• George C. Christie
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 45)


The late Chaïm Perelman reminded us that all speech is directed towards an audience.1 Perelman, of course, was primarily concerned with the techniques of argumentation used in a public arena, but it does no injustice to his basic thesis to take the notion of “speech” in its broadest sense so as to include within it any mental activity which is carried on in something like a verbal form. This would, of course, include what Perelman called “self-deliberation” or indeed anything that we would be prepared to call thinking. It is hard to imagine how we could think without some sort of language that would serve as the medium of our thinking.2 The language could be purely symbolic, such as would be the case if we were thinking in a mathematical idiom or in a musical notation. If we are sane our thinking follows the same patterns and logical structures as does our conscious verbal speech. We are all familiar with thinking out loud, and nobody thinks that thinking out loud is somehow different from just thinking Certainly when we try to describe our thoughts, we can only do so in a verbal form. Indeed, there is the even more basic point captured by Charles Taylor’s observation that “[t]o study human beings is to study beings who only exist in, or are partly constituted by, a certain language.”3 Obviously then, if all speech is directed towards an audience and if thinking is a type of speech act, even our thoughts are audience directed. But who is the audience to whom our thoughts are addressed and is there more than one such audience? Is this audience or are these audiences the same as those we address when we are actually speaking to other people?


Legal System Supra Note Verbal Form Musical Notation Public Arena 
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  1. 1.
    C. Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise of Argumentation §§ 2–11 (pp. 13–47) (J. Wilkinson and P. Weaver transi. 1969), originally published as Traité de l ‘argumentation (1958) and hereinafter cited as The New Rhetoric. The section references are the same in the English and French versions; the page references are to the English translation.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See B. Aune, KNOWLEDGE, MIND, AND NATURE 177–223 (1967).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    C. Taylor, Sources of the Self 34–35 (1989).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    As Perelman put it, “The essential consideration for the speaker who has set himself the task of persuading concrete individuals is that his construction of the audience should be adequate to the occasion.” The New Rhetoric at § 4 (p. 19).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    G. Mead, Mind Self, & Society 135–236 (1934). The point was well expressed more recently by Charles Taylor. “One is a self only among other selves. A self can never be described without reference to those who surround it.” C. Taylor, op. cit supra, note 3, at 35Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    In reliance on Mead’s work, this point is well developed in C. Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity 32–34 (1992).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    G. Mead, op. cit. supra note 5, at 155.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    B. Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy 68 (1985).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The New Rhetoric at § 4 (pp. 19–23).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    G. Mead, op. cit. supra note 5, at 195.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This is the thrust of the criticism leveled by Jenny Teichman against Barbara Herrnstein Smith. See J. Teichman, Substitutes for Truth, The New Criterion, Dec. 1997, at 71, review of B. Herrnstein Smith, Belief and Resistance: Dynamics of Contemporary Intellectual Controversy (1997).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • George C. Christie
    • 1
  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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