Sophistics is the paradigm of a discourse that does things with words. It is not pure rhetoric, as Plato wants us to believe, but it provides an alternative to the philosophical mainstream. A sophistic history of philosophy questions the orthodox philosophical history of philosophy: that of ontology and truth in itself.
In this book, we discover unusual Presocratics, wreaking havoc with the fetish of true and false. Their logoi perform politics and perform reality. Their sophistic practice can shed crucial light on contemporary events, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, where, to quote Desmond Tutu, "words,
language, and rhetoric do things," creating things like the new "rainbow people." Transitional justice requires a consistent and sustainable relativism: not Truth, but truth for, and enough of the truth for there to be a community.
Philosophy itself is about words before it is about concepts. Language manifests itself in reality only as multiplicity; different languages perform different types of worlds; and difficulties of translation are but symptoms of these differences. This desacralized untranslatability undermines and deconstructs the Heideggerian statement that there is a historical language of philosophy that is Greek by essence (being the only language able to say what "is") and today is German.
Sophistical Practice constitutes a major contribution to the debate among philosophical pluralism, unitarism, and pragmatism. It will change how we discuss such words as city, truth, and politics. Philologically and philosophically rethinking the sophistical gesture, relying on performance and translation, it proposes a new
paradigm for the human sciences.
Barbara Cassin is Director of Research at the CNRS in Paris and President of the College International de Philosophie. Her Dictionary of Untranslatables has been adapted into five languages, and her Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home? won the 2015 French Voices Grand Prize. Her most recent book to appear in English is Heidegger: His Life and His Philosophy (coauthored with Alain Badiou).
Acknowledgments Introduction: Towards a New Topology of Philosophy I. Unusual Presocratics 1. Who's Afraid of the Sophists? Against Ethical Correctness 2. Speak if You Are a Man, or the Transcendantal Exclusion 3. Seeing Helen in Every Woman II. Sophistics, Rhetorics, Politics 4. Rhetorical Turns in Ancient Greece 5. Topos/Kairos, Two Modes of Invention 6. Time of Deliberation and Space of Power: Athens and Rome, the First Conflict III. Sophistical Trends in Political Philosophy 7. From Organism to Picnic: Which Consensus for Which City? 8. Aristotle With and Against Kant on the Idea of Nature 9. Paradigms of the Past in Arendt and Heidegger IV. Performance and Performative 10. How To Really Do Things With Words. Performance Before the Performative 11. The Performative Without Condition, A University Sans Appel (with Ph. Buttgen) 12. Genres and Genders. Woman/Philosopher: Identity as Strategy 13. Philosophizing in Languages V. "Enough of the Truth For" 14. "Enough of the Truth ForEL" On the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 15. Politics of Memory. On the Treatment of Hate 16. Google and Cultural Democracy 17. Relativity of Translation and Relativism Notes Index