This essay endeavours to philosophically interpret the reference to public speech in social discourses, which propound its civic virtue. It first examines some of the principal arguments, which underlie the justification for recourse to speech in the rhetorical setting of what Habermas designated as communicative action. It then examines certain of the axiomatic presuppositions which found such a justification, in particular the existence of a principle of truth, the anthropological discarding of all agonistic violence, and the ethical and political hypostasis of language. It lastly confronts public speech, on one hand, with the sociological criticism of Bourdieu, and, on the other hand, with various expressions of negative dialectics, deconstruction, ideological criticism, and post-modern thought. In conclusion, the essay proposes a paradoxical reflection, inspired by Lévinas and Blanchot, in particular, on the disenchanted value of public speech and the enigmatic nature of philosophical signification -solitary, mute, and agoraphobic.
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