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

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

  • Victor J. Vitanza


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 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berg, Elizabeth L.: 1982, ‘The Third Woman’, Diacritics 12, 11–20.Google Scholar
  2. Bowersock, G.W.: 1969, Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  3. Burke, Kenneth: 1969, A Grammar of Motives, 1945, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  4. Burke, Kenneth: 1984, Attitudes Towards History, 1937, 3rd Ed., University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  5. Carse, James P.: 1986, Finite and Infinite Games, Ballantine, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Cassirer, Ernst: 1966, The Myth of the State, 1946, Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  7. Classen, Carl Joachim (ed.): 1976, Sophistik, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt.Google Scholar
  8. Clément, Catherine: 1983, The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan, 1981, Arthur Goldhammer (trans.), Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Darton, Robert: 1989, ‘What Was Revolutionary About the French Revolution?’, The New York Review of Books 35.21–22: 3–4, 6, 10.Google Scholar
  10. Deleuze, Gilles: 1977, ‘Nomad Thought’, 1973, The New Nietzsche, David B. Allison (ed.), Delta, New York, 142–149.Google Scholar
  11. Deleuze, Gilles: 1983, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1962, Hugh Tomlinson (trans.), Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari: 1983, Anti-Oedipus, 1972, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  13. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari: 1987, A Thousand Plateaus, 1980, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  14. DeMan, Paul: 1986, ‘The Resistance to Theory’, de Man, The Resistance to Theory, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 3–20.Google Scholar
  15. Dodds, E. R.: 1986, ‘Socrates, Callicles, and Nietzsche’, Plato, Gorgias. A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 385–391.Google Scholar
  16. Feyerabend, Paul: 1978, Against Method, 1975, Verso, London.Google Scholar
  17. Feyerabend, Paul: 1987, Farewell to Reason, Verso, London.Google Scholar
  18. Foucault, Michel: 1986, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 1977, Donald F. Bouchard (ed.), Cornell University Press, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  19. Funck-Brentano, Th.: 1879, Les Sophistes Grecs et Les Sophistes Contemporains, E. Plon et Cie, Paris.Google Scholar
  20. Gasché, Rodolphe: 1989, ‘In-Difference to Philosophy: de Man on Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche’, Reading de Man Reading, Lindsay Waters and Wlad Godzich (eds), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 259–296.Google Scholar
  21. Gomperz, Theodor: 1955, Greek Thinkers: A History of Ancient Philosophy, Vol. I, 1901, John Murrary, London.Google Scholar
  22. Grote, George: 1869, A History of Greece, Vol. 8 of 12 Vols. John Murray, London.Google Scholar
  23. Guattari, Félix: 1980, ‘Why Italy?’, Semiotext(e) 3 (3), 234–237.Google Scholar
  24. Guthrie, W. K. C.: 1971, The Sophists, 1969, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  25. Hegel, [G. W. F.]: 1974, Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy, E. S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson (trans.), 3 Vols., The Humanities Press, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Kerferd, G.G.: 1981, The Sophistic Movement, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  27. Jameson, Frederic: 1981, The Political Unconscious,Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Lacan, Jacques: 1977, Écrits, 1966, Alan Sheridan (trans.), Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Lacan, Jacques: 1978, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, 1973, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.), Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  30. Lacan, Jacques: ‘Television’, Spring 1987, October 40, 7–50.Google Scholar
  31. Levi, Adolfo: 1966, Storia della Sofistica, Morano Editore, Naples.Google Scholar
  32. Lyotard, Jean-François: 1984, ‘Adrift’, Driftworks, Semiotext(e), New York.Google Scholar
  33. Lyotard, Jean-François: 1988, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, 1983, George Van Den Abbeele (trans.), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  34. Lyotard, Jean-François: 1984, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1979, Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (trans.), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  35. Massumi, Brian: ‘Translator’'s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy’, Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, ix-xv.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, Bernard A.: 1987, ‘Heidegger and the Gorgian Kairos’, Visions of Rhetoric, Charles W. Kneupper (ed.), Rhetoric Society of America, Arlington, Texas, pp. 169–184.Google Scholar
  37. Montaigne, Michel: 1957, The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journal, Letters, Donald M. Frame (trans.), Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  38. Moss, Roger: 1982, ‘The Case for Sophistry’, Rhetoric Revealed, Brian Vickers (ed.), Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, Binghamton, New York, pp. 207–224.Google Scholar
  39. Nelson, John: 1983, ‘Political Theory as Political Rhetoric’, What Should Political Theory Be Now?, SUNY Press, Albany, pp 169–240.Google Scholar
  40. Nietzsche, Friedrich: 1968, Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, 1889, 1895, R. J. Hollingdale (trans.), Penguin, New York, pp. 32–39.Google Scholar
  41. Nietzsche, Friedrich: 1984, ‘Homer's Contest’, 1832, The Portable Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann (ed. and trans.), Penguin, New York, pp. 32–39.Google Scholar
  42. Nietzsche, Friedrich: 1989, ‘On Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense’, 1873, Sandra L. Gilman, Carole Blaire, and David J. Parent (ed. and trans.), Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 246–257.Google Scholar
  43. Philostratus and Eunapius: 1968, The Lives of the Sophists, Wilmer Cave Wright (trans.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  44. Pike, Kenneth L.: 1982, Linguistic Concepts, University of Nebraska oress, Lincoln.Google Scholar
  45. Poulakos, John: September 1984, ‘Rhetoric, the Sophists, and the Possible’, Communication Monographs 51, 215–226.Google Scholar
  46. Ragland-Sullivan, Ellie: 1984, ‘Counting from 0 to 6: Lacan and the Imaginary Order’, Working Paper No. 7, Center for Twentieth Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1–26.Google Scholar
  47. Ragland-Sullivan, Ellie: 1987, Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis, University of Illinois Press, Urbana.Google Scholar
  48. Rajchman, John: 1986, ‘Lacan and the Ethics of Modernity’, Representations 15, 42–56.Google Scholar
  49. Rankin, H.D.: 1983, Sophists, Socratics, and Cynics, Barnes and Noble, Totowa, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  50. Ricoeur, Paul: 1978, Freud and Philosophy, Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  51. Romilly, Jacqueline de: 1975, Magic and Rhetoric in Ancient Greece, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  52. Schneiderman, Stuart: 1980, Returning to Freud, Schneiderman (ed. and trans.), Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.Google Scholar
  53. Schneiderman, Stuart: 1983, Jacques Lacan: The Death of an Intellectual Hero, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  54. Serres, Michel: 1982, Josué V. Harari and David F. Bell (eds.), Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.Google Scholar
  55. Stoppard, Tom: 1975, Travesties, Grove, New York.Google Scholar
  56. Untersteiner, Mario: 1954, The Sophists, Kathleen Freeman (trans.), Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  57. Vitanza, Victor J.: 1987, ‘Critical Sub/Versions of the History of Philosophical Rhetoric’, Rhetoric Review 6.1, 41–66.Google Scholar
  58. Weiss, Peter: 1966, Marat/Sade, Atheneum, New York.Google Scholar
  59. White, Eric Charles: 1987, Kaironomia: On the Will-to-Invent, Cornell University Press, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  60. White, Hayden: 1978, Tropics of Discourse, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.Google Scholar
  61. Wolf-Man: 1971, The Wolf-Man, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations