academy seal, described in that first volume of Memoirs, depicts Minerva surrounded by a quadrant, a telescope, and several instruments of husbandry.

Since its founding, the American Academy has elected distinguished members from abroad. Among the first Foreign Honorary Members, elected in 1781, were the chevalier de la Luzerne, who was the French minister to colonial America, and the marquis de Barbé-Marbois. Within the next twenty years, the marquis de Lafayette, the marquis de Condorcet, and Jean d'Alembert were also elected.

There is even some evidence to indicate that the name "Academy" may have been chosen expressly to honor the French Academy and to discourage comparison between the American Academy and the Royal Society. I must add, however, that very early in its history, the American Academy elected members of the Royal Society, as well as the Royal Academy in Stockholm and the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. We are pleased to welcome to this meeting today distinguished representatives from the Institut de France, the Académie des sciences, and the Académie française, as well as from the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Despite the significant difference between a Royal Academy, as it then was, and John Adams's vision of an Academy for the new democratic republic, Adams was impressed by the idea of the important role intellectuals might play in society as engaged citizens. This idea influences the work of the Academy to this day. Our Fellows and Foreign Honorary members represent the full range of disciplines, arts, and professions.

We currently organize the work of the Academy around three major themes: Science, Security, and International Cooperation; Children, Higher Education and Social Policy; and Humanities and Culture. Our programs in science and security continue to carry out pathbreaking work in the areas of arms control, human rights, the sovereignty of nations, global warming, and international security. Pugwash brings together influential scientists and public figures from around the world who are concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems. In the area of deterrence, the Academy's Committee on International Security Studies has been instrumental in overseeing a diverse program of research projects and outreach activities on global security issues, including a just-completed study of the International Criminal Court.

The Academy has been attentive to issues of social policy, focusing on the future of cities in the new century, income inequality and its consequences, and the impact of ever-increasing immigration among societies around the globe. Our studies on higher education range from analyses of changing systems of research to the impact of electronic communication on science and scholarship. Through our Initiatives for Children program, we have been active in analyzing the perplexing problems confronting children today, including issues of health and education.

Our newest initiative focuses on the often-neglected fields of the humanities and liberal arts, under threat in our increasingly technological world. The Academy has a strong interest in better understanding the state of the humanities today and in communicating their importance to the wider society.

Indeed, the role of the engaged citizen, uppermost in the minds of the founding members of the American Academy, remains fundamental to all of our activities. In a time of specialization, the Academy continues to bring together scholars and experts from all fields—business, government, independent research organizations, and academe—to work collaboratively on issues that affect our global fabric. The purpose of all of our work goes beyond the study and publication of scholarly treatises. It is intended to enlighten public debate and inform policy choices.

To appreciate the role of the intellectual in modern societies and democracies, we need look no further than the example of Vaclav Havel, who as a playwright in prison under the Communists, and later as president of Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic, demonstrated that "intellectuals can and do matter in the daily conduct of democratic affairs. They matter because they express ideas clearly. They matter because they are able, by the inspired use of language, to transport us to a higher vantage point of observation on the moral horizon of our lives." In accepting the call to political responsibility that his nation issued, Havel recognized that at certain moments, intellectuals must become persons of public power.

The power that intellectuals exert through participation in our Académies is, to be sure, not directly political, but it can have a momentous impact on society. During the dark years of World War II and the cold war, it was often the members of Académies—in the United States, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere—who kept open the channels of discussion across the world. Advancing truth, knowledge, and understanding is the 220-year goal of the American Academy and of our sister Académies, so well represented here today.

I anticipate a bright future for all nations that are determined to advance knowledge, and I am pleased indeed to welcome our Foreign Honorary Members and the representatives of sister Académies to this celebration of the role of the intellectual in the twenty-first century—and to do it here in France, which has long been a beacon of enlightenment and scientific inquiry.

Greetings

By Paul Germain Honorary Permanent Secretary, Académie des sciences, Institut de France

On behalf of the chancellor of the Institut de France, Pierre Messmer, I express our great admiration for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In Europe, and especially in France, we are proud of being the first to take new initiatives in the development of knowledge and culture. Your charter, enacted in 1780, established an institution "to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." Twenty-five years later, the Convention Nationale created the Institut National—today, the Institut de France—with a similar objective and mission. In this instance, your Academy in America was not only first but, for us, remains an example and model. The members of the Institut, like those of the American Academy, are drawn from science, scholarship, business, public affairs, and the arts.

