27, rue Froidevaux 75014 Paris FRANCE TEL/FAX: 33 (0) 1 45 38 53 96
666 Main Street #305 Winchester, MA 01890 USA; TEL: 1-781-729-0523



Dear Sarah Campbell, “Publisher” of “Philosophy” at Continuum Books:

You write:

Regarding your posts on the Continuum Philosophy Blog, I am writing to let you know that we have referred these comments to our solicitors as we believe them to be defamatory and potentially libellous.

Thanks so much for your letter, which gave me a heartily good laugh. This threat to sue me for expressing my opinions in a public forum–your own continuumphilosophy.typepad.com blog–is another indication of behavior I deem both disreputable and lacking in good judgment on your and your company’s part. To make such a threat in the name of publishing and defending a translation of the work of the revolutionary libertarian thinker Cornelius Castoriadis is nothing short of astonishing.

You want to present yourself in the world as a “Publisher” of “Philosophy”? Philosophers do not go around making threats of lawsuits when disagreements, even strong ones, arise. They engage in extended discussions, welcome dissent, respond cheerfully and openly to criticism, and work tirelessly toward making the entire world a place where precisely those open-ended philosophical practices and stances become and remain the common course of human events. Indeed, that is an integral part of what Castoriadis called “the project of individual and collective autonomy.” It would seem that Mr. Rockhill’s translation has taught you nothing of real import about Castoriadis. But then, that is not so surprising, given what I consider to be his generally execrable introductory essay, which greatly depoliticizes Castoriadis’s work.

You write:

1) You state that the translation is 'scab' [sic]. It is in fact fully authorised and with the permission of both Editions de L'Aube and the Castoriadis estate.

It would appear that you have not the slightest idea what the term “scab” means. This is an amusing–or horrifying, depending on one’s point of view–bit of ignorance of labor history and terminology on the part of someone who is publishing a book by an author who spent his life championing labor and forging the requisite philosophical tools.

I know of no instances where the employer and owning classes (let alone scabs themselves) admit the existence of scab behavior. In my experience, they always do exactly what you and your company have done throughout this affair: repeat ad nauseam that, since the law is presumably on their side, nothing untoward has happened. But I have already responded directly to this very confusion between what one can perhaps legally get away with and the potential ethical issues raised precisely by that blinkered moral attitude. I am referring to the following passage in my July 18, 2010 letter to your Mr. Avital:

“Is it the policy of Continuum Books that if something is for sale on the market, no moral considerations need even be considered? That would be an amusing way of bringing Castoriadis work to the attention of anyone.”

Those who truly love wisdom and express that love in practice would never fall so easily into such a clear category error. You are indeed a “Publisher” of something you call “Philosophy.” Yet you fail here, in my view, to bring the love of wisdom itself into the public realm.

You write:

2) By referring to Gabriel Rockhill as 'a "professor"' (your double quotation marks) you call into question his academic credentials and authority. You can see his position and list of other publication on the Villanova University website, http://wwwl.villanova.edu/villanova/artsci/philosophv. You yourself have corresponded directly with him at this address and are well aware of his professional work.

My dear Sarah, this paragraph is beyond hilarious. Let me ask you: How much do you want in damages (for someone else) per quotation mark? And Heaven forbid, when speaking of revolutionary thinker Cornelius Castoriadis’s work and of its manner of presentation, that I or anyone else would question anyone’s “authority”! I still cannot believe you actually wrote that in a letter that could be made public and would thereby expose you to withering public ridicule. And I thought that no editor or publisher could show herself to be more ridiculous than Fordham University Press Editorial Director Helen Tartar, who wrote to me, via the “Association Cornelius Castoriadis” online discussion list: “Amazon has been directed to remove and block all posts from you” (a threat that had no effect except a humorous one) after I criticized “The Astounding Ignorance and Incompetence of ‘Translator’ Helen Arnold” (a critique later seconded by another regular translator of Castoriadis).

More seriously, you really need to read what it is that you are objecting to before you spend your company’s money by forwarding to your solicitor such silly threats. Lawyers usually bill by the hour, whether or not you have a substantial case. Or, since the solicitor is not even mentioned in the cc: line and remains wholly unnamed, are you just making him or her or his or her involvement up, too, hoping that an imaginary threat of legal action will succeed in silencing me?

Please find the time to read the actual statement to which I refer in the post your company has shamelessly censored, not once but twice. In that statement, I refer to a passage from Henry David Thoreau:

“There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.” *

I was not denying that Gabriel Rockhill is “a ‘professor’ of Philosophy” (restoring here the phrase you cut short). On the contrary. It was precisely because he appeared to me to be merely a “professor” of Philosophy that I found him suspect in the first place. His failure to keep his word–you might tell your lawyers, if they are real, about the real e-mail I sent Mr. Rockhill in which I made sure the contents of my conversation with him would be noted down in timely fashion–indicates that he is, in my experience, but a “professor” of Philosophy, not a true practitioner thereof. Your apparent inability to comprehend the possible multiple usages of quotation marks and the possible multiple meanings of being a (mere) “professor” of something astounds me. Or perhaps you are merely “professing” not to understand my clear intent as your brandish absurd threats of legal action.

