Archive for January, 2013

Michel Foucault “The Courage of Truth”

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2011. The Courage of the Truth (The Government of Self and Others II) – Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


1st february, first hour

The plea to use „care of the self“ instead of „know thyself“ – because the latter is only one variant of the former (4).

Necessity of the other for the practice of truth-telling about myself (5)

However, even if the role of this other person who is indispensable for telling the truth about oneself is uncertain or, if you like, polyvalent, even if it appears with a number of different aspects and profiles—medical, political, and pedagogical—which mean that it is not always easy to grasp exactly what his role is, even so, whatever his role, status, function, and profile may be, this other has, or rather should have a particular kind of qualification in order to be the real and effective partner of truth- telling about self. And this qualification, unlike the confessor’s or spiritual director’s in Christian culture, is not given by an institution and does not refer to the possession and exercise of spe-cific spiritual powers. Nor is it, as in modern culture, an institutional qualification guaranteeing a psychological, psychiatric, or psychoanalytic knowledge. The qualification required by this uncertain, rather vague, and variable character is a practice, a certain way of speaking which is called, precisely, parrhe–sia (freespokenness). (6)

[…] the notion of parrhesia was first of all and fundamentally a political notion. And this analysis of  parrhesia as a political notion, as a political concept, clearly took me away somewhat from my immediate project: the ancient history of practices of telling the truth about oneself. (8)

With the notion of parrhe–sia, originally rooted in political practice and the problematization of democracy, then later diverging towards the sphere of personal ethics and the formation of the moral subject, with this notion with political roots and its divergence into morality, we have, to put things very schematically […] the possibility of posing the question of the subject and truth from the point of view of the practice of what could be called the government of oneself and others. (8)

And to the extent that this involves the analysis of relations between modes of veridiction, techniques of governmentality, and forms of prac-tice of self, you can see that to depict this kind of research as an attempt to reduce knowledge (savoir) to power, to make it the mask of power in structures, where there is no place for a subject, is purely and simply a caricature. (8-9)

It seems to me that by carrying out this triple theoretical shift—from the theme of acquired knowledge to that of veridiction, from the theme of domina-tion to that of governmentality, and from the theme of the individual to that of the practices of self—we can study the relations between truth, power, and subject without ever reducing each of them to the others. (9)

But the word parrhesia is also employed in a positive sense, and then parrhesia  consists in telling the truth without concealment, reserve, empty manner of speech, or rhetorical ornament which might encode or hide it. “Telling all” is then: telling the truth without hiding any part of it, without hiding it behind anything. (10)

The parrhesiast gives his opinion, he says what he thinks, he personally signs, as it were, the truth he states, he binds himself to this truth, and he is consequently bound to it and by it. (11)

For there to be parrhesia, in speaking the truth one must open up, establish, and confront the risk of offending the other person, of irritating him, of making him angry and provoking him to conduct which may even be extremely violent. So it is the truth subject to risk of violence. (11)

[…] it involves some form of courage, the minimal form of which consists in the parrhesiast taking the risk of breaking and ending the relationship to the other person which was precisely what made his discourse possible. In a way, the parrhesiast always risks undermining that relationship which is the condition of possibility of his discourse. (11)

The connection between the person speaking and what he says is broken in rhetoric, but the effect of rhetoric is to establish a constraining bond between what is said and the person or persons to whom it is said. (13)

Let’s say, very schematically, that the rhetorician is, or at any rate may well be an effective liar who constrains others. The parrhesiast, on the contrary, is the courageous teller of a truth by which he puts himself and his relationship with the other at risk. (14)

The parrhesiast is not a professional. And  parrhe–sia is after all something other than a technique or a skill, although it has techni-cal aspects. Parrhe–sia is not a skill; it is something which is harder to define. It is a stance, a way of being which is akin to a virtue, a mode of action. (14)

[…] what fundamentally characterizes the prophet’s truth- telling, his veridiction, is that the prophet’s posture is one of mediation. The prophet, by definition, does not speak in his own name. He speaks for another voice; his mouth serves as intermediary for a voice which speaks from elsewhere. (15)

The figure and characteristics of the parrhesiast stand in contrast with this role, this characterization of the sage, who basically remains silent, only speaks when he really wants to, and [only] in riddles. The parrhesiast is not someone who is fundamentally reserved. On the contrary, it is his duty, obligation, responsibility, and task to speak, and he has no right to shirk this task. (18)

The parrhesiast does not reveal what is to his interlocutor; he discloses or helps him to recognize what he is. (19)


1st february, second hour

[…] the person who teaches establishes, or at any rate hopes or sometimes wants to establish a bond of shared knowledge, of heritage, of tradition, and possibly also of personal recognition or friendship, between himself and the person or persons who listen to him. Anyway, this truth- telling establishes a filiation in the domain of knowledge. Now we have seen that the parrhesiast, to the contrary, takes a risk. He risks the relationship he has with the person to whom he speaks. (24)

Whereas, in the case of the technician’s truth- telling, teaching ensures the survival of knowledge, the person who practices parrhe-sia risks death. (25)

[…] inasmuch as he takes the risk of provoking war with others, rather than solidifying the traditional bond, like the teacher, by [speaking] in his own name and per-fectly clearly, [unlike the] prophet who speaks in the name of someone else, [inasmuch as] finally [he tells] the truth of what is in the singular form of individuals and situations, and not the truth of being and the nature of things, the parrhesiast brings into play the true discourse of what the Greeks called ethos. (25)

Prophecy, wisdom, teaching, and parrhe-sia are, I think, four modes of veridiction which, [first], involve different personages, second, call for different modes of speech, and third, relate to different domains (fate, being, tekhne, ethos). (25)

However, as distinct as these roles may be, and even if at certain times, and in certain societies or civilizations, you see these four functions taken on, as it were, by very clearly distinct insti-tutions or characters, it is important to note that fundamentally these are not social characters or roles. I insist on this; I would like to stress it: they are essentially modes of veridiction. (26)

In modern society, rev-olutionary discourse, like all prophetic discourse, speaks in the name of someone else, speaks in order to tell of a future which, up to a point, already has the form of fate. The ontological modality of truth- telling, which speaks of the being of things, would no doubt be found in a certain modality of philosophical discourse. The technical modality of truth- telling is organized much more around science than teaching, or at any rate around a complex formed by scientific and research institu-tions and teaching institutions. And the parrhesiastic modality has, I believe, precisely disappeared as such, and we no longer find it except where it is grafted on or underpinned by one of these three modali-ties. Revolutionary discourse plays the role of parrhesiastic discourse when it takes the form of a critique of existing society. Philosophical discourse as analysis, as reflection on human finitude and criticism of everything which may exceed the limits of human finitude, whether in the realm of knowledge or the realm of morality, plays the role of parrhe-sia to some extent. And when scientific discourse is deployed as criticism of prejudices, of existing forms of knowledge, of dominant institutions, of current ways of doing things—and it cannot avoid doingthis, in its very development—it plays this parrhesiastic role. (30)


