Penn State University Press

Convictions create evidence.

—Marcel Proust


Cassandra Heidegger (see Heidegger 1969) had already warned that the end would come together with its very triumph. Philosophy’s finality would be its finale. The oracle was infallible. When philosophy reunited its ultimate possibilities, it would perish. In completing itself, it would consume itself. And that is what seems to have happened. The end has not come from without. It has not been some extraneous catastrophe, but, rather, was programmed within its own core. Still, when the philosopher recounts the history of philosophy, he 1 resembles an elderly father, a King Lear whom even his loyal daughter, logic, is about to abandon, who cries of the ingratitude of his youthful daughters for having partitioned the kingdom of being and thus left him alone in the wretched penury of nothingness. In doing so, he ignores the possibility that what his offspring have done may correspond to the conduct of a legitimate legatee who, far from avoiding the parental word, has complied with it to the letter. In their alarm, the father’s elderly eyes confuse contiguity with causality, effect with cause. The sciences, daughters of philosophy, have surely succeeded it; philosophy’s aging condition coincides with the sciences’ vital youth, yet the latter are not responsible for the former’s paternal agony. They are not its cause, but the natural consequence of his exitus vitae. Oedipus can only obey a destiny that he did not write. [End Page 160]

The oracle tells us that philosophy’s end is not exterior to philosophy itself; it does not owe to random events that might have been otherwise overcome. Rather—as with Bellerophon, who carried the letter that communicated his own death—the end is internal and intimate. It was characteristic of philosophy, intrinsic to its normal development, its fulfillment. Thus, instead of a mere historisch point of view, a geschichtlich, one presents philosophy’s fulfillment into science as the natural ripening of its fruit. Perhaps one could even assert that there is no schism between philosophy, as a transcendental discipline, and the sciences, but that the latter are regional ontologies that possess the same appetite for supremacy over being as ancient metaphysics, which has been transformed into cybernetics, the new general ontology.

Philosophy, metaphysical at its origins and ever since, sought to be the origin, to obtain the scepter, to take power, to find the ark, to take the arché. Its “monarchic” tendency led it to isolate a strip of reality so as to rule, from there, each reality, all reality. It was a question of finding the code that would decode the mystery of being. And the best code, as Plato early knew, was mathematics. Philosophy was the mathesis universalis. Today the mathematics of worldwide reach is computing. That this technology dominates the earth is no accident; rather, it has an antecedent: the inherent, technical zeal in philosophy since its start. Hence, while, over time, technology has succeeded the sciences, appearing as their technical application, there is a logical precedence of the former over the latter. Technology precedes science: it is its very telos.

To place thought in a field foreign to the principle of sufficient reason—against which the Heideggerian Besinnung is polarized—and thus to renounce the demonstration ex firmis principiis, is to imply the acceptance and promotion of a knowledge different from that which Plato advanced. Indeed, he did not conceive of his work as separate from the sciences; his was a scientific labor par excellence. What opposed a philosophical science was the pseudoscientific rhetoric, the Sophists’ activity. Instead of searching for the truth, the Sophists limited themselves to appearances, thereby echoing public opinion instead of defending the opinion that is not merely opinion because it is science. At this point, the schism between philosophy and rhetoric opens and is maintained.

Aristotle, however, not only opposed Plato’s negative attitude, but reconceived rhetoric—making it crucial for anyone seeking to resituate philosophy, releasing epistemic deadweight—insofar as it deals with doxic knowledge, which helps one make decisions without certainty. What is more, according to Estagirita’s definition (Topics 1.100a25–32), rhetoric need not [End Page 161] draw its arguments from truth; rhetoric may draw arguments from probability. Thus, it is there, in the field of possibility, where today’s philosophy may find, perhaps, its own possibilities.


Indeed, moving within the ambit of what is necessary forms part of the metaphysical 2 tradition and, especially, rationalist philosophy. The universal mathematics of rationalism, drinking from the Platonic spring, has always sought a firm principle on which to make the earth revolve. There have been attempts to acquire a compelling objectivity from which to derive deductively, according to the necessity of logical consequence, the entire world. There have thence been efforts to locate primary, indisputable evidence 3 from which to lay the foundations of the building of the real, with the absolute certainty of calculation. The mos geometricus was the model for philosophers anxious to organize a system of thought worthy of a science’s dignity. Passing over the distinction between dogmatic and critical reason, mathematical certainty has been the emblem of all thought deserving any regard, the pattern of all rationality.

