Marc Fumaroli: A Reminiscence and Prologue

On October 2nd, 1993, Marc Fumaroli, first citizen in the Republic of Letters, delivered a paper at Princeton on the subject of rhetoric. Philippe-Joseph Salazar was his student and worked closely with him. He “sets the scene” for this paper.

Marc Fumaroli was a master, yet one without disciples. In fact he scorned the idea of having “groupies,” a word he used with gusto well before French intellectual moeurs were impregnated with Americanisms of all sorts.

I knew him well, and over a long period of time, indeed. In fact, in 1979, he set me on the path of rhetoric, after proofreading pen in hand my first book, on opera, and quipping: “And now, after ce tour de piste, onto the real stuff.” I was barely twenty-four, it was my first book, and he spared no time and effort to guide me so that I would not mess up my début at the (then) sanctum of Presses universitaires de France. He was generous, but in his own way, which never was devoid of “raillerie.” Then he supervised my Doctorat d’Etat, a hallowed and now defunct degree thanks to the Plan-Organize-Lead-Control system imposed by Brussels (and Bologna) managerial bureaucracy on academic outputs. I can hear him punning on “output.” We are only a handful to have had him as a directeur de travaux for that recondite degree.

He was a laconic supervisor. My last supervision meeting took place over dinner in a dark restaurant in Göttingen—a side event to some colloquium he left half-way through it as it was his custom when “les cafards” (his word) started taking, and talking, over. He gave me sparse advice, but always cutting to the quick. Odd supervisor he was who mocked the routine rhetoric of academia, yet an adroit player in the cursus honorum game. One day, to my bewilderment, he took a school edition of Les Fourberies de Scapin, jumped into a large office cupboard, and burst out reciting with a high pitched voice the famous tirade when the imposter defines himself:

“Heaven has bestowed on me a fair enough share of genius for the making up of all those neat strokes of mother wit, for all those ingenious gallantries to which the ignorant and vulgar give the name of impostures; and I can boast, without vanity, that there have been very few men more skilful than I in expedients and intrigues, and who have acquired a greater reputation in the noble profession.” He added: “Tout est là!

I remember sitting there, next to his desk, aghast at his comedic skills. He admired and knew Grotowski. Whenever I attended a colloquium where he spoke, that impersonation of his came back—not for its content, of course, but for the performance itself.

His preferred eloquent mode however was the Voltairean causerie, the off the cuff (but on target) erudite comment, to sum the supple exercise and witty display of intelligence in a conversation between peers or meant to educate novices. Formalities were not his forte. Once, upon returning from England, while dropping his leather duffel bag with a loud plonk, he exhaled: “Ah, ces pompeux emmerdements d’Oxford.” Translation needed?

Nonetheless Fumaroli had a following, of students and colleagues, whom he did not always treat very kindly as the man could never resist un trait d’esprit, at their expense of course. Victims would usually succumb in silence. All his witticisms and actes manqués and antics would fill up a Fumaroliana—a book of ana, that exquisite literary genre of the Republic of Letters that has disappeared from intellectual life. Nothing more unwoke than a book of ana. You’ll get sued.

Nevertheless in September 1993 his (non) disciples together with his peers congregated in the redoubt of trendy intellectualism at Cerisy-la-Salle manor house. It is hard to imagine today what a shock it was to have a Fumaroli colloquium there. Imagine Derrida being feted at Davos. Or the Che at the RAND corporation. He told me, the moment he arrived from the tiresome rail and road journey to that gentilhommière in the Western Normandy countryside: “Well, merci, you put me a foot in the grave” (he died in 2020, though). The Cerisy colloquium had a provoking title, he chose: “Les Lettres: un gai savoir,” an ironical, rhetorical clin d’oeil to the fashionableness of Cerisy’s dedication to avant-garde in all its forms. But the actual theme was of course the dignity of Ciceronian otium, the joys scholarship affords to free minds—as in Nietzsche’s Fröhliche Wissenschaft—while paying homage to the poetic inventiveness of medieval gay saber. Two years later he was elected to the Académie française while the transactions, Le loisir lettré à l’Age Classique (Geneva, Droz) came out at about the same time.

About ten years after Cerisy, his epigones congregated again, this time by way of a special issue of XVIIe Siècle, the apex journal of erudite studies on “Age classique” (in the French sense of classical) to reflect on “Trente ans de recherches rhétoriques” (vol LIX, No 3, July 2007). We took stock of Fumaroli’s influence in shaping an entire new generation of rhetoric scholars in Europe.