On this occasion, I want to express two wishes and a dream. First, we hope that the American Academy will continue to bring together men and women from many different fields to analyze the problems that face all of us around the globe. Second, we hope that the Institut de France will follow your example and turn its attention to the study of these important international issues. The dream: an international meeting in which members of the Academy and the institute can exchange views on the challenges that bind us together in this fascinating world.

By Yves Quéré, Foreign Secretary, Académie des sciences

From Guy Ourisson, president of the Académie des Sciences, I bring congratulations on the celebration of the 220th anniversary of our younger sister, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For more than two centuries, we have shared numerous members in common, just as we share a common ambition and passion: the search for truth through study and curiosity. We wish the American Academy a future as rich as its past.

To these greetings, I want to add a few words about the beautiful name of you’re Academy. By combining "Arts and Sciences," you lay claim to a kind of universality. It is usual to bring together art and science and to emphasize their common features: Is it not true that imagination and intuition are the foundation stones of both? That mathematics and music are probably the two most universal languages of humankind? And that the word art itself refers both to the artist and to the artisan, with most scientists sharing the sense that there is something of the artisan inside themselves?

But more important than these pseudosimilarities or "family connections" between arts and sciences is that they are, to use a scientific term, nonmiscible in each other: science is not soluble in art, no more than art is in science.

The ambition of the sciences is to describe the world in its complexity and, primarily, in its reality—to describe it much more than to explain it. From this point of view, science is nothing more, but also nothing less, than a language about nature—certainly a language with exquisite virtues of subtleness, of beauty, of aptitude for predictions and applications, but nonetheless a language about something that exists.

The ambition of the arts is dramatically different: to create new worlds that had no existence before being created, worlds that are completely dependent on their creator. If Mozart had died as a child, the immense world of Don Giovanni would never have existed. If Pasteur had met the same sad destiny, someone else would have made his discoveries one week, one month, one year, or one century later, because science is an unveiling, a discovery, of something that is here but hidden by a haze.

Art is the miracle of creation by a single individual, whereas science is the miracle of a discovery on the part of many people. To cite an often-quoted sentence by a nineteenth-century French author: "L'art c'est moi, la science c'est nous."

This is why your Academy exudes the flavor of universality. You address the inner worlds of our spirit, our soul, our heart, and our faith, as well as the outer spaces of molecules, galaxies, economy, history, ethics. You explore both the moi and the nous—and for that you deserve praise and thanks.

By Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, Permanent Secretary, Académie française

The Académie française, the oldest academy in the world, is honored to be invited to speak on the occasion of the American Academy's 220th anniversary. The Académie française was established in 1635 by Richelieu, who set out to create a small company of forty distinguished persons who would serve as advisors. The group, including not only intellectuals but also members of the clergy and military, was the starting point of an institution that has survived for nearly four centuries.

Perhaps what is most interesting about the Académie française is its size. Other Académies, including the American Academy, have grown significantly since their founding. The Académie française has maintained its membership at forty members, with no associate or foreign members. This permanence of numbers signifies that as the oldest institution in France, we have a responsibility to preserve the historic tradition of a learned society in this country. The French Academy is sometimes presented as an "old lady," unable to open up to the modern world, but that is not a true picture.

Our principal mission, accorded us by Richelieu, is to write and rewrite the Dictionnaire de la langue française. We try to adjust our dictionary and the French language to current usage, yet we must also protect our language from the phenomenon of mode, not just to save the past but in order to transmit to our children and grandchildren a French language that is the expression of tradition and of changing times.

In addition, as a body encompassing the most distinguished minds in France, representing science, scholarship, culture, and public affairs, the Acaemie française seeks to preserve the independence of French intellectual life. The Académie is in itself an independent institution, but it has a protecteur—formerly the king of France, now the president. The Académie and the protecteur share a relationship of mutual respect. When, in the past, a monarch or head of state has attempted to impose ideas or to intervene in the work of the Académie, we have steadfastly refused—and for this reason, I think, French society respects the old lady.

