Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of Parrhesia.

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Parrhesia and Rhetoric

The first concerns the relationship of parrhesia to rhetoric--a relationship which is problematic even in Euripides. In the Socratic-Platonic tradition, parrhesia and rhetoric stand in a strong opposition ; and this opposition appears very clearly in the Gorgias, for example, where the word " parrhesia " occurs. The continuous long speech is a rhetorical or sophistical device, whereas the dialogue through questions and answers is typical for parrhesia ; i.e., dialogue is a major technique for playing the parrhesiastic game.

The opposition of parrhesia and rhetoric also runs through the Phaedrus-- where, as you know, the main problem is not about the nature of the opposition between speech and writing, but concerns the difference between the logos which speaks the truth and the logos which is not capable of such truth-telling. This opposition between parrhesia and rhetoric, which is so clear-cut in the Fourth Century BC throughout Plato 's writings, will last for centuries in the philosophical tradition. In Seneca, for example, one finds the idea that personal conversations are the best vehicle for frank speaking and truth-telling insofar as one can dispense, in such conversations, with the need for rhetorical devices and ornamentation. And even during the Second Century AD the cultural opposition between rhetoric and philosophy is still very clear and important.

However, one can also find some signs of the incorporation of parrhesia within the field of rhetoric in the work of rhetoricians at the beginning of the Empire. In Quintillian's Institutio Oratoria, for example (Book IX, Chapter II), Quintillian explains that some rhetorical figures are specifically adapted for intensifying the emotions of the audience ; and such technical figures he calls by the name " exclamatio ". Related to these exclamations is a kind of natural exclamation which, Quintillian notes, is not " simulated or artfully designed. " This type of natural exclamation he calls " free speech " [libera oratione] which, he tells us, was called " license " [licentia] by Cornificius, and " parrhesia " by the Greeks. Parrhesia is thus a sort of " figure " among rhetorical figures, but with this characteristic : that it is without any figure since it is completely natural. Parrhesia is the zero degree of those rhetorical figures which intensify the emotions of the audience.

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