Fumaroli is now nearly forgotten. I tested this on a young man who has just entered my college, Ecole normale supérieure. This Telemachus of France’s intellectual elite had only a vague idea of who Fumaroli was. If not forgotten altogether, he remains “sulfureux” with those who were part of the cultural and political struggles of the 80s. Significantly, after his death, a leading literary magazine of probing intelligence turned down a suggestion to highlight his contribution to French intellectual life: “Too toxic.” Buried or toxic, like nuclear waste. His staggering erudition and sharp pen were feared by his opponents on the left and, I suggest, misunderstood by his political supporters on the right. In fact, Fumaroli admired intelligence, including that of his intellectual opponents like Bourdieu (I know that first hand). He helped careers of junior academics of great scholarly promise, while deriding in private their political certainties, and vanities.

Here is a key to his temperament: his favourite American writer was Gore Vidal. To this day I regret having turned down his invitation to go to Italy with him, and meet Vidal—confirming the dictum that youth is wasted on the young. He admired Vidal’s ability to use his first-hand knowledge of the American patriciate, a form of erudition and, armed with it, paint compelling historical frescoes, composed with wit, elegance and a light touch. Fumaroli was the Gore Vidal of French erudition. This comparison goes further: when he wrote eloquently about the Tridentine rhetorical aggiornamento and the Roman Church as the power of oratory, his mind and taste were not religious or devout, they were cast in the mould of his beloved Poussin and “paganism.” He was, in effect, a radical sceptic in the great tradition of French libertinage.

His skepsis distrust of ideas for ideas’ sake (“la peste des intellectuels!” one of his favourite sayings) is something his intellectual opponents on the left and his fans on the right never quite fathomed about him. That is why, I believe, he felt at ease in Italy where intellectual life is far less compassé. For instance, I recall an episode in Rome when, at a bus station, someone shouted at him, “Fumaroli, vieni qui,” and then began an animated chat, at the kerb, on Castiglione’s Courtier. The bus stop became a salon, nay, an academy. And, dear me, how long that conversation lasted. Buses came and went, and were missed while they talked, like in a Bertolucci movie.

In the days following Cerisy Marc asked me to go over a lecture he was to deliver at Princeton, in October. I did not alter his style, I merely tried to shorten sentences and wipe off some Gallicisms. He gave me the revised version he had typed up—the text presented here. Typos are his. He actually typed his books and papers himself, sat at his gothic desk framed by two heavy Venetian damask curtains on the second floor of a XVIIth century building where he lived, quite derelict at the time as most of the hôtels particuliers in the Marais—before gentrification and then globalisation by various means. A mutual friend, and descendant of Marinetti, would help him sell it later when he moved to illustrious Left Bank quarters, rid of the sight of leathermen in chaps gathering at a gay bar round the corner.

Before that time, when he was writing, one could hear, at night, the morse-like tac-tac-tac (with longer Typex pauses) of his typewriter from the corner of rue des Mauvais Garçons (the name amused him) and rue du Bourg-Tibourg. An Italian trattoria owner across the narrow street was worried sick about his late night typing, and tried to make sure he ate properly. When Age de l’éloquence came out, she asked him for a signed copy. He sighed: “She thinks it is a novel, imagine un peu! (go figure!).” That summed up for him the difference between les Lettres and literature, one of his pet topics.

The text presented here is emblematic of the utterly French style of lecturing, light yet profound, a sprezzatura of the mind that has always been misunderstood in Anglo-American academic circles (with some notable exceptions)—to wit, and this is my last ana, it led him once to refuse adding footnotes to an invited article by a leading English-speaking Renaissance journal, and to exclaim in sheer exasperation: “What a nerve! If their readers don’t know what my references are, then est-ce vraiment une revue savante?” Rich from a scholar whose hermeneutic skills were astounding and whose juggernauts of technical footnotes and primary sources (at a time when one had to go into archives and special collections; one book at a time, four a day only, and “make sure you only use a pencil”) are so intimidating that they prevent his monumenta from being translated. This Princeton lecture is therefore without notes. Caveat emptor. Or cave canem. Take your pick.

