Belonging to a Philosophic Discourse

Ross, Stephen David
July 1986
Philosophy & Rhetoric;Summer1986, Vol. 19 Issue 3, p166
Academic Journal
This article argues that great works of philosophy, even the great philosophers themselves belong to the discourses of history. Greatness is not an intrinsic property of discourse--nor an extrinsic property--but is constituted by discourse. The great works of philosophical reflection are great because they constitute the conditions of subsequent discourses. Do they do so because they are great and we acquiesce to their power, or do we call them great because we cannot think philosophically without them? In this tangle, there are philosophic writings that belong to their time but not to the future, and others that fail their time but are rediscovered. This largely impenetrable future is the soil in which all discourses are rooted, determined by historical contingencies over which no philosophical writing can prevail. And this truth of discourse is not restricted to philosophy, but pertains to all discursive practices, from poetry to the sciences. What remains to be said is that this generic condition is matched by the equally generic condition that every discourse is constituted by the norms of its practices--norms that are as divided among themselves, though quite unavoidable, as are the practices in which they are situated.


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