This rationality of mathematical paradigm aspires to elaborate a necessary propositional system that no rational being in his right mind can escape. Having accepted premises that impose themselves because of their evidence, one obtains conclusions by necessary deduction. These conclusions are logically evident and, thus, indisputable. There is no place for disagreement. If disagreement occurs, it is only by way of error: she who disagrees can never be right; inevitably she is wrong. Errors are multiple; truth is but one.

As paradoxical as it may seem, the empiricist point of view also finds itself imbued with Platonic logicism. The mere exchange of rational intuition and logical evidence for intuition or sensitive evidence is sufficient for the basic scheme to remain the same. Once some facts are proven, the logical consequence can be only one. It must be one. Just one truth shall be considered valid: that which accords with the method of the empirical sciences. But logic, with its necessary procedure, will be structurally the same as in the rationalist perspective. In any case, truth will be just one: that which imposes itself indisputably—the proof is universally valid—and around which opens the ominous precipice of error, the opprobrious pit of unreason, the insatiable mouth of madness. This is the conception of reason and reasoning of philosophers aspiring to scientific truth. [End Page 162]

Therefore, he who acquires evidence feels as if he had nibbled an angel’s lip. He who is convinced that the true is confused with the evident, once he reaches it, will experience an awesome ecstasy that will make him scorn, in an almost indiscernible mixture of pity and pleasure, the wretch foreign to this tremendous Erlebnis. How can one possibly argue with one who has touched heaven? It is useless. The “metaphysical eye” embraces something absolute with its “stupendous” look; it sees something sharp and irreducible; it observes the indisputable. That is the dogmatic vision of the universe. Evidence, whether rational or sensitive, is an immediate datum, not susceptible to subsequent foundation: if one has evidence, one has truth; if not, one is in error. The foundation is indisputable: evidence is not disputed, for if it could be founded, the very notion of foundation would be left, in turn, without foundation. The idea of foundation would then be incomprehensible; it itself would be unfounded.

Clear and distinct certainty, by definition, excludes doubt. And to exclude doubt is to exclude argumentation. Yet, all arguments are, by definition, a sign of doubt, since argumentation implies that it is appropriate to specify or reinforce agreement on a given opinion, which by nature does not impose itself with the force of the evident. When one is right, conversation certainly ends, for one cannot say more, but argumentation, in contrast, always seeks to modify a previous state of things, including the unmodifiable truth. To retort is, consequently, never to resign oneself to the definitive word. The philosopher, on the contrary, always resigns himself to the truth of the evidence, to the evidence of the truth. Yet, his resignation—it can be suspected—is not disinterested.

Indeed, the philosopher humiliating himself before the truth truly does humiliate. The philosopher goes toward being and tells us what it is so that we are informed of what is inevitably prior. That is, the philosopher who reduces the proof of his rational reasoning to the evidence seeks the reward of the urgent; and, when he finds it, he makes us participants in the reward, and he urges us on. The joy of knowing being, therefore, is not selfish, but shared: we share the humiliation before being. Thus, the pleasure of intuiting being also is the origin of a resignation. While this resignation is to fill him, the philosopher, with God, it is an “enthusiastic” resignation. Precisely, the obtention of the arché converts him into an archon: he, being the first to resign, will signal to others the route to resignation; he will be the leader or guide. Having genuflected before God, the priest—this image of Dupréel being valid—turns toward the people and ordains.

This is to show, as is necessary, the evidence (of which no proof is necessary) and is thus to avoid all discussion, since the obvious is obviously not disputed. Nonetheless, such an understanding of reason seems scarcely [End Page 163] sympathetic to concrete existence. When existence’s ends are observed, the only thing that reason can offer are general behavioral guidelines, universal imperatives, absolute norms. It is a question of prior mathematics for which individuals are a contingent of numbers, pieces contributing to the economy of the whole: by themselves, they are only an empty abstraction. And an empty abstraction must not, because it cannot, have any right of its own. Any right that is conceded will be just that: a concession. Without the superior lord who confers a certain talent, the individual—like Ulysses facing the Cyclops—is certainly no one. It is “logical” for this to be so if one believes that there can be science regarding human existence. What is necessary has to be obeyed necessarily; one cannot contravene it. If there is a human nature, it is useless to resist it. The only feasible answer must be to design mechanisms so that, when natural guidelines are not evident, opaqueness can be redirected toward the transparency of the natural without distinguishing people’s opinions in the matter, and without worrying whether or not they lent their consent. In other words, the most to which one can aspire is to find the method of demonstrating what is necessary, of expressing the indisputable, that is, the very dictates of pure human nature.


