Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I've always agreed with Nietzsche's claim that the only way to improve your style is to improve your thoughts, but also believe that the best way to improve your thoughts is to improve your style. There is a tendency to think that philosophy is about explicit propositional content, and that style is merely pretentious ornament plastered on top of explicit propositions. Yet this assumes that correct representational statements about the world are possible, which is precisely what I deny. As I see it, truth is a matter of allusion, not of representational picture-drawing. To improve as a writer means primarily to improve one's allusive and suggestive power. We should not say ‘there is no truth', since this vapid relativism is irresponsibly empty. But we should also not demand a frictionless contact with the real, as many scientistic and absolutist philosophers do. Instead, approaching the truth requires something like insinuation or innuendo. That's precisely what style is: saying something without explicitly saying it. A style is the tacit background condition in which all explicit utterances are made. Philosophical breakthroughs are always rhetorical breakthroughs. And as Aristotle already knew, rhetoric does not mean ‘devious non-rational persuasion', but ‘establishing the tacit background conditions for later explicit statement.'

-- Graham Harman


  1. i'm continually amazed, reading the above, how difficult is is to say something - esp now, rampant points of view and definitions of terms - where are you coming from/ where have you been...

  2. Yeah, I think so too. But I also believe that one can surprise oneself. And that's what I hope for. Writing can be transformational, regardless what the naysayers say.