15 february, first hour

If skillfulness in speech causes forgetfulness of self, then simplicity in speech, speech without affectation or embellishment, straightforwardly true speech, the speech of  parrhesia therefore, will lead us to the truth of ourselves. (75)

And, after Solon’s speech denouncing what is taking place and criticizing his fellow citizens, the Council replies that in fact Solon is going mad (mainesthai). To which Solon retorts: “You will soon know if I am mad … when the truth comes to light.” (77)

It is precisely this practice of parrhe-sia that Socrates does not want to adopt, this role he does not want to play. He does not venture to give advice to the city publicly by appearing before the people. Socrates will not be Solon. (77)

Socrates has not renounced politics out of fear of death and in order to avoid it. […] So the reason Socrates did not want to tell the truth in the form of political veridiction was not the fear of death, it was not Socrates’ personal relation to his own death. […] He would have been unable to establish with others and himself a particu-lar kind of invaluable, useful, and beneficial relationship. (80-81)

The voice which addresses this injunction to Socrates, or rather turns him away from the possibility of speaking in the form of politics, signals the establishment of another truth- telling, converse to political truth- telling, which is that of philosophy: You will not be Solon, you must be Socrates. (81)

With this form of truth- telling or veridiction we are dealing with a certain form of parrhe-sia, if by parrhe-sia we understand the courage of the truth, the courage of truth- telling. We are dealing with a parrhe-sia which, in its foundation and in the way it unfolds, is clearly very different from political parrhe-sia. (85)

The aim of this mission is, of course, to watch over the others continuously, to care for them as if he were their father or brother. But to what end? To encourage them to take care, not of their wealth, reputation, honors, and offices, but of themselves, that is to say, of their reason, of truth, and of their soul (phrone-sis, ale-theia, psukhe). T hey must at tend to them-selves. This definition is crucial. Oneself in the relation of self to self, oneself in this relation of watching over oneself, is [first] defined by phrone-sis,39 that is to say, practical reason, as it were, reason in practice, the reason which enables good decisions to be taken and false opinions to be driven out. Second, oneself is also defined by ale-theia inasmuch as this is what will in fact be the index of phrone-sis, what it is pegged to, what it looks for, and what it obtains; but ale-theia is also Being insofar as we are related to it, precisely in the form of the  psukhe- (t h e  s o u l) . (86)

And in this we now have a parrhe-sia on the axis of ethics. What is at stake in this new form of parrhe-sia is the foundation of e-thos as the principle on the basis of which conduct can be defined as rational conduct in accordance with the very being of the soul. Ze-te-sis, exetasis, epimeleia. Ze-te-sis is the first moment of Socratic verid-iction—the search.  Exetasis is examination of the soul, comparison of the soul, and test of souls. Epimeleia is taking care of oneself. (86)

In short, if you like, Socrates establishes a search, an investigation with regard to the god’s enigmatic words, whose aim is not to await or avoid its realization. He shifts their effects by embedding them in an investigation of truth. Second, he establishes the difference from the speech, the veridiction, the truth- telling of the sage by radically distin-guishing his object. He does not speak of the same thing and his search is not pursued in the same domain. Finally, he establishes a difference in relation to the discourse of teaching by, if you like, reversal. Where

the teacher says: I know, listen to me, Socrates will say: I know nothing, and if I care for you, this is not so as to pass on to you the knowledge you lack, it is so that through understanding that you know nothing you will learn to take care of yourselves. (89)

So you see that in this text from the Apology Socrates basically does two things which I will summarize in the following way: first, he radically distinguishes his own truth- telling from the three other major [modalities of] truth- telling he meets with around him (prophecy, wisdom, teaching); second, as I was explaining, he shows how cour-age is necessary in this form of veridiction, of truth- telling. But this courage is not to be employed on the political stage where this mission cannot in fact be accomplished. This courage of the truth must be exercised in the form of a non-political parrhe-sia, a parrhe-sia which will take place through the test of the soul. It will be an ethical parrhe-sia. (89-90)


15 february, second hour

I think that Socrates’ death founds philosophy, in the reality of Greek thought and therefore in Western history, as a form of veridiction which is not that of prophecy, or wisdom, or tekhne; a form of veridiction peculiar precisely to philosophical discourse, and the courage of which must be exercised untl death as a test of the soul which cannot take place on the political platform. (113-114)


22 february, second hour

Free-spokenness hangs on the style of life. It is not courage in battle that authenticates the possibility of talking about courage. (148)

[…] what will Socratic parrhesia speak about? It will not speak of competence; it will not speak of tekhne. It will speak of something else: of the mode of existence, the mode of life. The mode of life appears as the essential, fundamental correlative of the practice of truth-telling. Telling the truth in the realm of the care of men is to question their mode of life, to put this mode of life to the test and define what there is in it that may be ratified and recognized as good and what on the other hand must be rejected and condemned. In this you can see the organization of the fundamental series linking care, parrhesia (free-spokenness), and the ethical division between good and evil in the realm of bios (existence). […] Its privileged, essential object [is] life and the mode of life. (149)


7 march, second hour

Given that our mental framework, our way of thinking leads us, not without problems, to think of how a statement can be true or false, how a statement can have a truth value, then what meaning can we give to this expression “true life”? (218)

Moreover, this notion of truth, with its four mean-ings, is applied to logos itself, not to logos understood as proposition, as statement, but logos as way of speaking. Logos ale-the-s is not just a set of propositions which turn out to be exact and can take the value of truth. Logos alethes is a way of speaking in which, first, nothing is concealed; in which, second, neither the false, nor opinion, nor appearance is mixed with the true; [third], it is a straight discourse, in line with the rules and the law; and finally, ale-the-s logos is a discourse which remains the same, does not change, or become debased, or distorted, and which can never be vanquished, overturned, or refuted. (220)

This life of the democratic man, sometimes idle and at others busy, sometimes given over to pleasure and at others to politics, and when given over to politics saying anything and everything that comes into his head, this life without unity, this mixed life dedicated to multiplicity is a life without truth. It is unable, Plato says, to give way to logos ale-the-s (true discourse). (223)

Plural, variagated souls traversed by desire, license, and laxity; souls without truth. (224)

[…] the Cynics do not, as it were, change the metal itself of this coin. But they want to modify its effigy and, on the basis of these same principles of the true life—which must be unconcealed, unalloyed, straight,  stable, incorruptible, and happy—, by going to the extreme consequence, without a break, simply by pushing these themes to their extreme consequence, they reveal a life which is precisely the very opposite of what was traditionally recognized as the true life. Taking up the coin again, changing its effigy, and, as it were, making the theme of the true life grimace. Cynicism as the grimace of the true life. (228)