French philosopher and essayist Philippe-Joseph Salazar writes on rhetoric as philosophy of power. Laureate of the Prix Bristol des Lumières in 2015 for his book on jihad (translated as, Words are Weapons. Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror, Yale UP). In 2022, the international community of rhetoricians honoured him with a Festschrift, The Incomprehensible: The Critical Rhetoric of Philippe-Joseph Salazar. He holds a Distinguished Professorship in Rhetoric and Humane Letters in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The French Légionnaire Who Taught Philosophy

There, in front of me, sits a fat folio, made up of four large Clairefontaine notebooks, covers stapled back-to-back. The title, typed on the homemade red plastic binding, evoked the beginnings of an apprentice philosopher discovering the nervous power of words: “Phénomènes des cours de philosophie de Charles Cambe—Année 1971-1972” (“Notes from Charles Cambe’s Philosophy Course—Year 1971-1972). Charles Cambe was my philosophy teacher at Lycée Théophile-Gautier in Tarbes, France. He was a colonel in the Foreign Legion.

Philosophy notes, 1971-1972.

Shaven-headed, calm and sharp-tongued, he had a way with the dunces (I was no longer one of them) who frequented the bars in this garrison town, still home to the first and oldest Hussars regiment in Europe: Tarbes is the birthplace of Marshal Foch, Generalissimo of the Great War, and romantic writer Théophile Gautier; poets Comte de Lautréamont and Jules Laforgue sat on the same benches as I did listening to the Colonel. Lourdes is nearby .

The Colonel was sarcastic with the good students in Terminale A1, “la philo 1,” (I was not one of them), whom he knew would stop pretending to think, once they had passed the baccalaureate. He arrived in class, on the day of military ceremonies in front of the 1939-1945 war memorial, engraved with lapidary eloquence—NI HAINE NI OUBLI (Neither Hatred nor Forgetfulness)—wearing his unique and prestigious sand-colored uniform; he placed his glorious white kepi on the desk itself slightly raised on a platform. He looked at us, all boys, called the roll and began in a steady, poised voice, without a trace of picturesque accent, as befits a monk of the one and indivisible Republic, a voice full and frank—”dynamic” would be the right word.

In Terminale A2, the class of the lesser students, the teacher was a late graduate of May 1968, who puffed on his fag, sometimes taught on the paving stones of the school yard, was on first-name terms with his pupils and, if he had had the courage of his “make love not war” convictions, would have made hootchie-kootchie-koo with them and their girlfriends. But it was all a game of appearances, because on the one occasion when our Colonel had to leave to pay tribute to one of his men and raise a glass with the toast, “for the dust,” the A2 hippy took over the legionnaire’s course exactly at the point where the Colonel had dropped his voice to go and deliver his eulogy, and this resumption was seamless. They had divided up the roles. They rode in pairs, like Templars. Never trust appearances or clothing, be it sand or hippy, which does not a philosopher make.

I opened the first notebook and began reading Chapter I (my homemade folio contains 41 chapters), dated September 16, 1971. I had understood immediately that I owed it to philosophy to transcribe the viva voce: “stupid” said the good people in class, but amazed in the divine sense of the word stupor, that impression which strikes the mind in the face of an unheard-of event. I got into the habit of taking notes verbatim and in extenso, a profoundly rhetorical memory technique, I would later learn. It is a habit I have kept, and one that still brings back to me Barthes’s enveloping words, or Levinas’s desultory remarks.

My large folio repeated, without my having guessed it because I was ignorant, the ancient technique of phrase books and books of quotations, sources of invention among the great rhetors, from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation, and of the transmission of knowledge by word of mouth, since the first mythical act when Apollo, god of speech, spat into the mouth of his first soothsayer.

Here is how my first philosophy class began, when I was sixteen: “Sensitivity. Sensible knowledge is knowledge acquired through the senses. The philosophical attitude consists in stopping in front of facts that are apparently self-evident— to the common man. Sense and organ should not be confused: a sense is the power to experience a certain category of sensations; an organ is a set of ‘terminal’ nerve cells (and here I remember a brief glint from behind his thin gold-rimmed glasses: the colonel loved irony), sensitive to certain phenomena.” That is how, at sixteen, long-haired and a virgin, I entered philosophy. I never left (philosophy, that is). It was love at first sight for the philosophical word, the eloquence of the mind: For a year, Colonel Charles Cambe led me, in 41 stages, along a path of initiation whose great models are, in Antiquity, the Tablet of Cebes and, in the French Classical Age, Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin’s Délices de l’Esprit (Delights of the Spirit), when a master philosophizes and leads a young man from place of intelligence to place of meditation, stimulating the desire to know more by the spur of his words alone, and makes him discover a new wonder of the intellect at every door he passes through, so that when he leaves the halls of knowledge and self-discovery, the young man knows “how to lead his life well.” His eloquence thus led me to perceive what I was destined to become.

