Archive for the difference Category

What About Dolphins? or The Art of Distinction

Posted in difference, DR, genealogy, Isocrates, rhetoric on February 5, 2008 by untimelymediations

Considering that I already posted previously, I’ll attempt to keep this post as concise as possible (keyword: “attempt”).  In any event, as I read my notes on Antidosis, I am reminded that Isocrates initiates his discourse by differentiating between humans and animals.  Here, he provides that humans are superior as a result of a certain discursive capacity.  According to Isocrates, our ability to speak, moreover, our ability to speak well, equips us with the ability to build and maintain civilizations.  Though I could provide a lengthy refutation to this hierarchy, it seems as though the title will suffice (In any event, Professor Pruchnic will know exactly where I am coming from.  That’s all that really matters, right? jk).  

(The Filth) 

Though this seems a rather trivial point of consideration, I believe there is some merit in examining similar concerns in each text.  This concern, following on the previous example, is that of distinction.  Each author seems entirely preoccupied with one distinction or another.  Just consider Plato’s frustrations with the Sophists.

Although an element of distinction operates in most texts of this nature, today’s conversation with Professor Pruchnic encourages some fruitful questions.  Specifically, Jeff addressed a series of texts that operate on rather simplistic distinctions.  Such texts provide distinctions without any apparent import; without attempting, for example, to use such distinctions to propel change.  This is the difference, as Pruchnic suggested, between historicizing and providing a genealogy.  The question becomes, why then is it so entirely significant that Isocrates initiate his discourse by providing the human a position of superiority?  Is this an effort to draw attention to the discursive strategies that he will soon use (noting that he emphasized the capacity to speak)?  Does this serve any function at all?

On another level, it seems important that as we read these texts, we avoid simply distinguishing between the movements of the past, and the rhethorical strategies employed in more contemporary contexts.  For, this is the crucial difference between simply providing a history of transition, and reading these transitions in the context of a useful genealogy.  Where did this come from?   vs.  How is this different?  What does it matter? And, how can it be used?  Use being of the upmost significance here.  Anyways, this is what I am considering at the moment.

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