Inside human nature, perhaps, the majority of the utopians’ dreams take root. The evidence of what humans are, by nature, is the tangent through which the politico-social visionary escapes from the historical circle. Due to the notion of human nature, the utopian can say no to history’s facticity and, by contrasting the mere appearance of what is human to the authentic reality—turning virtue into necessity—design his new republic. In it, all will have to be regulated necessarily in accordance with the real human nature. In the utopian nowhere, which the utopian will pronounce now-here, man finds freedom from all cultural impregnation, from all rhetorical contamination, for in Utopia he has given himself a natural bath of Reality.

Hume already warned us of this naturalist fallacy. And Goya, lucid in his black caprice, painted reason’s dream producing monsters. Perhaps this century’s totalitarian Golem, a technological regulator of all life in accordance with the authentic human nature as expressed by a race or a class—a clear example of the synecdochic oblivion of ontological difference—is not in any way an orphan of obscure genealogy, the polar opposite to all [End Page 164] rationalism, but, rather, an oneiric creature of rationalism, something like the nightmare of insomnious reason.

Technological reason, the vertebral column of all totalitarian states, is precisely the reason that never rests, the mathematical proportion that is always constant, the panoptic in perpetual watch, the Big Brother omnicontroller of our brave new world. The evidence par excellence, the pure vision, the divine eye, in its permanent vigilance, provides only its own permanence, the pure presence of its right(eous) proportion, its reason, being indifferent toward individual differences. The individual, versus the idea, lacks value and is always a mere occurrence of it, a temporary means at the service of its eternal end. Only the idea has authentic and real existence; in its absolute kingdom, all that it rules is relative to it.

Converting the reality of the ideas into the ideal reality, the only true reality, the tumult of individuals that runs through history, would vanish by a stroke of fairy luck. The human river would be a mirage that would reflect a barren illusion: all “intrahistory” is transitory. The change of times, of people’s different ways of life in different countries and ages would be merely an accident, a casual form for the idea to appear, something as foreign, as unessential, as indifferent as form is to a rising cloud, as flowers and trees are to an advancing frost, as the whirling eddies are to a stream. In human life’s varied forms and in the incessant changing of events, one should consider only ideas, and nothing else, as lasting and essential. Such an “ideology” can be fatal for the individuals subjected to a lord who believes that he knows the idea, since it is certainly not the same to dispose of persons with a recognized intrinsic value as it is to dispose of mere false phenomena: it is easier to send an ectoplasmic manifestation than a palpitating life to its death.


The mathematical evidence aspired to by the philosophers who conceive their task scientifically is exactly like the Platonic idea: simple, absolute, immutable, eternal, universal. Yet, one may pose an innocent question that calls in doubt that intelligible evidence: Is the evidence evident? Or, phrased differently, might the evidence of those philosophers be, rather, the evidence of those philosophers, their own evidence, and not universal evidence? Would not this knowledge shroud its own assumptions? Were the answer to these questions positive, the presumed distinction between philosophy [End Page 165] and rhetoric would be a rhetorical distinction and rhetoric would be another mode of philosophy.

Reason taken to its extreme exhibits its overwhelming hidden irrationality. The self-consumption of that rationality can be displayed through retorts, rearguing that the scientific philosophy, which seeks the reduction of its assertions to the evidence, presupposes precisely the principle that it rejects. The key is in the non-evidence of evidence. Pointing out the suppositions in the conception of evidence, which, by definition, is a conception without suppositions, does not rest obviously on evidence; it is not exempt from suppositions: the redarguitio is not a logical argument, but a quasi-logical 4 or interpretative argument, passible of unquestionable controversy. This is not a flaw or a demerit, however, but, rather, a virtue, a merit of rhetorical thought.