14 march, first hour

The simplest case, political bravery, involved oppos-ing the courage of truth-telling to an opinion, an error. In the case of Socratic irony, it involves introducing a certain form of truth into a knowledge that men do not know they know, a form of truth which will lead them to take care of themselves. With Cynicism, we have a third form of courage of the truth, which is distinct from both political bravery and Socratic irony. Cynic courage of the truth consists in getting people to condemn, reject, despise, and insult the very manifestation of what they accept, or claim to accept at the level of principles. It involves facing up to their anger when presenting them with the image of what they accept and value in thought, and at the same time reject and despise in their life. This is the Cynic scandal. After politi-cal bravery and Socratic irony we have, if you like, Cynic scandal. (233-234)

In the case of Cynic scandal—and this is what seems to me to be important and worth holding on to, isolating—one risks one’s life, not just by telling the truth, and in order to tell it, but by the very way in which one lives. (234)

It is as if philosophy was able to disburden itself of the problem of the true life to the same extent as religion, reli-gious institutions, asceticism, and spirituality took over this problem in an increasingly evident manner from the end of Antiquity down to the modern world. We can take it also that the institutionalization of truth- telling practices in the form of a science (a normed, regulated, established science embodied in institutions) has no doubt been the other major reason for the disappearance of the theme of the true life as a philosophical question, as a problem of the conditions of access to the truth. If scientific practice, scientific institutions, and integration within the scientific consensus are by themselves sufficient to assure access to the truth, then it is clear that the problem of the true life as the necessary basis for the practice of truth- telling disappears. So, there has been confiscation of the problem of the true life in the reli-gious institution, and invalidation of the problem of the true life in the scientific institution. You understand why the question of the true life has continually become worn out, faded, eliminated, and threadbare in Western thought. (235)

The question of the philosophical life has constantly appeared like a shadow of philosophical practice, and increas-ingly pointless. This neglect of the philosophical life has meant that it is now possible for the relation to truth to be validated and manifested in no other form than that of scientific knowledge. (236-237)

There can only be true care of self if the principles one formulates as true principles are at the same time guar-anteed and authenticated by the way one lives. (239)

In a commentator of Aristotle,23 but many other authors refer to it, we find the following interpretation of this  bios kunikos, which seems to have been canonical. First, the kunikos life is a dog’s life in that it is without modesty, shame, and human respect. It is a life which does in public, in front of everyone, what only dogs and animals dare to do, and which men usually hide. The Cynic’s life is a dog’s life in that it is shameless. Second, the Cynic life is a dog’s life because, like the latter, it is indifferent. It is indifferent to whatever may occur, is not attached to anything, is content with what it has, and has no needs other than those it can satisfy immediately. Third, the life of the Cynic is the life of a dog, it received the epithet kunikos because it is, so to speak, a life which barks, a diacritical (diakritikos) life, that is to say, a life which can fight, which barks at enemies, which knows how to distinguish the good from the bad, the true from the false, and masters from enemies. In that sense it is a diakritikos life: a life of discernment which knows how to prove, test, and distinguish. Finally, fourth, the Cynic life is phulaktikos. It is a guard dog’s life, a life which knows how to dedicate itself to saving others and protecting the master’s life. Shameless life, adiaphoros (indifferent) life,  diakritikos life (diacritical, distinguishing, discriminating, and, as it were, barking life), and  phulaktikos (guard’s life, guard dog’s life). (243)

We do not encounter Platonism and the metaphysics of the other world (l’autre monde) on this line. We encounter Cynicism and the theme of an other life (vie autre). These two lines of development—one leading to the other world, and the other to an other life, both starting from the care of self—are clearly divergent, since one give rises to Platonic and Neo- Platonic speculation and Western metaphysics, while the other gives rise to nothing more, in a sense, than Cynic crudeness. But it will revive, as a question which is both central and marginal in relation to philosophical practice, the question of the philosophical and true life as an other life. May not, must not the philosophical life, the true life necessarily be a life which is radically other? (246-247)

In the Gnostic movements, in Christianity, there was the attempt to think an other life (vie autre), the life of severance and ascesis, without common measure with [usual] existence, as the condition for access to the other world (l’autre monde). And it is this relation between an other life and the other world—so profoundly marked within Christian asceticism by the principle that it is an  other life  which leads to the other world—which is radically challenged in Protestant ethics, and by Luther, when access to the other world will be defined by a form of life absolutely conformable to existence in this world here. The formula of Protestantism is, to lead the same life in order to arrive at the other world. It was at that point that Christianity became modern. (247)


14 march, second hour

The life of the Cynic is unconcealed in the sense that it is really, materially, physically public. (253)

There is no privacy, secret, or non- publicity in the Cynic life. We constantly come across this theme afterwards: the Cynic lives in the street, in front of the temples. […] Peregrinus decided to burn himself, but in public, during the Games, so that there was the greatest possible number of spectators at his death. Absolute visibility of the Cynic life. (254)

The Cynic public life will therefore be a life of blatant and entirely visible naturalness, asserting the principle that nature can never be an evil. […] The philosophical life thus dramatized by the Cynics deploys the general theme of non-concealment but frees it from all the conventional prin-ciples. As a result, the philosophical life appears as radically other than all other forms of life. (255)

So poverty leads to the acceptance of slavery. It leads to something which was even more serious than slavery for a Greek or Roman (for after all, slavery could always be one of life’s misfortunes): begging. Begging is poverty pushed to the point of dependence on others, on their good will, on the chance encounter. For the Ancients, holding out one’s hand was the gesture of ignominious poverty, of dependence in its most unbear-able form. Begging was Cynic poverty pushed to the point of voluntary scandal. (260)

For the Cynics, the systematic practice of dishonor is on the contrary a positive conduct with meaning and value. (260)

On the basis of this theme of the independent life, and through its dramatiza-tion in the form of poverty, slavery, begging, adoxia, dishonor, there is a reversal of the classical philosophical theme and the emergence of the true life as other, scandalously other. (262)

There are still a great many things that could be said about this naturalness in the Cynics.* This principle of a straight life which must be indexed to nature, and solely to nature, ends up giving a positive value to animality. And, here again, this is something odd and scandalous in ancient thought. In general terms, and summarizing considerably, we may say that in ancient thought animality played the role of absolute point of differentiation for the human being. It is

by distinguishing itself from animality that the human being asserted and manifested its humanity. Animality was always, more or less, a point of repulsion for the constitution of man as a rational and human being. (264)

In the Cynics, in accordance with the rigorous and systematic appli-cation of the principle of the straight life indexed to nature, animality will play a completely different role. It will be charged with positive value, it will be a model of behavior, a material model in accordance with the idea that the human being must not have as a need what the animal can do without. (265)


28 march, first hour

There are several ways of telling the truth in the Cynic life. The first route, the first way: the relationship to the truth is an immediate relationship of conformity to the truth in conduct, in the body. (309)

But the Cynic life has other responsibilities, other tasks in relation to the truth. The Cynic life must also include precise self- knowledge. The Cynic life is not just the picture of the truth; it is also the work of the truth of self on self. (310)