You write:

3) You refer to both this book and Continuum as 'dishonest and dishonourable', and our publication as 'unethical'. As you know from previous correspondence with Tom Crick and David Avital, we acquired the rights to publish Castoriadis's work in English from Editions de L'Aube, publisher of the original French language edition, and the Castoriadis estate, in 2009. Both Professor Rockhill and.the editorial staff at Continuum have been in touch with you directly about this translation and replied to your queries about it. As such, it is unclear to us where the dishonesty and dishonour have occurred.

First of all, your threat of a lawsuit in matters of PUBLIC discussion (after all, you are a PUBLIsher of a book that has been sent into the PUBLIC realm) has already brought further shame and dishonor upon you in the eyes of those who value free speech and unfettered discussion. Secondly, an honest, honorable exchange among people associated with the name of philosophy would require, in my humble opinion, that both your company and Mr. Rockhill would reply when I write. In fact, common decency calls for that. In both instances–Mr. Rockhill’s and Mr. Crick’s–they were the ones who first sent unsolicited e-mails to get in contact with me. But Mr. Rockhill–who had told me that he would get back to me before ever returning to this questionable translation project and who had written to me that he had dropped the project indefinitely–unilaterally cut off all communications and then broke his word to me. And Mr. Avital, who took over from Mr. Crick, impolitely never acknowledged my last e-mail to him, the one in which I wrote, in a spirit that I hoped would be shared by a publisher of philosophy books, “Let’s open a dialogue that considers all issues on both sides instead of attempting to cut that dialogue short by avoiding the issues thus raised.” Thus, it is–again in my humble opinion–utterly shameful for you to invoke Mr. Rockhill’s and Mr. Avital’s willingness to remain “in touch with [me] directly about this translation and [to] repl[y] to [my] queries about it.” Mr. Avital has not even been willing to confirm whether statements made to me by Mr. Rockhill in e-mails sent before I first met him are actually true.

You wrote:

4) It is our policy, as an independent, academic publishing house, to encourage discussion and debate on our blogs. However, we will not permit personal, potentially defamatory and malicious content to be repeatedly posted. This is why we have removed your inflammatory, inaccurate and unsubstantiated posts.

Thus, you want to be judge, jury, and executioner all at the same time here, allowing no discussion, no response, no challenge to your capitalist enterprise. Moreover, you censored my comment without even indicating that something had been removed–a highly irregular blog practice, one that discredits you even further, for you do not even let the public know that something is missing. Down the Orwellian Memory Hole! Furthermore, you somehow finally determined that the best response to embarrassing criticism of actions you hoped would remain away from the public eye was to make it impossible for anyone to say anything: “The comments to this entry are closed.” Is this the philosophical continuity of Continuum?

And yet, my latest comment, posted on another part of your “Continuum Philosophy Blog,” still stands, at least as of this writing. I ended that comment as follows: “Let’s see how long it is before continuumphilosophy.typepad.com disgracefully censors this comment, too.” So, perhaps, beyond all these silly threats and self-serving explanations of your censorious behavior, you have finally realized that additional acts of censorship do not really serve your public relations agenda and that the justification you have just given in your threatening letter for your past acts of censorship does not really hold up at all and should not be applied again.

This, indeed, is why I believe you have sent me a threat of legal action without even telling me who your lawyer is. The transparency of this ploy is all too apparent. And it won’t work.

Please note that this exchange will be posted on the internet for all the world to read as soon as I find a free moment. I wrote to you personally to give you a chance to dissociate yourself from what I consider the shamefully censorious behavior of Continuum Books. Your letter will stand as a lasting reminder to everyone of what Sarah Campbell, “Publisher” of “Philosophy,” really stands for. This is how Sarah Campbell, representing Continuum Books, thinks she can advance public knowledge of the revolutionary writings of Cornelius Castoriadis!


David Ames Curtis
*This is not the first time I have appealed to this statement from Thoreau about “professors of philosophy.” See my paper: “Effectivité et réflexivité dans l'expérience d'un traducteur de Cornelius Castoriadis” (conférence prononcée le 28 mai 2004 au Séminaire Interdisciplinaire de Recherches Littéraires [SIRL] des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis [Bruxelles], lors du colloque “L’Imaginaire au carrefour de l'interdisciplinarité. Autour de Cornelius Castoriadis” [27-28 mai 2004]), which has since been translated into German: “Konkrete Wirklichkeit und Reflexion in der Erfahrung eines Übersetzers von Cornelius Castoriadis,” übersetzt von Michael Halfbrodt, Archiv für die Geschichte des Widerstandes und der Arbeit, 18: 563-592.