An incomprehensible rhetoric

Author Pascal Engel

ISSN: 1996-2088
Affiliations:Director of Studies, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
Source: Acta Juridica, 2022, p. 70 – 87


In his pioneering essays on the role of rhetoric in political discourse in South Africa, and in particular within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Philippe-Joseph Salazar has emphasised the postmodernist overtones of these debates. But he has clearly distinguished an Aristotelian line in the use of rhetoric in politics, according to which it ought to promote truth in order to convince, and a Protagorean line, according to which truth is relative and useless. Some commentators on these issues, such as Barbara Cassin, have without a blink espoused the postmodernist and Protagorean line. I take their view to be incomprehensible and incoherent. Rhetoric should not be used as a tool to bury truth, but to praise it. So, I prefer to see Salazar more as an Aristotelian than as a Protagorean.