Measure of self, therefore, but also vigilance over self, appraisal of one’s own abilities and constant watch over the flow of one’s representations, this is what the Cynic must be. But this relationship to the truth of oneself, of what one can do and of the flow of one’s representations, must be coupled also with another relationship, which is that of the supervision of others. (311)

First, in Christian asceticism there is of course a relation to the other world (l’autre monde), and not to the world which is other. […] To that extent, I think we can say that one of the master strokes of Christianity, its philosophical significance, consists in it having linked together the theme of an other life (une vie autre) as true life and the idea of access to the other world (l’autre monde) as access to the truth. [On the one hand], a true life, which is an other life in this world, [on the other] access to the other world as access to the truth and to that which, consequently, founds the truth of that true life which one leads in this world here: it seems to me that this structure is the combination, the meeting point, the junction between an originally Cynic asceticism and an originally Platonic metaphysics. This is very schematic, but it seems to me that there is in this one of the first major differences between Christian and Cynic asceticism. Through histori-cal processes which would obviously need to be examined more closely, Christian asceticism managed to join Platonic metaphysics to that vision, that historical- critical experience of the world. (319)

The second major difference is of a completely different order. This concerns the importance that Christianity, and only Christianity gives to something which is not found in either Cynicism or Platonism. This is the principle of obedience, in the broad sense of the term. Obedience to God conceived of as the master (the despote-s) whose slave, whose servant one is; obedience to His will which has, at the same time, the form of the law; obedience finally to those who represent the despote-s (the lord and master) and who receive an authority from Him to which one must submit completely. So it seems to me that the other point of inflection in this long history of asceticism recounted in counterpoint, facing this relation to the other world (l’autre monde), is the principle of an obedience to the other, in this world, starting from this world, and in order to have access to the true life. There is true life only through obedience to the other, and there is true life only for access to the other world. (320)

The difference between Christian asceticism and other forms of asceticism which may have prepared the way for and preceded it should be situated in this double relation: the relation to the other world to which one will have access thanks to this asceti-cism, and the principle of obedience to the other (obedience to the other in this world, obedience to the other which is at the same time obedience to God and to those who represent him). Thus we see the emergence of a new style of relation to self, a new type of power rela-tions, and a different regime of truth. (320-321)


28 march, second hour

Positive parrhesia in Christianity: First, in its positive value, parrhe-sia appears as a sort of hinge virtue, which characterizes both the attitude of the Christian, of the good Christian, towards men, and his way of being with regard to God. With regard to men, parrhe-sia will be the courage to assert the truth one knows and to which one wishes to bear witness regardless of every danger. (331)

But this parrhe-sia, a relationship to others, is also a virtue with regard to God. Parrhe-sia is not just the courage one demonstrates in the face of persecution in order to convince others, [but also a] courage [which] is confidence in God, and this confidence cannot be separated from one’s courageous stance towards others. (332)

Negative Parrhesia in Christianity: That parrhe-sia that had become a relationship of confidence and open-ness of heart that could bind man to God will disappear, or rather, it will reappear as a confidence which is seen as a fault, a danger, a vice. Parrhe-sia as confidence is foreign to the principle of the fear of God. It is contrary to the necessary feeling of a distance with regard to the world and things of the world. Parrhe-sia appears incompatible with the severe gaze that one must now focus on oneself. The person who can bring about his salvation—that is to say, who fears God, who feels him-self to be a stranger in the world, who keeps a watch on himself, and must constantly keep a watch on himself—cannot have that parrhe-sia, that jubilant confidence by which he was bound to God, borne up to grasp Him in a direct face- to- face encounter. So parrhe-sia now appears as a blameworthy behavior of presumption, familiarity, and arrogant self- confidence. (334)

The second characteristic of this  parrhe-sia, which has now become a fault and a vice, is that not only does one not fear God, but one does not take care of oneself. “We drive the fear of God far from ourselves … by not thinking of death or punishment, by not taking care of ourselves, by not examining our conduct.” You see that parrhe-sia is now negligence with regard to self, whereas previously it was care of self. One does not care about self; one lacks the proper mistrust of self. Third, “living anyhow and associating with anyone.” This time, it is confidence in the world. Familiarity with the world, the habit of liv-ing with others, accepting what they do and say, are all hostile bonds, contrary to the necessary strangeness one should have with regard to the world. This is what characterizes parrhe-sia: non- fear of God, non- mistrust of self, and non- mistrust of the world. It is arrogant confidence. (335-336)

Consequently: elimination of parrhe-sia as arrogance and self- confidence; necessity of respect, whose first form and essential manifestation must be obedience. Where there is obedience there cannot be parrhe-sia. We find again what I was just saying to you, namely that the problem of obedience is at the heart of this rever-sal of the values of parrhe-sia. (336)

Parrhesia generally: The positive conception makes parrhe-sia a confidence in God, a confidence as the element which enables an apos-tle or a martyr to speak the truth with which he has been entrusted. Parrhe-sia is also the confidence one has in God’s love and in how one will be received by Him on the Day of Judgment. Around this concep-tion of parrhe-sia crystallized what could be called the parrhesiastic pole of Christianity, in which the relation to the truth is established in the form of a face- to- face relationship with God and in a human confidence which corresponds to the effusion of divine love. It seems to me that this parrhesiastic pole was a source of what could be called the great mystical tradition of Christianity. (337)

And then you have another, anti- parrhesiastic pole in Christianity, which founds, not the mystical, but the ascetic tradition. Here the rela-tion to the truth can be established only in a relationship of fearful and reverential obedience to God, and in the form of a suspicious decipherment of self, through temptations and trials. This ascetic, anti- parrhesiastic pole without confidence, this pole of mistrust of oneself and fear of God, is no less important than the parrhesiastic pole. I would even say that historically and institutionally it has been much more important, since it was ultimately around this pole that all the pastoral institutions of Christianity developed. (337)

Parrhe-sia, or rather the parrhesiastic game, appears in two aspects:

–  the courage to tell the truth to the person one wants to help and direct in the ethical formation of himself

–  the courage to manifest the truth about oneself, to show oneself as one is, in the face of all opposition. (339)


Howard Markel & Alexandra Minna Stern “The Foreignness of Germs”

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Markel, Howard; Alexandra Minna Stern 2002. The Foreignness of Germs: The Persistent Association of Immigrants and Disease in American Society. The Milbank Quarterly 80(4): 757-788.


