Rhetoric: A Theory of Political Lie or The Essence of Politics? Reflections on the Thought of the Sophists, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida

Cyprian Mielczarski

Abstrakt

This paper offers an outline of practical and theoretical relations between truth and rhetoric. A point of departure for considerations to follow are philosophical theories of the sophists, Plato, and Aristotle as well as modern commentators of political rhetoric. I argue that the predominantly rhetorical nature of contemporary culture is inextricably bound up with the controversial issue of political deception, its definition and function. I refer to the theories of Hannah Arendt and Jacques Derrida pertaining to the following issues: a relation between acting and lying, mass deception, and self–deception in totalitarian states. I further propose that classical ethics developing from Plato, Aristotle and Kant fails as a basis for the analysis of political and social processes in democratic societies. Key to grasping these processes is rhetoric – as an art of persuasion – which has nothing to do with the traditional true–false dichotomy.

Słowa kluczowe: rhetoric, the sophists, relativism, political deception, totalitarianism
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