So, to start with, this is how I came to be asking myself this set of questions. What I had been studying for really quite a long time was the question of the obligation to tell the truth: what is this ethical structure internal to truth-telling, this bond that, beyond necessities having to do with the structure or reference of discourse, means that at a given moment someone is obliged to tell the truth? And I tried to pose this question, or rather I encountered this question of the obligation to tell the truth, of, if you like, the ethical foundation of truth-telling, with regard to truth-telling about oneself. In actual fact it seems to me that I encountered it several times. First of all in medical and psychiatric practice because, from a given moment, which is moreover quite precise and can be pinpointed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, we see the obligation to tell the truth about oneself becoming part of the great ritual of psychiatry. Obviously we come across this problem of truth-telling about oneself in judicial practice and more especially in penal practice. And, finally, I came across it for the third time with regard to, let’s say, problems of sexuality and more precisely of concupiscence and the flesh in Christianity.
See also: Michel Foucault, The Subject and Power
In this essay, I start from Stanley Cavell’s analysis of passionate utterance and draw inspiration from it in order to discuss Michel Foucault’s study of parrēsia. Since I am not a philosopher of language, I will deal with Cavell’s enlargement of J. L. Austin’s theory of performatives and with Foucault’s analysis of truth telling essentially from an ethico-political perspective. Cavell too does not conceive his essays on passionate utterance as a contribution to the philosophy of language, but rather as a series of observations “in service of something I want from moral theory, namely, a systematic recognition of speech as confrontation, as demanding, as owed …, each instance of which directs, and risks, if not costs, blood.”1 Cavell presents his interest in and development of the theme of passionate utterance, out of what Austin called performative utterance, as an elaboration of Austin’s idea of the perlocutionary effect—an elaboration that Austin himself “for some reason did not make.” Indeed, according to Cavell, passionate utterance is “just one form in which perlocutionary effect structures itself: moralistic abusiveness is another; hate speech another; political oratory another” (PDT, p. 5).2 The question I wish to address in this essay is thus the following: should we consider parrēsia too as another form in which perlocutionary effect (what is done not in but by saying something) structures itself? I will argue that we should, firstly, because the consideration ofparrēsia from the perspective of the perlocutionary effect can shed new light on Foucault’s study of parrēsia itself and, secondly, because the consequent enlargement of our knowledge of the perlocutionary field can in turn shed new light on Cavell’s study of passionate utterance.
In the autumn of 1871, Peter Kropotkin decided to abandon the scientific and geographic studies that had preoccupied him until then and devote himself instead to political militancy. He did not come to his decision because of any waning interest in scientific pursuits; if anything, his curiosity and joy in science had never been more fully awakened than during the summer he had just spent exploring the ridges of glacial drifts in Sweden and Finland. But his attention had become divided: “I also thought a great deal during this journey about social matters, and these thoughts had a decisive influence upon my subsequent development.” Among the “social matters” preoccupying his thoughts was the Paris Commune insurrection a few months earlier about which only biased and censored accounts, extremely frustrating to Kropotkin, were available in St. Petersburg. Now, a telegram has just reached him in Finland offering him the position he coveted of secretary of the Imperial Geographic Society of St. Petersburg.
For at least two decades I have refused to give talks, and when occasionally asked I have sent a document I have on file. So far it has worked to get me off the hook.
The purpose of this essay is thus to make a case for the architecture of comics rather than to take another inventory of architecture incomics. In particular, I argue that there is an architectural unconscious of the comics page, an extradiegetic mirroring of domestic architecture that gives the page its basic structure and accounts in significant measure for the readability, emotional power, and popularity of the genre. The classic page configurations of Franco-Belgian bande dessinée, American comics, and Japanese manga correspond to the basic shapes and façade structures of residential buildings in their places of origin. As a result the page, no matter what the subject or style of the comic, automatically evokes the meme of home; it is always already familiar. This architectural precedence enhances the legibility of comics. It turns the page into an identifiable and measurable space and helps the reader master a highly complex and hybrid genre, a phenomenon that offsets the heterogeneity that recent scholarship on comics and the city has tended to privilege. Additionally the architectural disposition of the page intensifies the emotive charge of comics by triggering individual and collective memories—of home, childhood, and earlier examples of narrative art.
