Posts Tagged ‘truth


Koselleck’s Futures Past

Reinhart Koselleck

Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies


·      What is historical time?

·      Seek out the linguistic organization of temporal experience wherever this surfaces in past reality

Xvi: “More generally, there is much common ground between Gadamer’s T&M and the basic, interpretative framework within which Koselleck moves.  Shared by T&M and these essays is the construction of a hermeneutic procedure that places understanding as a historical and experimental act in relation to entities which themselves possess historical force, as well as a point of departure in the experience of the work of art and the constitution of an aesthetics.  Gadamer elaborates aesthetic experience by examining the development of the concept Erlebnis, or experience in the sense of lived encounter.  This term was developed in response to Enlightenment rationalism and is characteristic of an aesthetics centered upon the manifestation of the ‘truth’ of a work of art through the experience of the subject.  Gadamer then asks: what kind of knowledge is produced in this way?  There is a discontinuity between modern philosophy and the classical tradition: the development of a historical consciousness in the 19th century made philosophy aware of its own historical formation, creating a break in the Western tradition of an incremental path to knowledge that had hitherto shaped philosophical discussion.  Koselleck takes up this problem and presents it as a historical, rather than philosophical, question: What kind of experience is opened up by the emergence of modernity?”

1: “The sources of the past do inform us about thoughts and deeds, plans and events, but they provide no direct indication of historical time.”

3:  “All testimony answers to the problem of how, in a concrete situation, experiences come to terms with the past; how expectations, hopes, or prognoses that are projected into the future become articulated into language.  These essays will constantly ask: how, in a given present, are the temporal dimensions of past and future related?”

4: “Methodologically, these studies direct themselves to the semantics of central concepts in which historical experience of time is implicated.  Here, the collective concept ‘History,’ coined in the 18th century, has preeminent meaning.”


Gross’ Rhetoric of Science

Alan Gross
The Rhetoric of Science
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Randy Harris’ Review

•    Compounding the presumption of that article, the book is surprisingly neglectful of other work in the field. There is barely a glance in the text at Bazerman or Myers. Simons, Lyne, Miller, Zappen, and several other influential rhetoricians of science are nowhere to be seen.
•    The book begins with much talk about “a neo- Aristotelian rhetoric of science” (6), outlining rhetorical genres and sketching stasis theory, but all that fades rather quickly away.
o    When Gross gets down to looking at scientific texts and processes, Habermas and Turner are more direct influences than Aristotle or Cicero. Nor, despite the emphasis on knowledge-making, do Scott or Leff or any others from the rhetoric-as-epistemic tradition make an appearance. The Sophists are invoked early but never employed.
•    Durant in the Times Literary Supplement dismissed his arguments to that end as (savour the irony) “mere sophistry,” and Ravetz complained in Nature that his work reduced science to “‘just words.”
o    Mere and just are familiar sticks for beating uppity rhetoricians, of course, and we shouldn’t lose any sleep over scientists worried that exposing their traffic in suasion might lower their status or jeopardize their grants
•    “The creation of knowledge is a task beginning with self-persuasion,” he tells us on the first page, “and ending with the persuasion of others” (3).