Racial Labels and Medical Exclusion, 1880–1924

First, the rise of bacteriology, which for the first time in human history identified microscopic organisms as the culprits of specific diseases, galvanized existing public health programs and encouraged med-ical authorities to believe that germs could be contained and controlled through direct intervention (Leavitt 1996). (761)

Second, during a period in which evolutionary doctrines upheld a belief in the racial degeneracy of most nonwhite groups, it was relatively easy to attribute the weary condition of some immigrants—whether impoverished, malnourished, or suffering from a particular ailment—to their biological inferiority. (761)

Third, the broader medical surveillance of immigrants was part and parcel of a more overarching expansion of the federal government that entailed the subsumption of local and state public health agencies by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) (Marcus 1979). (761)


Illegal Aliens and Anti-communism, 1925-1964

After the passage of the 1924 National Origins Act and its more carefully articulated interpretations in 1927 and 1929, the rhetoric of the biological hierarchy of races trumped all other medicalized rationales for shutting the doors to the foreign born. These laws favored immigrants whose external physical appearance most resembled the majority of white American faces and were believed to possess the greatest potential for assimilation into mainstream society. (767-768)

In McCarran’s anti-immigration rhetoric against east European Jews, southern Italians, Asians, and other so-called undesirables were deep-seated metaphors of disease and contagion. As floor manager of the bill during its final debate in the Senate in mid-May 1952, McCarran made an impassioned plea to save the United States from imported ruin: „Today … as never before, a sound immigration and naturalizationsystem is essential to the preservation of our way of life, because that system is the conduit through which a stream of humanity flows intothe fabric of our society. If that stream is healthy, the impact on oursociety is salutary; but if that stream is polluted our institutions andour way of life becomes infected.“ (Congressional Record, May 13, 1952, 5089) (773)

For example, in the law’s general categories of ineligible aliens, we find—in no explainable order of actual threat—the feeble-minded; the insane; people with epilepsy or other mental defects; drug addicts and alcoholics; those with leprosy or contagious diseases; aliens found to have a physical defect, disease, or disability that would restrict their ability to earn a living; the impoverished; criminals; polygamists; prostitutes; homosexuals; contract laborers; and Communists, anarchists, or those subscribing to totalitarian political ideologies (U.S. Immigra-tion and Nationality Act of 1952). (774)

Despite the presidential warning, Truman’s veto was overridden, and the bill became law on June 27, 1952 (Congressional Record, June 26–27, 1952). Although from this moment on, American presidents—from Truman and Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy—began advocating a more liberal and fair-minded immigration policy, this did not become a reality until Lyndon Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965. (774)


The Newest Immigrants and the Recrudescence of Old Fears, 1965-Present

In the context of resurgent anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1980s, calls to protect the public health from external hazards began to be sounded in tandem with the escalating AIDS epidemic. For example, in 1986, the USPHS suggested adding AIDS to the list of infections that would automatically debar a prospective newcomer. (777)

The AIDS regulations reiterated a recurrent theme in American immigration policy, that specific “undesirable” groups were labeled as being “high risk” whether or not they actually posed a threat of transmitting disease. (778)

[…] in February 1993, Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma introduced a bill prohibiting the entry of HIV-positive immigrants on economic grounds, which passed in the U.S. Senate, 76 to 23, with an even larger show of support in the U.S. House of Representatives a few weeks later. (779)

On June 10, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, which amended the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1988, adding HIV infection as a criterion to keep out immigrants. […] Known colloquially as “Proposition 187,” this state law required publicly funded health care facilities to refuse care to illegal immigrants and mandated that health care workers who suspected that one of their patients might be an illegal alien report him or her to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the state attorney general, and the state director of health services (Ziv and Lo 1995). (779)

Some recent studies of the public health risks of tuberculosis around the world recommend that instead of forcing undocumented immigrants to hide from physicians, the United States and other industrialized nations create user-friendly tuberculosis detection and treatment programs for the hundreds of millions of people who cross international boundaries each year (Bloom 2002; Bloom et al.

1999; Farmer 1999; Geng et al. 2002; Reichman 2002; Sachs 2002). Such an arrangement was recently implemented by the U.S.-Mexican Border Health Commission to track and care for Mexican transmigrants afflicted with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis A, or tuberculosis (Smith 2001). Especially novel is the creation of a confidential binational tuberculosis card that allows patients to obtain treatment in both the United States and Mexico without fearing deportation or long-term detention in one of the many TB screening centers along the border (Sachs 2000). (780)


At many points over the past century, some people have wanted to exclude persons perceived as foreign, inassimilable, and dangerous to the country’s social, political, or economic fabric. Metaphors of germs and contagion have never lurked far beneath the surface of such rationales. As we have shown, more often than not these arguments have been motivated by, and closely intertwined with, ideologies of racialism, nativism, and national security rather than substantiated epidemiological or medical observations. (780-781)

If any concept in this brief history of immigration and public health is antiquated, it is the idea that infec-tious diseases can be controlled by targeting certain populations based on apparent ethnic or national background. (781)

Norbert Wiley “The Semiotic Self”

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Wiley, Norbert 1994. The Semiotic Self. Oxford: Polity Press


The Politics of Identity in American History

It [identity] usually  refers  to  some  long-term,  abiding  qualities which,  despite  their  importance,  are  not features  of human  nature  as  such. Identities  individuate  and  allow  us  to  recognize  individuals,  categories, groups  and  types  of  individuals.  They  can  be  imposed  from  without,  by social  processes,  or  from  within,  in  which  case  they  are  often  called  self-concepts.  They  may  also  imply  habit  in  various  senses,  including Pierre Bourdieu’s  “habitus”  (Bourdieu,  197211977,  p.  72).  Identities,  then,  are nested within and express the qualities of selves  and collections of selves. (1)

The line  between  (particular)  identities  and  (generic)  selves  is  not easy to draw.  History  is  notorious  with  peoples  who  thought  their  historically specific  identities  were  universal,  and who  therefore  used  the  name  of their tribe  as  the  name  of their  species.  Despite  the  difficulty  of  applying  this distinction,  I  will  use  the  terms  “self’  and  “identity”  in  the  way  indicated, as  distinguished by degree  of generality. (1)

[…] the  politics  of  identity  is  the  struggle  over the  qualities  attributed,  socially  and  institutionally,  to  individuals  and groupings  of  individuals. (2)

It  is  a  mistake  to  say  that  identities  are  trans-historical  and universal,  but it is  also  a  mistake  to  say that personhood  and  selves  are  not. The  selves  are  generic  human  structures,  and  the  identities,  anyone  of which  mayor  may  not  be  present,  are  distinct  from  and  inhere  in  these structures. (2)

Behaviorism  as  such  never  became  influential  as  a  model  for  the democratic  actor,  i.e.  for  the  politics  of  identity.  Pragmatism  and  the disciplinary  triad  took  that  role.  But  behaviorism  did  become  quite influential as  a  model for  the  economic actor.  In other words  the  “economic man”  of  classical  economics  was  transformed  from  utilitarianism to behaviorism.  Behaviorism’s  victory  in  the  economy  limited  the  institu-tional  impact of  pragmatism,  although  the  latter  did  gain  hegemony  in political life. (9)