It is hard to imagine, now that everything is conspiring to destroy the critical spirit of high school students, now that the cult of the keyword reigns among adults, it is hard to imagine the life lessons those philosophy classes were, those of the Colonel, like those of the hippie of Terminale A2: we were taught to ride restive steeds and wild stallions. Outside, as I write these lines, I hear the sound of their hooves, a horde of horses being brought to the stables of the Imperial Stud, not far from the same high school. Under the influence of this philosophical word, every day, for several hours, at the most exact timing of the morning, when we were awake in the most virginal and seminal state of our sixteen years, the Colonel wanted to turn us into horsemen and stallions.

The course itself was a lesson in the formative power of philosophy, placed at the pinnacle of our education at the very moment when, as the State separated from the Church, ten years before the Great War, the Republic abolished rhetoric and replaced it with philosophy. Simply put, a higher form of eloquence replaced one that had become too literary. How eloquent and handsome our philosophy teachers were! They had donned the mantle of the great preachers, to educate, truly educate, the apprentices of citizenship, and manhood.

I will give you the outline of Colonel Cambe’s course: majestically, making our way to the top of the mountain, as in the Tablet of Cebes, we passed from sensible knowledge to the unconscious, then to memory (ah! the passage on “acted recognition, emotional recognition and thought recognition;” if only one weighed these simple definitions in politics), and to imagination, then to language and signs. Two months passed. Autumn and Advent. Another notebook. In November, as the Pyrenees turned gray and rainy, a notch, a step, a progress to break the melancholy: here, blow by blow, were concept, judgment, reasoning, scientific knowledge, mathematics, experimental sciences, applied mathematics, biological sciences, history and historical becoming (I noted: “a document is either a vestige or a testimony”… yes, as simple as that, but it took him many pages of notes, the Colonel, his kepi on his desk, to make us perceive the value of this distinction), sociological fact and, almost at the top of the mountain, the shining door, the one of pearl and ivory as I think Homer used to say: Truth. I had gone so far as to capitalize it, as we were due to resume classes at Epiphany time.

Until Easter, he spoke to us of habit, will, pleasure and pain, emotion, passion (I read: a passion is either “dominant, or dominating or exclusive”: quite a program!), followed by an almost Barthesian slide, unexpected from a legionnaire, on “the life of a passion.” The Terminale A1, when the chestnut trees were greening up, listened to Colonel Cambe discuss morality, duty, responsibility and sanctions, followed by the ancient schools of morality, Kant, utilitarianism and “the philosophers of life,” followed by Nietzsche: ” You shall not beget!” “What is great about a man is that he is a bridge and not an arrival point.” “To be a man is to overcome.” Finally, Bergson, Sartre and Marx: “To re-establish the DIGNITY of man is to destroy the alienation of labor”—here, I dared to capitalize a whole word, because the Colonel had to take off his gold-rimmed glasses, put them on the table, and accentuated the term.

Then, as the end of classes approached, and Pentecost too, came three surprises, for after a year of daily attendance, we had all formed an idea of who was the Colonel-Philosopher. False ideas: the dunces assured us they had seen him at the brothel. The good ones said he never smoked (astonishing in those days). Others spoke in hushed tones about his wife (one of those Dominique Sanda-like beauties from the colonies, whom I only met once). He threw three quick, luminous lessons in our faces, like the gauntlet of an old-fashioned challenge, because by then we were seasoned and he thought we were ready to go at full throttle.

First, two lessons on beauty and God. Him—talking to us about beauty and God? We had to be thrown off our guard. On beauty, I noted: “Beautiful comes from bellus, diminutive of bonus. Bellus is a colloquial term and was used to refer to women and children, while “lovely,” addressed to a man, was very, very pejorative, if you know what I mean; for a man, the word was pulcher.” The Colonel, having brightened us up, then moved on to serious matters, point by point, and having lifted our souls to the aesthetic, he would, systematically, as if maneuvering—we were at Pentecost after all—put before our minds’ eyes all the proofs of God’s existence, deployed a priori and a posteriori.