The Académie française has always been interested in your country. During the American Revolution, just as the American Academy was being founded, there were scholars in our ranks who studied the events in your new nation and who felt that your struggle for independence was part of our history as well. And it was another member of our Académie—Alexis de Tocqueville—who introduced us to life in America and to the idea of democracy.

Poetry Reading

By Adam Zagajewski
Paris, France, and University of Houston

Editor's note: Mr. Zagajewski, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy, read three poems: one by Philippe Jaccottet of France; one by C. K. Williams of Princeton University, an Academy Fellow; and one of his own.

Nuages de novembre

November clouds, dark flights of trailing birds
leaving behind you on the mountain bits
of your white down, reflecting
empty roads and ditches,
earth rising to meet you,
a grave where young grass grows,
will your mystery be lost at the end of the day?

Listen harder, ignore the noise
inside and out. Drink the invisible
pool where invisible creatures drink
as their ancestors have drunk since time began
at sunset, silent, white and slow,
having watched since dawn the sun in the meadow…
Absorb this light no night extinguishes
but only, barely, wraps itself in shadow
as flocks wrap themselves in a blanket of sleep.

- Philippe Jaccottet

Vehicle: Violence

The way boxers postulate a feeling to label that with which they overcome the body's vile fears, its wish to flinch, to flee, break and run…they call it anger, pride, the primal passion to prevail; the way, before they start, they glare at one another, try to turn themselves to snarling beasts…so we first make up something in the soul we name and offer credence to—"meaning," "purpose," "end" and then we cast ourselves into the conflict, turn upon our souls, snarl like snarling beasts…And the way the fighters fight, coolly until strength fails, then desperately, wildly, as in a dream, and the way, done, they fall in one another's arms, almost sobbing with relief, sobbing with relief: so we contend, so we wish to finish, wish to cry and end, but we never cry, never end, as in a dream.

- C. K. Williams

Houston, 6 p.m.

Europe already sleeps beneath a coarse plaid of borders
and ancient hatreds: France nestled
up to Germany, Bosnia in Serbia's arms,
lonely Sicily in azure seas.

It's early evening here, the lamp is lit
and the dark sun swiftly fades.
I'm alone, I read a little, think a little,
listen to a little music.

I'm where there's friendship,
but no friends, where enchantment
grows without magic,
where the dead laugh.

I'm alone because Europe is sleeping. My love sleeps in a tall house on the outskirts of Paris.
In Krakow and Paris my friends
wade in the same river of oblivion.

I read and think; in one poem
I found the phrase "There are blows so terrible …Don't ask!" I don't. A helicopter
breaks the evening quiet.

Poetry calls us to a higher life,
but what's low is just as eloquent,
more plangent than Indo-European,
stronger than my books and records.

There are not nightingales or blackbirds here with their sad, sweet cantilenas,
Only the mockingbird who imitates
and mimics every living voice.

Poetry summons us to life, to courage
In the face of the growing shadow.
Can you gaze calmly at the Earth
like the perfect astronaut?

Out of harmless indolence, the Greece of books,
And the Jerusalem of memory there suddenly appears
The island of a poem, unpeopled;

some new Cook will discover it one day.

Europe is already sleeping. Night's animals,
mournful and rapacious,
move in for the kill.
Soon America will be sleeping, too.

- Adam Zagajewski

This presentation was given at the 1835th Stated Meeting, held at the Paris residence of the US Ambassador to France, on June 6, 2000. Communications © 2000 by Felix Rohatyn, James O. Freedman, Paul Germain, Yves Quéré, and Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, respectively. Photos © 2000 by W. A. Dudley.

Reprinted by permission of Wake Forest University Press: "Nuages de novembre" from Philippe Jaccottet: Selected Poems, selected and translated by Derek Mahon. Translation © 1988 by Wake Forest University Press. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC: "Vehicle: Violence" from Flesh and Blood by C. K. Williams. © 1987 by C. K. Williams. "Houston, 6 p.m." from Mysticism for Beginners by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Clare Cavanagh. Translation © 1997 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.