•    Suasion seems overlaid on science in these analyses, not constitutive of them, and Gross talks frequently as if rhetoric and scientific argumentation are two distinct entities (“rhetorical and scientific reasoning differ not in kind but only in degree”-12), rather than the latter being a subset of the former.
•    Plato, who says that first you find the truth, then you sell it. Plato’s model, not coincidentally, is the one that most scientists would offer.
o    Truth is ‘out there.’ Scientists find it. They phrase it in the most compelling terms, and others recognize it.
•    And a rhetoric that sells, instead of builds, is far too static for science.
•    This picture, of course, is a stick drawing of scientific disputes (ignoring, for instance, problems and solutions that arise only in the crucible of debate-E churning up data only for its ability to perforate U;
o    U inventing goals only because they are antithetical to E’s; each latching onto methods only for their corrosive effect on the other). But even this skimpy outline is fuller than Gross’s picture.
•    In short, there is not enough in The Rhetoric of Science about how knowledge gets built-via negotiation-in science.
•    But, through public disagreements (and public alliances), they display their arguments before their consumers-the workaday scientists who have to decide how they are going to spend the next few years of their time and energy, allocate their grant money, deploy their students.
o    More generally, scientific programs are like any consumer product-if fins work for this year for Ford, Chevy will have them next year-and theories are constantly infecting one another with attractive properties, constantly swapping suasions.
•    And, in the most unfortunate case of opportunity lost (perhaps because
Habermas leads him astray), Gross has a close look at the peer review process-as ripe a grove for epistemic rhetoric as any in science-and finds it a certification exercise. Knowledge is approved, not made, in Gross’ picture of peer review.
From Trevor Melia’s Review
•    In proposing to treat science “sub specie rhetoricae,” Alan Gross exemplifies both the problems and the potencies of the sophistic tradition in rhetoric.
o    Gross understands that the hegemony of rhetoric is threatened by plausible claims to knowledge of a reality beyond language.
o    He also recognizes that “science” poses the greatest threat in this respect
•    The result is that the rhetoric of science is in danger of being assimilated to a historically sensitive sociology of science.
o    Gross seeks to avoid that problem by explicitly mobilizing canonical works in classical rhetoric, especially those of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian, and supplementing them with contributions from such moderns as Chaim Perelman, Kenneth Burke, Vladimir Propp, Jiirgen Habermas, and Roland Barthes.
o    Chapters devoted to analogy in science, taxonomic language, style in biological prose, and the arrangement of the scientific paper are redolent of the categories, if not the concerns, of classical rhetoric.
•    More philosophically provocative is the attempt, by invoking the doctrine of stasis (an sit, quid sit, quale sit), to replace “scientific discovery” with “rhetorical invention.”
•    This latter feat is accomplished by a perhaps too facile bifurcation between the “brute facts of nature” and “science itself.”
•    On Gross’s rendition the rhetoric of science does not deny the brute facts of nature but does aver that they are neither science nor knowledge.
o    Thus for Gross, since science is by definition invented, anything discovered is by implication brute fact.
•    Both Gross and Prelli profit from that combination of semiotic insight and modern Continental philosophy that, treating language as not merely instrumental but constitutive of reality, renders everything as “text.”