Face to face, on the chessboard of life that opened up before us, here was the strongest dilemma facing a man who had to “overcome” himself, and achieve true pulchritude: by the senses, or by transcendence? As if to say: everything I have taught you is now to be tested against this double possibility. Weigh it up! Think! Because to “overcome” is to be free. And guess what his farewell lesson to arms was, the last surprise of the legionnaire-philosopher, finger on the seam of his pants? Freedom. “You are free to judge.” A fine piece of work!

I remember visiting him at home twice. The first was before the baccalaureate exams. I asked him to sign my big handmade tome. He signed it, on June 8, 1972, without saying a word. He only asked me how my father was. I saw him a second time, when I entered the rue d’Ulm (the École normale supérieure), in July 1975. I went to thank him for having taught me, confessing to him that, often, at Louis-le-Grand, I would reopen my big notebook to find the right path, rectitude, even the joy of thinking. He said to me: “Salazar, you should have gone to Saint-Cyr” (the foremost military academy of France).

Colonel Cambe’s signature.

Charles Cambe, colonel, legionnaire, philosopher, died in July 2005. The 2006 class of the Special Reserve General Staff School (ESORSEM), at the French War College, bears his name. As long as the Republic (not this republic, a mere ghost) keeps up with these teachers, even the hippy of Terminale A2, and keeps up with this teaching, this eloquence, the Republic will have “values.” Where is the source of the Republic’s crisis and decline? As we have seen, the republican school calendar silently follows the liturgical calendar. Old habits die hard. The Republic is sometimes capable of overcoming herself, and now and, then, even reach pulchritude.

The last word, I hand over to the colonel, and this is the last sentence in my big notebook: “This notion of fundamental freedom that is the freedom to will is most often just a word. Generally speaking, for the non-philosophers, their idea of ‘real’ freedom, the freedom that makes sense to them, is just their freedom to act as they please.” Has the Republic become just that: a sum of freedoms to act, with its strident claim to be the only valid “ethics,” from head of state down to ordinary citizen? When shall we finally “overcome” ourselves?

Colonel Cambe in operation.

French philosopher and essayist Philippe-Joseph Salazar writes on rhetoric as philosophy of power. Laureate of the Prix Bristol des Lumières in 2015 for his book on jihad (translated as, Words are Weapons. Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror, Yale UP). In 2022, the international community of rhetoricians honoured him with a Festschrift, The Incomprehensible: The Critical Rhetoric of Philippe-Joseph Salazar. He holds a Distinguished Professorship in Rhetoric and Humane Letters in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Religious Residue and AI: The Eight Rugby Players

On the first Saturday-Sunday in October, tens of thousands of Argentines undertook a pilgrimage, known as a “la Peregrinación,” to the Marian Basilica of Lujan, under the theme “Holy Virgin, make us one.” Sunday evening saw the first debate between five presidential candidates, three weeks before the general election of 22 October. All the parties preached unity, union, common strength, under a variety of slogans, as opportunistic as they come. Galloping inflation, obsidional crime, Rosario as the new Colombia of drugs, half the population in a state of poverty—while, on Saturday, a Kirchnerist oligarch, seen strutting around on a yacht with a callipygian “model” in Marbella, told his critics to go to hell by imitating, in Spanish, the vulgar American retort, “Get a life.” Sure, but what kind of life?

One response to that question was the pilgrimage. Under the leadership of the young Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the “Peregrinación” was a response to the political class — to Peronists in power (Peronism like historical Gaullism is an emotional belief system, straddling a wide spectrum), to the legacy bourgeoisie of Buenos Aires, and to the Chavist socialists. The political class paid lip-service to or ignored the pilgrimage and its message of good will.

With one discordant voice: the man who upset the usual suspects’ playbook, Javier Milei, portrayed by Western medias as “extreme right,” is an anti-Statist economist and a formidable rhetor in the long tradition of Argentine politics —emblematized by Juan Perón’s famous 1973 re-election address, “Gobernar Es Persuadir.” So Milei went frontal : one of his teammates mooted to suspend relations with the Holy Sea, the utmost meddling, invisible “state” in their view. Anti-statism and anti-clericalism are indeed congruent – but don’t tell that to Anglicans (conservatives or not) in the UK, cossetted protestant churches in Germany, or even French “liberals.” Not to mention US conservatives.

