Philosophy and Rhetoric 35.3 (2002) 175-184
[Access article in PDF]
Intensifying Philosophy and Rhetoric
Intensity . . .wrecks what it makes known, burning the thought which thinks it and yet requiring this thought in the conflagration where transcendence, immanence are no longer anything but flamboyant, extinguished figures-reference points of writing which writing has always lost in advance.
The coupling named in this journal's title only hints at the proliferation of relations that have appeared within its pages. Since the journal's inception, the means for combining these two traditions has moved well beyond the familiar structure of opposition. We have read, for example, subtle analyses of the different senses in which philosophy may already be rhetorical, and have confronted the epistemological, historical, and political implications of these findings. We have also witnessed the recognition that any conception of rhetoric necessarily harbors elaborate philosophies, and have contended with many different theories of language and language use. Through detailed and intricate interventions into particular texts and particular thinkers, the work that appears within this journal has irreversibly complicated any simple attempt to champion one term over the other. In short, we are no longer faced with the question of philosophy or rhetoric. Instead, we are concerned with myriad interfaces, countless strategies of connection: philosophy and rhetoric.
And yet, even a brief survey of the journal's archives generates a movement through which the seemingly distinct poles named in its title begin to rotate in startling ways. Within its pages, philosophy never ceases to become rhetorical, rhetoric to become philosophical. As each particular intervention demonstrates yet another provocative relation between the two traditions or two modes of inquiry, their repeated and promiscuous oscillation soon produces an almost dizzying effect through which the very poles of "philosophy" and "rhetoric" begin to blur. [End Page 175]
If we are able to stick with this conceptual whirl, it quickly reaches speeds at which even the blurring distinctions made through each particular intervention begin to appear too stark, too candid. What was this philosophy that is now becoming rhetoric-was it not always rhetorical? And what was this rhetoric that is now becoming philosophy-was it not always philosophical? As a result of this incessant spinning, our philosophy becomes a rhetoric that has become philosophical that has become rhetorical . . . The terms begin to spin so relentlessly that, rather than offering two separate and related contents, we seem unable to grasp anything other than a kind of flickering movement between them. Indeed, such insistent spinning inevitably prompts the suspicion that perhaps the problem of "philosophy" and "rhetoric" is no longer simply that of two intimately related traditions. Yet if we cannot begin with the premise that these two areas of inquiry are somehow distinct, how are we to intervene in this dizzying whirl? Now more than ever, how can we approach "philosophy" and "rhetoric"?
The inevitable vertigo of such questions puts us in a rather bewildering position: as a result of connecting "philosophy" and "rhetoric," we have originated a movement that effectively confounds its own origin: as this connective movement intensifies, it becomes increasingly difficult to specify what we have been referring to through the terms "philosophy," "rhetoric," or even through their connection. Indeed, from within this interminable whirl-in which philosophy becomes rhetoric becomes philosophy-the very movement of becoming appears to be somehow more dependable than the terms supposedly engaged in that becoming. In other words, because we can no longer specify precisely what is spinning within this conceptual centrifuge, the event of the spinning becomes more insistent than ever.
It may therefore be the case that we spoke too quickly in turning to the importance of interfaces, connections, and relations. If the very concept of "relation" requires relatively established terms that proceed to interact in particular ways, then the dizzying flicker of "philosophy" and "rhetoric" indicates that what is at stake here may not simply be the connection between two substantive traditions or two positive terms. Their mutual involvement has become too blurred for us to presume that they are merely related...