Barbara Cassin, senior researcher emeritus in philosophy and philology at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, or CNRS), is the winner of the 2018 CNRS Gold Medal, “France’s highest scientific distinction.”
According to a press release from CNRS, the award
crowns a body of work marked by the power of words and language as well as translation as a way of “making do” with cultural differences, one that has constantly sought to connect contemporary issues with specialized research on the texts of Greek antiquity. Her research represents an exceptional contribution to the philosophy of language from both a historical and practical perspective, and is the work of a committed researcher, notably with respect to multilingualism.
CNRS recognized Cassin for her scholarship and the practical to use to which she has put it:
Barbara Cassin’s initial research focused on rereading our reception of ancient philosophy in light of what it rejected, namely sophistic thought… This detour enabled her to question the foundations of rational thought, and to analyze what makes a discourse effective. She put this knowledge of the “power of words” at the service of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in 1995….
[She] was deeply involved in the Collège international de philosophie, over which she presided for a number of years. In the mid-2000s she joined the European Commission’s group of experts for multilingualism. She is also a member of the French delegation to Unesco, which entrusted her in 2009 with the responsibility of developing a network of female philosophers.
The medal, which has been awarded annually since 1954, has only once before been bestowed on a philosopher (in 1987). Cassin will officially receive the medal in a ceremony this December.