To grasp further the multi-layered religious residue in Argentine public life: when Pope Francis was elected, labels bearing his effigy on the streetlamps of Buenos Aires rubbed shoulders with a massage parlour advertisement (and an unintended joke): “Two for the price of one.”

That being said, how do you measure religious residue and mediatization of a public event, and the use of AI? Let’s look at one case.

At the beginning of the year, in the middle of the southern hemisphere summer vacation, a resounding trial fascinated Latin America: that of the ocho rugbiers, eight young rugby players who, at the same time three years before, had murdered a young man, Fernando Báez Sosa, outside a nightclub in Villa Gesell, a seaside resort south of Buenos Aires.

For weeks, the trial, held in Dolores, an old and dignified town on the pampas, was broadcast live on Argentine TV and followed daily from Peru to Mexico. A continental media phenomenon. A judicial phenomenon. A popular, if not populist, phenomenon. Ignored everywhere else, of course.

First mediatization : an extensive coverage by open access medias, such as La Nacion+ , which not only had reporters on the spot all day long, but also organized panels of legal experts who explained each stage of the proceedings with verve but clarity. One reporter stood out: “Carla,” who never lost track of events, maintained admirable calm and exemplary accuracy—she deserves an Oscar for court reporting.

Second mediatization: publicly available CCTV footage of the murder, bearing directly on the judicial process. People wondered: was it a pelea, a brawl involving the exchange of blows (the defense)? Or was it a patada, kicking and punching a victim (the public prosecutor and the family lawyer)? You only have to look at the numerous footage reels to see that it was not a brawl. In Argentina, surveillance cameras are ubiquitous, and there seems to be no law against making public what they record. Every morning, on the 7 a.m. news, you can watch burglaries, and even murder attempts, being committed.

From the very start of the investigation, anyone with access to YouTube or the Web could see what had happened. There was no blurring, in the style of false American prudishness (the “fig leaf” camera) or European-style hypocrisy (“some images may be harmful to sensitive viewers”). Living in society also means seeing what is going on. How can we witness this famous communal life if we cannot see what disrupts it? Even YouTube has not censored anything. From this point of view, Latin America is free.

So, the public had the obvious, right in front of them. The obvious — in the sense that to see is to be convinced of/by the obvious —was freely available, and in no way reserved for the courtroom. The violent crudity of the images was, and remains, public. As a rhetorician, I approve.

And then, a novelty: mediatization using AI. In order to tease out the (concealed) obvious of/from the images of the murder, the Báez Sosa family lawyer resorted to computer analysis: each of the eight assailants was represented digitally. The lawyer brought out this AI mapping at the end of the trial, in his recapitulation. The presiding judge immediately indicated that this could not, at this stage of the trial, be a prueba but she accepted the argument (supported by a reminder of the procedural code) that it was just another visualization of the video which per se was a building block of the proof already argued. As a rhetorician in a law school, I approve.

This digital reconstruction of the video made it possible to follow exactly the movements and the gestures of each assailant. It stunned everyone (and again, all that was broadcast live). We see the victim raising his hand in a plea for mercy, which drew cries from the victim’s mother. AI provided a dis-closure of the video. This is where “mediatization” takes on a whole new meaning. It harks back to the rhetorical concept of aletheia, de-concealment, dis-closure, of the truth, that is the exhibition of what cannot be seen without being mediated, here by AI.

At this point in the trial, the public had indeed judged. Even though the lawyer’s digital ex-planation (in the strict sense of unfolding) was not judicial evidence (at this concluding stage of the trial), it had now become more than a procedural support ; it is energetic evidence (in rhetoric, the Greek energeia translates into evidentia in Latin). That is how aletheia operates.

But what about the three judges (there is no jury)? Digitizing the video had the effect of transforming their naive viewing (however logical in terms of points of argument) into something else: a logic of the gaze.

Watching is necessarily naive: few people are taught to watch, just as they are taught to count or read. Because looking or watching is supposed to be natural. We hardly ever educate people (except specialists in classical painting, for example) in the logic of the gaze. Now, with digital reconstruction, the naive, emotionally-charged —in short, reactive— evidence produced by “watching a video” is replaced by a rational, cold, categorical evidence of a learned gaze. It is a cognitive effect, produced by digitization. The judges had watched. But AI taught them now how to watch. Now they really know : they have a concept of what happened, but was, on their part, a naive, natural act of perception.