Foucault’s Fearless Speech

Michael Foucault
Fearless Speech
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Notes from class (read with “White Mythology”)

•    Sophistic/Socratic showdown
o    Turn to ethics in critical theory today
•    Derrida: post deconstruction ethics
•    Socratics: remember; past/future
o    Socrates: afterlife
•    Sophists: grounding in present
•    Virtue v. virtuosity
•    Hegel: being and not being
•    Virtue to virtuosity: Marx, Arendt
•    Freedom and the ethical—perversion of thinking
•    For Hegel: the use of doxa—what’s accepted
•    Align Derrida with Socrates?
o    Singularity
o    Irony
o    Questioning
•    Foucault and the Sophists
•    Discourse and technology: ethical turn
•    The disconnection of truth
o    Hesiod and Plato
•    Sophists’ truth: create what is, not actually telling what is now
o    Futurity
•    Foucault’s “Discourse on Language” –attack on Derrida (although not explicitly stated)
•    Philosophy and Rhetoric: For Derrida: Net; For Foucault: back and forth
•    Philosophy is philosopheme
•    Ellipsis of ellipsis
o    Always something missing
•    Catechresis—use in a way that it’s not
•    Derrida: always past/futurity
o    Back to origins—possibility of what could exist
•    Foucault: ‘history of the present’
o    Emergence
o    What’s different today in connection to yesterday
•    Derrida: Can’t be replied on—open to deconstruction
•    Foucault: what can they do?
•    Derrida: Interest is shifting
•    Foucault: Why this shifting occurs
•    Derrida: Less interested in past, more futurity
•    Foucault; repressive hypothesis
•    Sedgwick: Dominant v. resistant
•    Butler: Precarious—risk
o    Virtue and vulnerability
•    Danger and cost: Foucault—Different economy than Derrida
•    Exchanges for an open field of exchange
o    Derrida: Macroeconomics    Foucault: Microeconomics (understands the specifics)
•    Socrates: needs to prove ethos
o    Risk of bringing death
•    Scarcity of ethics, not truth
o    Now achieve something, not just saying
•    Ethics can’t be outside—commodified relation
•    Question of wants/needs v. victimization
•    Irony/humor distinction
Critical moments in the text/notes
•    Parrhesiates: someone who takes a risk to speak
•    Should always be regarded as the truth because of the risk one takes
•    Power relations: a parrhesiates always risks loosing something
•    14: “The parrhesiates says what is true because he knows that it is true; and he knows that its true because it is really true.  The parrhesiatesis not only sincere and says what is his opinion, but his opinion is also the truth.  He says what he knows to be true. […]  there is always an exact coincidence between belief and truth.”
•    39: “Indeed, from the perspective of the law, seduction was considered more criminal than rape.  For when someone is raped, it is against his or her will; but when someone is seduced, then that constitutes the proof that at a specific moment, the seduced individual chose to be unfaithful to his or her wife or husband, or parents, or family.”
•    Parrhesia and democracy can’t mix: everyone’s granted freedom ≠ unity
•    Parrhesia ≠ sophistry
o    102: “Parrhesia is opposed to self-ignorance and the false teachings of the sophists”
•    Parrhesiates become personal/self-reflexive
•    Verification and surveillance
•    Relatoin of self to truth
•    126: “But that’s Diogenes’ game: hitting his interlocutor’s pride, forcing him to recognize that he is not what he claims to be—which is something quite different from the Socratic attempt to show someone that he is ignorant of what he claims to know.”
From Untimely Mediations
Via Seneca’s De tranquillitate animi, Foucault’s discussion of self-diagnosis uses the notion of “rocking” to illustrate how an individual balances one’s life. (Much to Foucault and Seneca’s disadvantages, WebMD was not yet invented, or else self-diagnosing would have been, obviously, much more accurate and oh-so easier…) Seneca initially shows that “philosophy is not merely an alternative to political life,” but rather “philosophy must accompany a political life,” thus one rocks between the two in order to show balance in the public eye (150, emphasis mine). However, this rocking is neither progressive nor productive, and therefore it restrains self-mastery as one cannot advance in either subject. Foucault describes this dilemma in the following passage:
“[Seneca] does not know exactly what is the reason for his waverings, but he characterizes his malaise as a kind of perpetual vacillating motion which has no other movement than ‘rocking.’ The boat cannot advance because it is rocking. […] Here we have an oscillating motion of rocking which prevents the movement of the mind from advancing towards the truth, towards steadiness, towards the ground” (153-4).
I believe the image of rocking serves a unique purpose in both of the texts we read for this week. For Foucault, the rocking image suggests that one cannot separate power from truth, and further, that truth cannot be separated from the self. In these two cases, truth sways between the self and power. Since parrhesia involves possible loss and some type of risk (i.e. a king cannot be a parrhesiates) Foucault clearly states that the parrhesiastes, while not technically in power, is actually the individual who possesses momentary control. The rocking, here, suggests the shift in power relations, as the actual one in power (the king, for example) must voluntarily subordinate himself to the truth-teller, who now has the king at his mercy.
Parrhesiastes functioning within a monarchy is one thing, but the rocking between parrhesia and democracy cannot work. The parrhesiastes possesses some valuable truth, and it takes courage to present this information to a superior. The parrhesiastes says “something dangerous—different from what the majority believes” (15). However, in a democracy everyone is granted free speech, and “parrhesia is granted to even the worst citizens” (77). There is no risk in telling the truth if everyone has a truth—there is no unity if “democracy has become lack of self-restraint; liberty has become lawlessness; happiness has become the freedom to do whatever one pleases […] it is impossible to enjoy both democracy and parrhesia” (83). In a democracy, the truth is maintained by the demos, whereas parrhesia must be individual. The truth, here, becomes separated from the self.
(Here’s where I have a point of self-contention: if the truth becomes separated from the self, wouldn’t this mean that the rocking stops, and progress can begin? I don’t think this is what Seneca or Foucault was trying to imply, and so maybe this is something we can talk about in our meeting. What happens when truth becomes separated from the self? From power?)

June 2018
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