(1)  Dialogical. The  self  of  pragmatism  was  dialogical,  both  inter-personally  and internally  (Taylor,  1991,  pp.  31–41).  The  self was  initially formed  in  dialogue  with  caretakers  and  this  dialogue  was  constitutive  of whatever  identities  the  self would  take  on.  Moreover  the  inner  life  of the self,  both  in  content  and  form,  was  a  continuation  of  interpersonal dialogue.  In  contrast  the  self  of  faculty  psychology  was  unitary  and

monological.  When  it  entered  into  dialogue  with  others,  it  did  so  from  a fully  formed psychological base. Later I  will  show  that the  dialogical  self is  also  trialogical  (and semiotic). This  is  because  all  dialogue,  both  inter- and  intra-personal,  entails  a  self- other-self  reflexive  loop.  I  will  refer  to  this  three-place  loop  as  the “structure,” in contrast to the  “content,” of the semiotic self. (9-10)

(2)  Social. From  dialogicality  comes  sociality.  The  pragmatists’  self was inherently  social  and  therefore  public  and  political.  For  faculty  psychology the  individual  and  society  were  at  distance,  requiring  social  contracts  in politics  and  markets  in  economics  to  unite  them.  For  the  pragmatists  the individual  and  the  social  were  interpenetrating.  This  is  because  all conscious processes were based on an outside  or social perspective.  Markets and social contracts merely refined an already existing social solidarity. (10)

(3)  Horizontal. For  faculty  psychology  human  nature  was  a  vertical structure,  consisting  in  a  hierarchy  of  faculties.  For  pragmatism  it  was  a horizontal  structure,  consisting  of temporal  phases  of the  self.  For  Peirce these phases were  called the  “I” and the  “you.” For Mead they were  the  “I” and  the  “me.”  I  will  look at these  temporal  phases  in more  detail  later,  but for  now  I  want  to  point  out  that  pragmatism’s  horizontality suggested  a

generic  uniformity  in  everyone’s  rational  processes.  To  describe  this uniformity pragmatism  demoted  the  passions  of faculty  psychology into  the less  influential  category  of  impulses.  In  turn,  interests  and  reason  were merged in the horizontal semiotic process. (10)

(4)  Egalitarian. The  pragmatist  theory  of  the  self  was  distinctly egalitarian.  All  humans  had  the  same  psychological  equipment in  the  same way.  Human  variation  into  identity  groupings  and  unique  individualities was  a  matter  of  differing  symbols  and  their  interpretations. […]The  pragmatists’  self was  extremely  plastic;  communication  could  produce  all  manner  of variations,  and  the  perplexing  variations  in  the  new  immigrants  could  be fully  explained semiotically, interactionally, and culturally. (10)

(5)  Voluntarist. Concerning  the  psychological  freedom  of the  person  or citizen,  the  founding  fathers  were  somewhere between  Calvinist determinism and  Locke-Hume  compatibilism,  i.e.  between  hard  and  soft  determinism. The  pragmatists,  instead,  attributed  a  capacity  for  self-determination  or psychological  freedom  to  the  individual,  i.e.  they  believed  people  could have  chosen otherwise.  In contrast to  the  semi-determinism  of the  founding fathers,  this  freedom  had  more  deeply  libertarian  implications  for  law,  civil liberties,  and democratic self-government. (10)

(6)  Cultural. Finally  the  pragmatists’  self  was  part  of the  great  cultural turn  of  the  late  19th  century  and  the  early  20th.  The  anthropologists, particularly Franz Boas  and his  students,  discovered  culture  macroscopically and  from  above.  The  pragmatists  discovered  it  microscopically  and  from below.  The  human  semiotic/symbolic  capacity  is  the  motor  of  culture. Once humans were  theorized  as  semiotic  the  psychological  preconditions  of culture had been found  and the cultural level itself could be identified. (11)

The  major  difference  between  Peirce  and  Mead,  for  present  purposes, is  in  the  temporal  direction  of  the  internal  dialogue.  Mead  has  this conversation  going  temporally  backwards,  from  present  to  past,  or  from  I to  me.  Peirce has it going forward,  from present to  future  or from I  to  “you” (i.e.  one’s  own  self  in  the  immediate  future). (13)

Although  identities  are  more  general  than  individual  signs,  they  are  less general  than  the  semiotic  structure.  They  are  historically  specific  and “housed”  in  these  structures.  Thus  I  am  distinguishing  three  semiotic levels  within  the  self:  individual  signs,  e.g. thoughts;  systematic  complexes of  signs,  e.g.  the  ethnic,  class,  gender  and  sexual  identities  and  self-concepts  of this  chapter;  and  the  generic  capacity for  semiosis, anchored  in the I-you-me structure. (14-15)

Mead’s  I-me  reflexivity  and  Peirce’s  I-you  interpretive  process  each becomes  part  of  a  more  inclusive  semiotic  process,  the  I-me-you  triadic conversation.  This  triad  is  the  structure  of  the  self,  the  universal  generic human nature with which I  began this  chapter and which the  reductions  are unable to explain. (15)



Humans  are  a  triad  of triads,  and,  in  addition,  the  three triads  merge  into  one.  As  merged  I  usually  refer  to  them,  in  dialogical short-hand,  as  the  I,  you,  and  me,  though  the  more  precise  names  are I-present-sign,  you-future-interpretant,  and  me-past-object.  Human beings  are  not  anyone  of the  three  (or  nine).  They  are  the  three  together, including  both  the  elements  and  the  relations  among  these  elements. Humans  consist  of present,  future,  and  past;  sign,  interpretant,  and  object;  I, you,  and  me;  and  all  the  overlap,  and  connectedness,  and  solidarity  among these elements. (215-216)

The idea that the  self is  semiotically triadic in its  structure  as  well  as  in its activities  explains  how  the  self can be  both  semiotic  and  autonomous.  For Eco  the  self is  a  sign  in  the  same  way  that  ordinary  words  are  signs.  But obviously we  are  not signs  in  the  same  way  that the  words  in  this  sentence are  signs.  Otherwise  these  words,  or  others  like  them,  would  also  be humans.  All  signs  are  semiotic  triads,  consisting  of  “sign,”  interpretant, and  object,  but  humans  are  triads  in  a  unique  way.  They  are  the  signs behind the signs,  or to put it another way, they are bi-Ieveled signs. (217)

To say  that  the  I  is  actually  the  1-present-sign;  the  you,  the  you-future-interpretant; and  the  me,  the  me-past-object  is  more  than  just  stringing words  together.  These  expressions  designate  the  functional  interplay  of time,  semiotic,  and  the  internal  conversation. (218)

But the humans that are being shaped by culture  have  natures  of their  own,  independently  of culture.  This  nature  or structure  is  the  semiotic  self,  viewed,  not  as  a  process,  but as  the  structure that engages in the process. (219)

The  Reality  of Democratic  Selves  Apart  from  any  specific  features  of the self,  such  as  equality and freedom,  democracy assumes  the  simple  existence or  reality  of  selves.  If  there  were  only  the  forms  and  rules  of  society, without  human  beings,  the  notion  of democracy  (rule  of the  “demos”  or “people”)  would  make  no  sense.  It would  be  langue  without  parole  or,  in Durkheim’s terms, a collective consciousness without anything to collect. (224)

