Thursday, February 08, 2007

Philosophy as Speaking

"Behind the platonic Socrates," Cavarero reminds us, "there is the figure of the historical Socrates who intends philosophizing as speaking, rather than as thinking or contemplating" (For More than One Voice, p. 67). Naturally Socrates wouldn't tell us that we shouldn't say what we think or think about what we say. Yet if there's going to be a divorce of thought from speech, why should we assume that philosophy belongs with (speechless) thought?

Against Nietzsche, and borrowing a thesis from Giorgio Colli, Cavarero posits that "with the advent of videocentric metaphysics, the Appolonian–the enigmatic sphere of speech–is subjected to the ecstatic frenzy of vision" (p. 78). The enigmatic sphere of speech.. In what sense is Socrates' philosophy grounded in the enigmatic sphere of speech? For Socrates philosophy is not just any speaking, but specifically confutation, a dialectic of questions and answers that leads to aporia. Cavarero argues:

If logos were transparent, simply representational, univocal in its capacity to say things, then the dialectic undertaking would not function. Like the ancient enigma, dialectic counts on the constitutive ambiguity of logos.

(p. 78)

Is this akin to saying that philosophical problems are basically just problems of language? Hmm. Cavarero would have us believe that who is speaking fundamentally matters. How do we talk about this problem of who speaks as something other than merely rhetorical?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:22 PM.


Blogger Clark Goble said...

"Socrates who intends philosophizing as speaking, rather than as thinking or contemplating"

I always found this oft made assertion problematic. I think it true Socrates doesn't intend philosophy as purely thinking or contemplating but is a social endeavor. Thus the structure of Plato's dialogs. (We'll ignore the pulling Socrates and Plato from each other) The Other is a window to ones own soul, as we especially see in the Alciabiades. (And we'll definitely skip the authorship issues here)

The problem is that when this more sophisticated sense of dialectic is reduced to "philosophy as speech" something has been excluded. Thus the attempted deconstruction is really just a deconstruction of already constituted misreadings of Plato. (IMO)

Put an other way, it often seems like too many Continental figures are attacking a strawman. (ditto for their keeping around the boogey-man of logical positivism)

February 12, 2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I see your point. "Philosophy as speech" is woefully inadequate. It only makes sense as a critique, and even then it's questionable. Cavarero in this sentence is transitioning between her own readings of Plato in which she seeks to establish that (a) Plato devocalizes the logos and (b) Plato has an antagonistic relationship with Socrates especially with respect to this issue. She offers an unusual reading of Alcibiades in the Symposium to illustrate her argument.

Cavarero is pursuing "a deconstruction of already constituted misreadings of Plato" (e.g. Plotinus), but her argument about Plato's devocalization of the logos is not glib. I'm to blame if that's been the impression left here.

February 12, 2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Well I tend to think Plotinus, if anything, is more misread than Plato. Say what you will about the neoPlatonists, but often their discourse seems to be a rejection of totalizing tendencies and bears more than a striking parallel to what a lot of Continental philosophers are getting at.

I've often said, for instance, that Derrida's critique of Heidegger and the difference between differance and the ontological difference can be seen in Plotinus with the difference between the One as Other and Matter as Other.

That's not to say there aren't many criticisms to make about Plotinus. (Not the least of which being the way he says things - but then that's a charge that can be made about most Continental writers as well)

February 12, 2007 12:22 PM  

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