Two French Variations on Truth: Ricoeur's Attestation and Foucault's “Parrhesiastic” Attitude
Format of Original
Taylor & Francis
Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
Original Item ID
Both Ricoeur and Foucault, apparently independently of each other, dedicated much effort to provide an account of truth that goes far beyond the truth of sentences, propositions, or judgments. While well aware of the speech act theory and pragmatics, they want to go beyond a formalism of rules of speech or arguments and integrate the attitude of the one who speaks in the very notion of truth. They see truth not merely as a property of statements, but as an existential process in such a way that the truth of statements is linked to the historically situated speaker. Truth as a property of statements is related to truth as an event. However, both reject any form of historicism or relativism.
I examine Ricoeur's notion of attestation and Foucault's notion of parrhesia, showing how both notions represent a kind of “poetics of truth”, which combines the existential position of the speaker and the historical circumstances of utterance. I show the extent to which both poetics of truth are political and ethical and how successful each poetics is: Ricoeur believes that he can maintain a claim to universality whereas Foucault abandons such a claim and instead subscribes to a radical singularity of the event of speech in a mode of truth that is, as he says, “polemic”.