Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of Parrhesia.

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Parrhesia and Duty

The last characteristic of parrhesia is this : in parrhesia, telling the truth is regarded as a duty. The orator who speaks the truth to those who cannot accept his truth, for instance, and who may be exiled, or punished in some way, is free to keep silent. No one forces him to speak ; but he feels that it is his duty to do so. When, on the other hand, someone is compelled to tell the truth (as, for example, under duress of torture), then his discourse is not a parrhesiastic utterance . A criminal who is forced by his judges to confess his crime does not use parrhesia. But if he voluntarily confesses his crime to someone else out of a sense of moral obligation, then he performs a parrhesiastic act to criticize a friend who does not recognize his wrongdoing, or insofar as it is a duty towards the city to help the king to better himself as a sovereign. Parrhesia is thus related to freedom and to duty.

To summarize the foregoing, parrhesia is a kind of verbal activity where the speaker has a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to his own life through danger, a certain type of relation to himself or other people through criticism (self-criticism or criticism of other people), and a specific relation to moral law through freedom and duty. More precisely, parrhesia is a verbal activity in which a speaker expresses his personal relationship to truth, and risks his life because he recognizes truth-telling as a duty to improve or help other people (as well as himself). In parrhesia , the speaker uses his freedom and chooses frankness instead of persuasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self-interest and moral apathy.

That, then, quite generally ; is the positive meaning of the word " parrhesia " in most of the Greek texts where it occurs from the Fifth Century BC to the Fifth Century AD.

The Evolution of the Word " parrhesia "

Now what I would like to do in this seminar is not to study and analyze all the dimensions and features of parrhesia, but rather to show and to emphasize some aspects of the evolution of the parrhesiastic game in ancient culture (from the Fifth Century BC) to the beginnings of Christianity. And I think that we can analyze this evolution from three points of view.

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