ETHOS/ PATHOS/ LOGOS The Sense and Place of Persuasiveness in Linguistic, Literary and Philosophical Discourse
In his Rhetoric, Aristotle defined the act of persuasion as the interaction between three elements: ethos (Greek for 'character', which designated the image of the self built by the orator to inspire trustworthiness and credibility), pathos (the arousing of emotions in one's audience), and logos (referring both to discourse and reason). While these notions have remained conceptual cornerstones in major intellectual endeavours of western thought, ethos in particular developed in a distinctly different direction (from the individual to the collective or national) in the nineteenth century, from Hegel's understanding of the German word for 'ethics', Sittlichkeit, as what binds the members of a community to a place. Similarly, with the advent of Heideggerian ontology and its rediscovery of pre-Socratic heritage, logos, hitherto restricted to 'logic' and reason, and classically opposed to muthos (fable, fiction, therefore untruth) by philosophy against poetry, was given a more existential dimension as what the Being-in-the-world inhabits ('Language is the house of Being' in Heidegger's 'Letter on Humanism') by the German philosopher, for whom 'Poetically Man Dwells'.
While linguists (Austin and, later, various pragmatist schools), sociologists (Bourdieu: his notion of 'habitus' and his critique of a purely linguistic performative in Austinian theories) and rhetoric- or discourse-focused critics (Amossy) mediating between them, have endeavoured to analyze discursive exchanges in oral as well as written situations within this broadly post-Aristotelian framework, no conference has yet explicitly tried to re-address this conceptual triad in the light of these more 'modern' philosophical re-orientations.
The aim of this symposium is therefore to investigate how a post-Hegelian (as well as Derridean) construction of ethos as indissociable from a sense of place, coupled with a more extended and generous notion of logos no longer opposed to 'fiction' or synonymous with persuasive truth, can be brought to bear on how both rational ideas and emotions (pathoi) are expressed, both in public forms of address (e.g. political discourses) and literary texts pertaining to different generic conventions. If, as Derrida famously claims in 'This Strange Institution called Literature' - including in defence of persecuted writers - 'literature is the right to say everything/anything' ('le droit de tout dire'), how can this right be exercised with an 'ethical' sense of place and with an awareness of the 'cultural pathologies' of a given audience? More generally, how can one construct a different concept (and pragmatic operation) of 'persuasion' across linguistic and literary genres?
Possible session topics:
Ethics and rhetoric of discussion and argumentation
Techniques of (per)suasion from consensus to coercion
Alternative constructions of implication, implicature (Grice), 'implicitness' (implied narrator, implied author) in linguistic and literary discourses
Citation as a 'parasitic' act or as an act of hospitality
Comparative approaches between 'face-to-face' encounters in oral discursive situations and narrative or dramatic polylogues
The status of confessional and testimonial narratives: fiction and/ or truth
The affective role and discursive construction of loci memoriae (Nora's lieux de mémoire)