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Argumentation

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 117–139 | Cite as

“Some more” notes, toward a “third” sophistic

  • Victor J. Vitanza
Article

Abstract

Historians of rhetoric refer to two Sophistics, one in the 5th century B.C. and another c. 2nd century A.D. Besides these two, there is a 3rd Sophistic, but it is not necessarily sequential. (The 3rd is “counter” to counting sequentially.) Whereas the representative Sophists of the 1st Sophistic is Protagoras, and the second, Aeschines, the representative sophists of the 3rd are Gorgias (as proto-Third) and Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Paul de Man.

To distinguish between and among Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and then Protagoras, Gorgias, and Lacan, the author determines how far each of these personages can “count.” The model of counting, used semiotically across the topoi of “possible/impossible,” is that of the people of New Guinea: “one thing, two things, many things.” It is determined (generally) that the philosophers, including Aristotle, count to “one”; the Sophists to “two”; and Gorgias, Lacan, and Lyotard, et al. count to “many things,” thereby breaking up a monism or binarism. The ancient philosophers employ a substratum of probability to hold together the contraries of “possible/impossible”; the Sophists employ anti/logic, which keeps the contraries/antitheses separate and therefore without synthesis, but which eventually threatens the integrity of the substratum, or the law of non-contradiction; and Gorgias, Lacan, Lyotard et al. theorize about the “impossibility”/“Resistance” of the Logos (reason, logic, law, argumentation, history) to Theory/Totalization, because of the Gorgian Kairos and the Lacanian Real — both of which enter the Logos and break up the cycle of the antitheses and create “something new, irrational” (Untersteiner).

This “breaking up” has a negative/positive influence on Protagoras's “man-measure doctrine,” which in turn has a similar influence on “the problem of the ethical subject.” The subject/agent not only no longer “knows” (by way of Logos) but also no longer “acts” (as independent agent); the subject becomes a function of Logos as determined by Kairos/Real; it moves from a hypotaxis/syntaxis of “one” and “two” to a radical parataxis/paralogy of “some more.”

From the “Impossibility”/“tragedy” of knowledge, however, comes the “Possible,” or “Possibilisms,” which allows for the new (though divided) ethical subject to reclaim its position as “individual.” Such a reclamation of the subject, however, has a profound effect on argumentation, and especially the notion of “consensus.” What is wanted, then, in a Third Sophistic “ethical” — as opposed to a “political” — rhetoric is “dissensus” through radical parataxes and paralogies.

Key words

Consensus dissensus Kairos paralogy parataxis the ethical subject the Lacanian Real third Sophistic 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor J. Vitanza
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of TexasArlingtonU.S.A.

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