Indeed, as we all know, there are two types of knowledge: instinctive knowledge (perception) and constructed knowledge (conception); perception is unstable, perverse, subjective knowledge. But when you glue a strong element of “design” (in this case, AI) onto perception, you have graduated from “percept” to concept.

Lawyer Fernando Burlando’s persuasive strategy was subtle. He played on two rhetorical, audience-centered registers. On the one hand, he targeted the public who had watched the assassination videos, reinforcing their naive certainty (“wow, they’re killing him”) with a logic of movements and gestures (“wow, now I can see what’s going on thanks to the digital markers”). On the other hand, he approached the judges, telling them, without actually saying it, “Of course you have seen the video and analyzed it, but all the same, between you and me, people of good character, you know the value of AI, and having now watched it accurately you have gone beyond a naive perception: you have been introduced to the logic of the gaze.”

In short, he used the extreme media coverage of the case, the avalanche of videos, to supplement a video that is not a video at all, but the purified, perfect, irrefutable version of an exact medium subject to the logic of the gaze. That is aletheia at work.

To sum, so far: mediatizing an event always has a hint of cheating (you cut, paste, edit, have your own angle), and it is even the rule of visual media; otherwise, all agencies would produce the same images, identically; and that is not the case, of course. But transforming media coverage into a certified, accurate, scientific and intelligent mediatization, exhibiting, in this case, the logic of the gaze, is to move to another level.

So, it is understandable that the mother of the main culprit, Máximo Thomsen, accused the media of being responsible for her son’s life sentence (he and four others, the remaining three received a 15-year sentence). But she got the wrong media. It is the use of AI mediatization that established the concealed obvious. Certainly, the accumulation of evidence (DNA, material objects, various videos, autopsy, eyewitnesses, WhatsApp messages) led to a conviction—but for what? For first or second degree murder, or manslaughter (as it was argued) or even non culpable homicide ? But it was the transformation of the video of the attack into an irrefutable object and subject to the logic of the gaze that won the judges over. Intelligent digitization was not proof, but was better than proof. It taught the judges how to watch.

And that is where the religious residue returns.

The “Justicia por Fernando” slogan that guided Fernando Báez Sosa’s family is explicitly religious. His family is pious, and the reference on the networks to Fernando as an “angel” is not a figure of speech. “Justice” then became a rallying cry against all the injustices, judicial and social, poisoning Argentina from below, at a time when the Kirchnerist government was leading the country to ruin. There was an outpouring of vigils, marches and interfaith services, which doubled up as “justice” hearings. The street became an ekklesia. The religious took over the judiciary, and the political as well (the country was experiencing several cases of infanticides, the atrocious result of poverty).

Yet, in the face of this vocal surge of the religious, the eight defendants remained impassively silent throughout the trial (except for one brief interjection), refusing to answer any questions, adopting a stiff stance, and staring fixedly. This was perceived as class contempt, and to a large extent it was: you do not talk to the poor. Their non-gestures, their non-spoken words projected the image of this contempt: “They refuse even to talk to us or look at us. In their eyes we don’t exist. They are beyond justifying themselves.”

But when the sentence was passed, the mask of contempt for justice fell off. But it fell into a religious evocation. When the young men understood what the convoluted pronouncement of the sentence meant, “prison perpetua,” three of them reacted oddly, breaking their weeks long impavid posture: one wept, his head in his hands; another, lionized as a “heart-throb,” fainted dramatically; a third, who had only been sentenced to fifteen years, raised his face to Heaven.

Suddenly the eight rugbiers proffered a religious tableau, worthy of the great altar paintings of Latin American Baroque churches, of three villains facing Judgment, and in various states of what classical painters called “passions,” from despair to imploration and terror. This is the screenshot at the top of this article. So, by instinct and atavism, the condemned placed themselves in the same logic of the gaze and religious representation as the angelization of martyred Fernando. A surprising, Baroque indeed, Pietà tableau came up next: after recovering from his dizzy spell, the dejected accused had his torso and head across the knees of a companion who held him gently like a Mater Dolorosa would hold her Son at the Sixth Sorrow. Gestures like that are residues.

However, to understand the agency of such residues, you have to know how to look, to accept the logic of a particular gaze, Christian or more precisely, Catholic. In fact, Baroque iconicity operated as AI did: the tableau brought out what was concealed, the religious residue, which is now dis-closed and colours the entire event.