Democracy assumes  that the  citizens  are free  and  equal.  Its  whole  point  is  that  humans  all  have  the  same  moral worth,  that they should direct their government in a  bottom-up fashion  and that  they  have  the  capacities,  cognitive  and  volitional,  to  do  this.  If  the theory  of the  self is  declared  “outside”  democracy,  then  the  freedom  and equality of institutions will  not be  anchored in human beings.  Instead  these qualities  will  have  to  be  justified  in  some  self-legitimizing  manner,  which would make them both logically circular and unconnected to the citizens. (226)

I  think  that  at  the  very  least  one  can  say  there  is  a  tendency  for  the reductions  to drive  out notions  of moral,  legal,  and political  equality.  At the present time in the United States, however,  I  do not think one  could say the people  who  represent  the  reductionist  positions,  upward  or  downward, personally  oppose  equality  or  any  other  aspect  of  democracy.  On  the contrary  the  partisans  of  these  positions  present  themselves  as  politically progressive,  opposed  to  the  alleged  rigidities  of  foundationalism  and committed  to  the  liberalizing  effects  of  science.  The  natural  sciences  are supposed  to  liberate  with  downward  reduction,  and  (some  of)  the  cultural sciences  are  also  supposed  to  liberate  with  upward.  Unlike  the  reductions that  the  pragmatists  and  the  classical  template  opposed,  the  current reductions  present  themselves  as  benign  and  more  pro-humanity  than  the humanistic positions. (227-228)

In the  Peirce-Mead  model  equality  is  based  on the  semiotic  structure  of humans  as  such.  Right  from  the  very  first  primate-cum-human they  are  all triads  of  triads.  This  implies  that  moral  equality  is  not  just  something peculiar  to  certain  times  and  places  but universal,  regardless  of whether  or not it is  recognized by social  institutions.  All  people  are  equal  because  they all  consist of an I, a you, and a me, i.e.  they are  all  semiotic signs. (228)

Anti Randviir “Ruumisemiootika”

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Randviir, Anti 2010. Ruumisemiootika: tähendusliku maailma kaardistamine. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Semiootiline subjekt

Esmajoones tuleb märkida, et semiootilise subjekti määratlemisel ei paku lahendusi mitmesugused filosoofilised arutluskäigud, mis peamiselt käsitlevad subjekti kui kategooriat. Selle asemel on antud diskursuse jaoks oluline semiootilise subjekti funktsionaalne aspekt […] Ülal rääkisime semiootilistest subjektidest kui tähenduslikest sfääridest, mille vahel tekkiv pingeväli teeb võimalikuks uue tähenduse tekke. (72)

Praegu võime need kaks terminit – omailma ja semiosfääri – seostada semiootilise subjektiga nii, et esimene võimaldab kirjeldada semiootilise subjekti suhet ümbritsevasse keskkonda, teine aga võimaldab tegelda märgiloome analüüsiga subjektisiseselt: käsitades kultuuri semiootilise makroobjektina kui tekstilist nähtust, saame ’semiosfääri’ kaudu kirjeldada semiootilise subjekti sidusust tekstitasandil (vt nt Taborsky 1997), nagu ka sellele eelnevaid märgiloomelisi protsesse nii-öelda subjektisiseses suhtluses. (73-74)

[…] semiootilise subjekti individuaalsuse kaudu mõistame käesolevas kontekstis võimalust kirjeldada semiootilist reaalsust sidusana, see tähendab vähemalt minimaalselt individuaalse tervikuna. (75)

Siinkohal peamegi tõdema paradoksaalset olukorda: olemaks võimeline rääkima semiootilisest subjektist ja selle individuaalsusest kui nähtusest, mille aluseks on kontrast semiotiseeritud ja mittesemiotiseeritud maailma vahel ning nende vaheline dünaamiline piir, võime järeldada, et seda piiri polegi võimalik määratleda. Täpsemalt, seda piiri ja seega ka semiootilise reaalsuse ulatuvusega kaasnevaid tunnuseid ja omadusi ei saa esile tuua kestvana. See kehtib nii semiootilisel uurimistasandil kui ka, veelgi enam (hüpoteetiliselt refereeritaval) semiootilise reaalia kui uurimisobjekti tasandil: kõneldes tähendusliku maailma ulatuvusest, peame selle piiri kirjeldamiseks olema tähendustanud (algselt) ’tähenduseta maailma’ elemente. On ilmne, et seeläbi lülitatakse viimati mainitud elemendid semiootilise reaalsuse raamistikku. (75)

Vastandus, milles sisalduvad loetamatu/arusaamatu/raskesti tõlgendatav ning loetav/arusaadav/interpreteeritav, toob sisse vaatepunktiteguri ja elimineerib semiosfääri liialt kategoorilise olemuse. (76)

Nagu juba tähendatud, on semiootiliste subjektide (semio-)sfääriline või ruumiline kontseptualisatsioon otseselt seotud identiteedi (ehk semiootiliste piiride) ja (enese-)positsioneerimise teemaga kommunikatsioonis, olgu interaktsioon seotud kas isikute- või kultuuridevahelise tasandiga. (80)

Categories: semiootika, subjekt

Roman Jakobson “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances”

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Jakobson, Roman 1990. Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances. – Jakobson, R. On Language. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 115-133

[…] the concurrence of simultaneous entities and the concatenation of successive entities are the two ways in which we speakers combine linguistic elements. (118)

Any linguistic sign involces two modes of arrangement:

(1)   Combination. Any sign is made up of constituent signs and/or occurs only in combination with other signs. This means that any linguistic unit at one and the same time serves as a context for simpler units and/or finds its own context in a more complex linguistic unit. Hence any actual grouping of linguistic units binds them into a superior unit: combination and contexture are two faces of the same operation.

(2)   Selection. A selection between alternatives implies the possibility of substituting one for the other, equivalent in one respect and different in another. Actually, selection and substitution are two faces of the same operation. (119)

[…] selection (and, correspondingly, substitution) deals with entities conjoined in the code but not in the given message, whereas, in the case of combination, the entities are conjoined in both or only in the actual message. (119)

The constituents of a context are in a state of contiguity, while in a substitution set signs are linked by various degrees of similarity which fluctuate between the equivalence of synonyms and the common core of antonyms. (120)

The constituents of any message are necessarily linked with the code by an internal relation and with the message by an external relation. (120)

Émile Benveniste “Sémiologie de la langue (1)”

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Benveniste, Émile 1969. Semiologie de la langue (1). Semiotica 1(1): 1-12

Pour lui [Peirce] la langue est partout et nulle part. Il ne s’est jamais intéressé au fonctionnement de la langue, si même il y a prêté attention. La langue se réduit pour lui aux mots, et ceux-ci sont bien des signes, mais ils ne relèvent pas d’une catégorie distincte ou même d’une espèce constante. (2)