In effect, to reduce the entire burden of rational proof to evidence does not necessarily seem evident. It is an unjustified reduction of reason to the type of proofs that Aristotle indicated as analytical, a type of proof that, unlike the dialectic proofs, is based on an urgent demonstration, on the evidence of the necessary. Such a retrenchment is unjustified because it does not avail itself of a universal evidence, but automatically makes any other human exercise irrational. It forces us to accept an otherwise inevident schism between two irreconcilable domains: that of reason and that of reason’s other. That distinction, far from being a simple or natural datum, is postulated to face the difficulties, otherwise unsavable for reason, that arise upon explaining everything that escapes formal reduction. It is, therefore, reason’s inability to take charge of the incalculable fields that leads to the constructed, derived, and not primitive, dichotomy of human faculties. It is not, then, an evident and necessary obligation, but an artificial, contingent one, that leads to the separation of the heart from reason, as if outside the demonstrative mathesis, there remained nothing except reason’s void. And, yet, diadism no longer has been imbuing hegemonic philosophy only into its explicit defenders, but also into those who come to recognize it implicitly upon opposing, in turn, irrational elements as a compensation for algorithmic reason’s insufficiencies: the antirationalisms are recognizing in their resentment the denounced reason’s mastership; before defending the possibility of an amiable, more reasonable reason than the rationalist one, they cede it beforehand all of the space of rationality. Once again, as always, the characters elucidate each other mutually and the day demonstrates, together with its own existence, that of the night.

Another case of this philosophy’s rhetorical procedure, of the use of the technique of dissociation, 5 is the foundation-form pair. It deserves emphasis, [End Page 166] as a blind assumption, as something philosophy presents naturally, like a datum that is not discussed, like an instrument that permits the structuring of the discourse so that it seems objective. This presupposition makes the notions that result from such a dissociation seem mutually independent.

In effect, we are facing a presupposition that, far from having been taken as a procedure in the exercise of reason, serves paradoxically to introduce the dissociation between procedure and reality. The evidence comes from something; that something is reality. If we want to acquire knowledge of reality, we must abandon subjectivity so as to cultivate reason, science. If one admits this first supposition, one has to admit that the evidence is evidence of a universal objectivity, of a reality that imposes itself on all. And that evident, universal object is what constitutes, for reason, the foundation, the absolute intuition before which everything else is relative.

That foundation for the consideration of the mathesis is just that, a foundation independent of the form. This is the form, characteristic of this scientific philosophy, of dissociating certain indisputable elements from the whole of our opinions: the former, perfect and imperfectible; the latter, imperfect and perfectible. All that does not offer evidence is rejected as form or procedure. This is the case of the mathematician who, upon attending the performance of a tragedy, asks what it proved. Out of this unjustified dissociation appears the ancient accusation that rhetoric is procedure.

That is the universal “mathetic” procedure. Mere pretense, artifice, means imagined with a view to an end, it is teleologized, converted into an end toward which all other procedures would be just that, procedures, that is to say, pretense, artifice, means imagined with a view to an end. Thus, the evidentialist rests assuredly in qualifying any assertion that cannot be reduced to the evidence as literary, so as to disqualify it automatically. The epithet “rhetorical” alone can cause an enunciation to lose all substantive content and to convert it into an adjective, into something decorative. Only mathesis strikes the ground of things; all other knowledge is not knowledge strictly speaking. Were it knowledge perchance, it would only scrape the superficial form. Due to this dissociation, the discussion is warded off. Reducing any type of knowledge to that which offers translucency, all other discourses that do not grant such a guarantee are left sprinkled with the waters of Lethe. The probable, the credible, the plausible—that is, what nourishes argumentation—are displaced, relegated to the exteriority of what does not reach the bottom, left outside, and deferred to the periphery where all that is not worth talking about resides. Argumentative reasoning is too weak to be worthy of attention; only demonstrative reasoning is worthwhile. The demonstration is that which holds the monopoly of truth. [End Page 167]

