Parrhesia – Unapologetic Speech

Posted: April 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

From my Intellectual Traditions 1 class.

“And now, O men of Athens who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy to you; for I am about to die, and that is the hour in which men are gifted with prophetic power.”

This volume gathers a series of lectures Michel Foucault gave on the Greek notion of parrhesia, the speech of someone who has the moral qualities required to speak the truth, even if it differs from what the majority of people believes and one faces danger for speaking it.

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Comments
  1. natquayle says:

    This is a great article for seeing the skills we talked about for good speech, put into practice. For example it highlights how MLK would speak in different dialects depending on the audience, whether black or white, religious or not. This is what we all wished to see more of from the H2 lecture: responsiveness and knowledge of audience.

    I just finished reading a book called “Emergent Strategy” about sustainable activist movements in the complex society we have. The author mentioned MLK in a chapter about the importance of decentralization: she observes that the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s was stopped in its tracks because it was based almost entirely on charismatic individual men elevated to prophetic status. She theorizes that sustainable activism is wary of the Charismatic Leader model, and instead focuses on quiet activism where knowledge and power aren’t consolidated into just one person who can be assassinated like MLK was, taking the whole movement down at once.

    • Your remarks here are most welcome. While one doesn’t want to detract from the very real and important achievements of civil rights activists such as MLK, it’s necessary – for intellectual and ethical reasons – to acknowledge that they did not lead the movement without massive amounts of support. Strategic grassroots organization has been an absolutely essential part of progressive politics. A recent exhibit at the Leonardo sought to bring awareness to all the ‘incidental’ persons who made crucial contributions to social and political progress. Nochlin’s essay seems very much in line with this, pointing out how now individual person is a ‘miracle’, and how we are all stronger and happier when we work as a community.

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