An Apology for Philosophy by Signe Larsen

Larsen, Signe. “An Apology for Philosophy: On the Contested Relationship between Truth and Politics.” Nordicum-Mediterraneum 9, no. 4 (2014).

The starting point of this paper is Hannah Arendt’s diagnosis that the introduction of philosophical truth into politics leads to tyrannical or totalitarian outcomes. A critique of this diagnosis is offered on the basis of Michel Foucault’s last lectures at the Collège de France where he discussed the practices of parrēsia, “truth-telling,” as multiple forms of political life of resistance, critique, and contestation. The common denominator of all parrhēsiastic practices is that none of them are concerned with “doctrines.” That is, none of them are concerned with laying out the “content” of politics. After the paper has identified and expounded four different manifestations of parrēsia—“political” (Pericles), “philosophical” (Plato), “philosophical-ethical” (Socrates) and “ethical”(Diogenes the Cynic)—an argument is presented for a kinship, instead of a difference, between Foucault and Arendt as parrhēsiastic or critical thinkers within the same tradition of political Kantianism.

Signe Larsen