This stigmatization of the branches of knowledge, whose objective is not diaphanousness, reveals that the mathesis holds as its ideal its soi-disant reality of being a perfect language that reflects the natural order of things, the foundation of the real. This presupposes, consequently, that there is an order prior to its expression, that the reality from which we obtain evidence is prior to the very evidence that it founds: the evidence draws us closer to the thing itself. And this is to presuppose that the mathesis exhausts the totality of the field of the expressible, that the logical space is given beforehand and is reduced to the mathesis. If there is progress in knowledge, it resides merely in polishing the lens so that one can amplify the evidence’s terrain. Never will it be a question, according to this interpretation, of interpreting: interpretative knowledge is a contradiction in itself, unacceptable according to “the dogma of immaculate perception” (see Parry 1991). Knowledge, if it is true, if it is scientific, never interprets; it demonstrates. Wherefore it is left stripped of all subjective adornment, of all particularism, of all sentimentalism, of all valuation; it is a mirror that in its clear glass reflects the objectivity of the thing itself, the truth without a veil, the reality in all its nakedness, that is to say, that which inevitably enraptures those who see it without their being able to offer any resistance to such charms and tricks—the mêdos’s amphibology may not be an onomastic accident. Such is the urgency, the finality and necessity, of the integral nakedness of what is beyond time, the eternal truth.

Truth, by definition, can be eternal only if it is preexistent and resistant to those who know it, so that it can be found, “seen theoretically.” For it is a truth that is there, whose contemplation depends exclusively on the capacity of those who are disposed to see it; for it remains objectively identical for everyone. 6 The problem is to discover it, and, for this, we have evidence. Such truth can only be so, as Kolakowski and Rorty have reminded us, if we presuppose, even without knowing it, as was Monsieur Jourdain’s case, that the world is created by a personal being endowed with his own language, whose literal expression is the world itself, which is divided into self-subsistent facts that are expressed by the truth that represents them in its agreement with them. But this does not avail itself of any evidence.

Rather, on the contrary, we find it protected in dogma. This certainly seems to be the unavoidable requisite for establishing an unblemished correspondence between what is said and what is “real,” a dogma without which it is impossible to attain a noninterpretative view of the referent. In effect, to sustain that truth is prior and external to its linguistic expression, it is necessary, but not at all obvious or evident, to presuppose a nonproblematic [End Page 168] correspondence between the interpretation and its referent, between the proposition and “reality,” and thus to be able to prove that correspondence. On one hand, whereby the reality would have to be stable, self-subsistent, identical, there would be a unique, univocal referent; on the other hand, the perception of that referent would be direct and neutral, “objective,” for it would accede neutrally to the referent itself. The interpretation would remain separated from what is interpreted and, consequently, by not being a significant part of the interpreted referent, the interpretation would be, not interpretation, but demonstration. In order to attain such a noninterpretative knowledge, it would be necessary to admit that we have a “divine eye’s perspective,” an instance that would place us in immediate contact with the absolute truth of the real. Such an instance is the evidence.


That is a secret desire, perhaps the greatest, of the theoretical system, the constant of Western thought: to believe that there exists One Truth, which, when found, will expel all its rivals to the limbo of error and seclude itself with the rest of the correct answers in the supposedly paradisiacal or celestial fortress of the common truth. As ancient as that belief, and completely characteristic of it, is the notion of a perfect language in which to grasp reality, to express that truth in its universal validity. It is the trust in the unique paths for the realization of human knowledge and humanity in general.

That is the transcendental logic proper to all mathesis universalis. As such, the perfect language is supposedly one finished since its origins, for it represents the entire possible logical environment, the universe of all the expressible. It is a reticle that beforehand holds the form or formula of all its contents, which do not modify the form at all, but continue to fill its a priori existing cells. The language’s contents change, but this language, like Hamlet’s Horatio, maintains its pureness unaltered: never does it change. This is characteristic of all philosophical projects that are scientific or metaphysical, and that are persuaded that the logical lacks history. Philosophy’s mission, then, is to make explicit that logical scheme and that permanent and neutral core of possibilities, the background of all intellectual activity.

That “mathematic” language is distinguished by its maximum translating potential: “mathematics” knows no expressive opacity; its concepts make all transparent. That which is not concept is mere fancy or figuration. [End Page 169] Like such fancy, if it seeks to be cognitively worthy, it will have to be purged literally. The literary has to surrender itself unconditionally to the literal in order to transform its figurative (non)sense into proper sense. So, the “literary” can be translated to the “mathematic,” and it must be translated, for only once it is translated does the literary succeed in having significance—significance in cognitive terms, that is, proper significance.

And that is to think that truth is somehow already inscribed in us and that the literary uses of language, if they want to contribute something to knowledge, have to be reduced to literal use, filtered by that truth, written in its name, so as to reflect the natural order of things, the authentic “telos” of language. Conceived so, the language that we speak now is the whole of existing language toward which the literary fulfills a function perhaps heuristic, if not merely ornamental or decorative, when not purely anomalous.