Il faut donc que tout signe soit pris et compris dans un SYSTÈME de signes. Là est la condition de la SIGNIFIANCE. Il s’ensuivra, à l’encontre de Peirce, que tous les signes ne peuvent fonctionner identiquement ni relever d’un système unique. On devra constituer plusieurs systèmes de signes, et entre ces systèmes, expliciter un rapport de différence et d’analogie. (2-3)

La réduction du langage à la langue satisfait cette double condition : elle permet de poser la langue comme principe d’unité et du même coup de trouver la place de la langue parmi les faits humains. Principe de l’unité, principe de classement, voilà introduits les deux concepts qui vont à leur tour introduire la sémiologie. (4)

La langue se présente sous tous ses aspects comme une dualité : institution sociale, elle est mise en œuvre par l’individu ; discours continu, elle se compose d’unités fixes. […] Où la langue trouve-t-elle son unité et le principe de son fonctionnement ? Dans son caractère sémiotique. Par là se définit sa nature, par là aussi elle s’intègre à un ensemble de systèmes de même caractère. Pour Saussure, à la différence de Peirce, le signe est d’abord une notion linguistique, qui plus largement s’étend à certains ordres de faits humains et sociaux. (5)

D’une manière générale, l’objet principal de la sémiologie sera « l’ensemble des systèmes fondés sur l’arbitraire du signe ». (6)

Ces signes, pour naitre et s’établir comme système, supposent la langue, qui les produit et les interprète. Ils sont donc d’un ordre distinct, dans une hiérarchie à définir. On entrevoit déjà que, non moins que les systèmes de signes, les RELATIONS entre ces systèmes constitueront l’objet de la sémiologie. (7)

Un système sémiotique se caractérise : […]

Le MODE OPÉRATOIRE est la manière dont le système agit, notamment le sens (vue, ouïe, etc.) auquel il s’adresse.

Le DOMAINE DE VALIDITÉ est celui où le système s’impose et doit être reconnu ou obéi.

La NATURE et le NOMBRE DES SIGNES sont fonction des conditions susdites.

Le TYPE DE FONCTIONNEMENT est la relation qui unit les signes et leur confère fonction distinctive. (8)

Les caractères qui sont réunis dans cette définition forment deux groupes : les deux premiers, relatifs au mode d’opération et au domaine de validité, fournissent les conditions externes, empiriques, du système ; les deux derniers, relatifs aux signes et à leur type de fonctionnement, en indiquent les conditions internes, sémiotiques. Les deux premières admettent certaines variations ou accommodations, les deux autres, non. (9)

Le premier principe peut être énoncé comme le PRINCIPE DE NON-REDONDANCE entre systèmes. Il n’y a pas de ‘synonymie’ entre systèmes sémiotiques ; on ne peut pas ‘dire la même chose’ par la parole et par la musique, qui sont des systèmes à base différente. (9)

[…] il s’agit de déterminer si un système sémiotique donné peut s’interpréter par lui-même ou s’il doit recevoir d’un autre système son interprétation. Le rapport sémiotique entre systèmes s’énoncera alors comme un rapport entre SYSTÈME INTERPRÉTANT et SYSTÈME INTERPRÉTÉ. C’est celui que nous poserons, à grande échelle, entre les signes de la langue et ceux de la société : les signes de la société peuvent être intégralement interprétés par ceux de la langue, non l’inverse. La langue sera donc l’interprétant de la société. A petite échelle on pourra considérer l’alphabet graphique comme l’interprétant du Morse ou du Braille, à cause de la plus grande extension de son domaine de validité, et en dépit du fait qu’ils sont tous mutuellement convertibles. (10)

Tout système sémiotique reposant sur des signes doit nécessairement comporter (1) un répertoire fini de SIGNES, (2) de règles d’arrangement qui en gouvernent les FIGURES (3) indépendamment de la nature et du nombre des DISCOURS que le système permet de produire. (12)

Ananta Kumar Giri “Civil Society and the Limits of Identity Politics”

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Giri, Ananta Kumar 2002. Civil Society and the Limits of Identity Politics. Identity, Culture and Politics 3(1): 57-79

But now there is a need to rethink identity, identity politics as part of a struggle to reconstruct civil society as a space of non-identitarian politics and ethics. The need for such a rethinking has been occasioned by a displacement in the emancipatory promise of identity politics. Earlier identitarian movements were fighting for the emancipation of groups concerned but now they are more preoccupied with the annihilation of the other than with self-emancipation. (58)

The first limit of identity politics is that it reifies identities and this reification  and  substantialization  is  not  only  dangerous  for  the  other,  it  is dangerous for the self as well. Identity politics many a time leads to denial of choice on the part of the individuals whose identities are valorized and fought for. (64)

Limits  of  identity politics urges us to realize not only the limits of assertive identitarian groups within the nation-state but also understand the limits of nation-state as a taken-for-granted ultimate frame of our identity. (65)

[…] identity  needs  cannot  be  easily  satisfied  by  appeals  to communitarian frameworks; rather it requires a morally just identity formation on the part of the actors and proceeds with a frame of “qualitative distinctions” (Joas, 2000; also Matustik, 1997).  Such a process of identity formation calls for rethinking community as not merely a space of conformity but as a space of responsibility. In fact, in thinking about community there is a need now to make a move from community as a space of “descriptive responsivity” to it as a space of “normative responsibility” where as Calvin O. Schrag passionately tells us:  “Responsibility,  nurtured  by  the  call  of  conscience,  supplies  the  moral dimension in the narrative of the self in community” (Schrag, 1993: 100). (71)

Identity  is  not  only  a  matter  of  apriori formulation and categorical determination; it is also an aspect of an unfolding narrative. To talk of identity then is to talk of narrative identity as Paul Ricouer would teach us and this is crucial to our idea of a capable subject. (71)

For Ricouer, “[We must distinguish] between the identity of the self from that of things.  This latter kind of identity comes down in the final analysis to the  stability,  even  the  immutability  of  a  structure…Narrative  identity,  in contrast, admits change. The mutability is that of the characters in stories we tell, who are emplotted along with the story itself” (Ricouer, 2000: 3). (71)

Narrative identity helps us overcome the limits of reification of identity in identity politics and this task of overcoming is further facilitated by realizing the distinction between identity and identification. While preoccupation with identity has the implication of absolutization, determination and fixation, an engagement with processes of identification makes us sensitive to the process of identity formation which is a constant negotiation between the desire to reify and the desire to fly the chains of essential fixation. (72)

A concern with identification as different from identity tells us that there  is  no  essential  confrontation  between  identity  and  difference  and differences have not only a creative and productive role to play in unsettling identity but also helping us to realize the other within and in its manifold creative unfoldment (Connolly, 1991). (73)

Identity politics now needs to be transformed by an openness to the other and through such a dialogical opening we can recreate civil society as a space of ethico-political  mobilization  of  the  subject. (77)