In the contemporary boom of an interdisciplinary image science (Bildwissenschaft) Walter Benjamin is conspicuously absent even though the image is one of his key concepts and his theoretical work is famously characterized as thinking-in-images. His marginal role in this field is all the more striking since Bildwissenschaft (in contrast to visual studies) does not deal specifically with visual phenomena but with all sorts of images (in accordance with the word Bild in German, which does not distinguish between image and picture) and because Benjamin’s use of the word refers to a meaning of Bild that precedes the distinctions among mental, visual, and material images as well as the differentiation of scripture and pictures and the separation of concept (Begriff) and metaphor. In his epistemology the image is linked not to representation but to a simultaneous, instantaneous cognition (Erkenntnis) or insight (Einsicht). The importance of the image in Benjamin’s theory attests to a way of thinking and writing that favors simultaneity and constellation over continuity, similitude over representation or sign, and the detail or fractionary (Bruchstück) over the whole. Although Benjamin’s image refers to a wide range of meanings, pictures, paintings, and other visual media have been of crucial importance for the development of his specific concept of the image and its relevance for an epistemological access to history, memory, and culture. Apparently the famous Benjaminian figures—especially the dialectical image, thought-image, and memory-image—have concealed the great degree to which his epistemology is grounded in an intensive engagement with visual images and how indebted it is to the contemplation of the relationship among pictures, language/writing, and time; in fact, his thinking-in-images developed from a detour through considerations of painting and investigations into photography and film.
“Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image” (Exod. 20:4). The second commandment from the Tables of Law, referred to in Exodus, is quoted prominently by Immanuel Kant, but not, as one might imagine, in his Critique of Religion; the reference to the biblical commandment is found in the Critique of the Power of Judgment. While in the Critique of Religion Kant argues against any kind of commandment imposed by religion or any other revealed faith, here, in the context of a discussion of the concept of the sublime, he surprisingly quotes the second of the Mosaic commandments, presenting it as the consummate exemplification of what the sublime purportedly is. Having concluded his analytics of the sublime, Kant adds a “General Remark” which reads as follows: “Perhaps there is no more sublime passage in the Jewish Book of the Law than the commandment ‘Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image’” (CPJ, p. 156). The trope of the unrepresentable—philosophically formulated in a context where the aesthetical shifts towards the ethical— and its characteristic moralization of the aesthetic experienced an unparalleled renaissance in the late twentieth century. In the wake of the experiences of mass destruction and particularly of genocidal extermination, the moral argument concerning the prohibition of representation achieved a completely new form of authority—secular but no less constraining.
In Sources of the Self, Charles Taylor traces the sensibilities that are central to the modern individual to their Christian (especially Protestant) roots. Prominent among them is universal benevolence, a virtue closely connected with a new concern with psychological interiority:
One thing the Enlightenment has bequeathed to us is a moral imperative to reduce suffering. This is not just a sensitivity to suffering, a greater squeamishness about inflicting it or witnessing it. It is true that this undoubtedly has occurred, as we can see it in a host of ways, especially in the softening of penal codes which the Enlightenment helped bring about, partly under the influence of Beccaria and Bentham. But beyond this, we feel called upon to relieve suffering, to put an end to it…. We routinely grumble about our lack of concern and note disapprovingly that it requires often spectacular television coverage of some disaster to awaken the world’s conscience. But this very critique supposes certain standards of universal concern. It is these that are deeply anchored in our moral culture.
It is this moral culture, it is suggested, that provides the motivation for varieties of humanitarian action in the modern world, including international rules for military engagement, the forcible ending of state-led atrocities, and the humane treatment of prisoners. The assumption in narratives about the elimination of human suffering is that moral progress is advanced when the violence of military conflict and dictatorial repression gives way to the nonviolence of international diplomacy and democratic politics, when harsh physical punishment of convicts gives way to humane confinement, when war gives way to peace.