Nonetheless, the Gottestod exhibits the non-evidence that there is any natural order to reflect, that there exists any referent that abysmally separates literality from literature, for soon the motive of the relationship between “reality” and the means of expression to represent it disappears. The real text that admits only one correct interpretation, that makes the rest spurious, vanishes. Being absent the supreme referent, the reference of all reference, and being cast aside the evidence that there must be an entity independent from its relationship with all other entities, a first analogized, all discourse of discourses absents itself at the same time: there is no nonsingular universal. Language itself ceases to be a means of expressing something real and preexisting and thus becomes an instrument: the tool for the rhetorical construction of reality.


It is appropriate to magnify one side of the literalist aspect, which portrays something similar to what always terrified Dorian while Oscar smiled. The philosophy of evidence always has (ab)used what it could most hate and what it always abhorred, even while reproaching all the rest for doing the same: the ad hominem argument. Demonstrative argumentation is a specific case of the general use of ad hominem argumentation.

Before giving any reason for what has just been asserted, and as a kind of exergue framing the matter, I would like to heed two classical observations. First, Plato, after having “demonstrated” that truth must be apprehended through the mind as “pure, unadulterated thought,” says that the [End Page 170] divine is, by nature, fit for ordering and leading while the mortal is fit for being ordered and serving (Phaedo 66a). Second, the greatest thing for Aristotle was to be a “master of metaphor,” for it is the one thing that cannot be learnt, it being, as it is, a distinct sign of genius (Poetics 1459a5–8), for which reason slaves should not afford to use it (Rhetoric 3.10–15).

The classic thought on the mathesis follows the method that the rhetoricians call the “natural method,” which implies that the linking of reasons corresponds to the natural order, an objective order inherent to world and thought. One, then, presupposes a universal method that is supposed to represent the processes of a mind that adapts itself literally to reality, with a literalness that is supposed to be numerical before literal, imposing thus the mathematical image of the universe. That order is considered universal, that is to say, unique, for—rejecting all human consideration—it makes its particular audience a universal audience, omnipresent and eternal like the divine eye.

The natural or rational order thought does not attend to the psychological elaboration of the notions it employs; rather, it absolutizes them. Therefore, the order is presented as unique when its audience is not treated as concrete, but as abstract and atemporal and, consequently, as no audience, but rather like reason itself. That is why rational argumentation is only a specific case of ad hominem argumentation, a case of ad humanitatem argument (see Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca 1988, §28; Olbrechts-Tyteca 1974, 110). Ad rem argumentation corresponds to an argumentation supposedly valid for all humanity; it thus avoids arguments that would be valid only for certain groups—but only supposedly. Indeed, the mathesis argumentation carries within a begging of the question: to accept as if they were not suppositions the prejudices that have been commented on here. As soon as it is recognized that what it does is confuse its order with the order of things, its ad rem argumentation turns into an eminent case of ad hominem argumentation. He who treated ad hominem arguments with such scorn proves to be the first to employ one, just as the mocker who is mocked and the deceiver who is deceived.

Therefore, one can speak of a tropic effect in the language of the mathesis; the effect consists of the synecdochic confusion of its particular species of rationality with the genus of all rationality. From a particular and personal conception, it frames a conception that is universal and impersonal, the conception par excellence. Pretending to have found the zero degree of controversy, it ignores its own controversial character, whereby its irenic zeal, to attain the incontrovertible, is rather only a belligerent—though camouflaged—zeal. It is a peace imposed by force, which consists [End Page 171] of choking all discussion, of smothering any discrepancy; it is uniform peace, which disciplines us under the rule of the evidence that indicates the only way and thus obligates us to follow the instructions, the mathesis. Availing itself of that rule, it arrogates the maximum discursive authority, an apoditic authority that gives us the certain foundations of all real theory, of the unique thought. Thus, from a specific conceptualization of the real, by means of a synecdoche neither innocent nor justified, all the rights over language are arrogated, as the only pre-Babelic language, as the intelligence that gives things their exact names, as the “onomathetic” language of Adam. And that is the most rhetorical form of expelling rhetoric from “objective” reality’s Eden.

The tropical grimace of scientific thought can be understood as the forgetting of the metaphorical character of all Weltanschauung. The metaphor of the evidence is a metaphor that, disregarding its situation, defines itself precisely as a nonmetaphor. This is precisely to obliterate the suasive, aesthetic, and moral character of the metaphor, and of itself as metaphor, in order to assert itself, then, as owner of the concept, as the only rational instrument. For that reason, it abandons any attempt at persuasion—the evidence does not persuade, but rather convinces—so as to establish itself as the dissuasive bastion of rationality.

As untruculent as it may be, reason’s force does not cease to be force. It is appropriate to reflect upon this dynamistic model of reason. Philosophy in its history has only inflated the agonistic ideal of reason that it may have inherited from its Hellenic elders, for whom reasoning was similar to a combat in which the interlocutor is introduced as an adversary that must be defeated with words as weapon and he who asserts the most convincing reason triumphs. Still today, opposing opinions are called polemic, and to convince is to con-vince. “Argument is war” (Lakoff and Johnson): with this we have our culture’s predominant coat of arms of the metaphor of reason. It is only a metaphor and, as such, it is contingent; yet it is infused with necessity: it is a metaphor bent on reducing all other metaphors to its empire, a predatory metaphor. And, not in vain, the myth of the “parthenogenesis” of the logos-father to symbolize its compulsive nature makes Athena come to the world completely armed from Zeus’s head. Occidental reason, then, surges with pure tropism toward power, dominion, and violence.

The Black Forest Woodsman has already described something like that to us. It is not that his forest metaphor was more correct, or more reasonable, than that of the hunter of the truth, than the predatory metaphor, for this one will always be correct and it will always be the strongest. Rather, it may be a question of meditating on whether a rationality that recognizes its metaphorical origin may not be more suitable than the affirmation of an [End Page 172] autonomous reason for the safeguard of a general reasonability. Would we not prefer a reason that does not obligate us to sacrifice our personal identity; a reason that does not turn us into mere vehicles for the transmission of an impersonal truth; a reason that does not crave the dominion, control, or management of the world, but rather incites us to inhabit the world, to know it “poetically,” and thus to escape—by internalizing its own precariousness, contingency, and historicity—the suicide of a reason that for having wanted to be everywhere, no longer will be anywhere? But this is “evidently” a rhetorical question.

José A Marín-Casanova
Departamento de Metafísica y Corrientes Actuales de la Filosofía
Universidad de Sevilla


1. Any use of masculine language is only intended to show the very masculinist character of traditional philosophy, and therefore to give a supplementary reason to criticize it.

2. Dupréel has seen more than anyone else the connection between metaphysics and necessity (see Dupréel 1990).

3. I know of no work on evidence in metaphysics more inspiring than that of Perelman. Many inspirations of Derrida, Vattimo, Hayden-White, Marquard, and Rorty, which, despite all their possible differentiating nuances, end up coinciding with rhetoric’s centrality, find themselves amazingly anticipated by this father of the nouvelle rhétorique. Although I would like to go further—as Perelman limits himself, as Michel Meyer (1990, 155) has pointed out, to separate rhetoric from logicism, placing the former only at the latter’s side—I am here strongly indebted to the following works: Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s Rhétorique et philosophie (1952) and Traité de l’argumentation (1988) and Perelman’s L’empire rhétorique (1977), “Evidence et preuve” (1989a), “De la preuve en philosophie” (1989c), “Opinions et vérité” (1989b), and “De l’evidence en metaphysique” (1990).

4. A weighing of quasi-logical techniques—about incompatibilities in general and regarding their self-consumption in particular—is found in Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s Traité de l’argumentation (1988, §48; see also Olbrechts-Tyteca 1974, chap. 5).

5. For philosophers, the theory of dissociative argumentative techniques may be one of the most interesting contributions of the nouvelle rhétorique (see Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca 1988, §§89–96; Perelman 1977, chap. 11; and Olbrechts-Tyteca 1974, chap. 8).

6. It is a mineral, cadaverous truth. Hence, Plato’s lapidary pretension, desirous of a cathartic knowledge purged of all historical and temporal pollution, for there is truth in everything except human matters. Science has to be left expurged of life: inherent in philosophers is death and to be dead (Phaedo 64a).

Works cited

Aristotle. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Ed. J. Barnes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1985.
Dupréel, Eugène. 1990. “De la nécessité.” In L’homme et la rhétorique: L’École de Bruxelles, 17–53. See Lempereur 1990.
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