In conclusion, it would be good to reflect on the religious substrate on which AI operates, and its insidious and vulgar intrusion in the cultural residues of audiences who, through ignorance and consumerism, see AI only as a practical tool. The inscription of AI in a particular cultural milieu, such as South American religiosity, provides food for thought. We must be wary of treating AI as independent of cultural contexts, residues as Pareto calls them. Its aura of neutral machine is a mercantile ploy. A vending machine knows nothing. Try to make a machine pray, or go on a pilgrimage.

French philosopher and essayist Philippe-Joseph Salazar writes on rhetoric as philosophy of power. Laureate of the Prix Bristol des Lumières in 2015 for his book on jihad (translated as, Words are Weapons. Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror, Yale UP). In 2022, the international community of rhetoricians honoured him with a Festschrift, The Incomprehensible: The Critical Rhetoric of Philippe-Joseph Salazar. He holds a Distinguished Professorship in Rhetoric and Humane Letters in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Featured: A screen capture (at 1:17) of the verdict.

Simenon on the Noble Refugee

With his most recent film, Maigret (2022), French iconic actor, Gérard Depardieu, was hailed as having found a role cut for him. In fact, he missed out on a far better one. If he, and filmmaker Patrice Leconte, had been more astute, and better read, they would have realized the opportunity presented by the Ukrainian refugee crisis in France. They would have realized Simenon, not the Simenon of the Maigret stories, had written a novel about refugees: Le clan des Ostendais (The Ostenders). The central character, Omer, is a perfect fit for Depardieu: a larger-than-life, sea-faring boss, the brooding hulk of a fisherman thrown into the maelstrom of the collapse of Belgium and France, in May and June 1940.

Simenon, as is well known, led a quiet life during the Occupation of France, where he had settled in Vendée. He witnessed first-hand the “exodus” (l’Exode with a capital E, in French), the desperate rush of French civilians (as well as escapees from the Low Countries), fleeing by the millions the invading German armies, going as far south as they could. The Exode remains today the largest mass refugee movement in Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries. Eight million “evacuees,” to use the French bureaucratic euphemism, were displaced, and among them the fictional Omer, and his clan of Flemish-speaking Belgians.

To Flee and to Exist

This refugee novel, for lack of adhering to the hallowed (French) dramatic rule of the three unities ( in one place, in one day, a single plot shall unfold; not very easy with a novel) is nonetheless a virtuoso exercise in narrative conciseness: the action is focused; the setting is the coastal region of La Rochelle; time is framed by two events: the first, in May 1940, is the theatrical arrival of five trawlers in the harbor of La Rochelle, a high-spirited scene worthy of Fellini’s E la nave va—a different ship, for the beginning of a different war. The second event, just after the armistice of June 1940, is the almost mystical departure of the boats, at night, during a funereal wake.

Who is Omer, the baes, the boss? Words matter: until some plaques were updated to please politics, the French countryside was strewn with such memorials: “Here the Germans massacred….” Not “Nazis”—that was added later.

In Old Germanic, Omer is noble: “Odomar,” or “master of resources.” Omer is the skipper of a fleet of trawlers, who, having learned of the German invasion of Belgium off the coast of Iceland, heads out for Ostend to save what he can. On his five fishing boats, Omer loads the entire households of his crews, with all their belongings, from children’s rompers to silver cutlery, from heavy Flemish wardrobes to ancestral trousseau sheets. Nothing is left behind. Omer, Master of Resources, reigns taciturn over the fugitives whom he steers to safety. They put in at La Rochelle, intent to do what sailors do: sailing further south, away from the war, and what fishermen do—to fish for “resources,” under his command.

But, in La Rochelle, they get bogged down in French bureaucracy, caught up in the rout, debacle and defeat, and then the arrival of the victors. French and German officials let the Ostenders fish—and they offer their catch, by the caseload, to the thousands of refugees who have filled up the region. Parked in sheds and under trees, these refugees are starving and throw themselves on the manna, free-riding, pilfering, deploying the resourcefulness of French “Système D” (go get what you can). These haggard, scavenging fugitives follow the army’s defeat, like rats follow the plague. At that moment Camus began to conceive his novel of the same name—which may not be about what the post-war existentialist bien-pensant legend says it is. Unlike the main character of The Plague, Omer is not powerless, quite the contrary. And he believes in God, to boot. Whom he serves. To have his clan exist.

Existentialism, one should never forget it, was born out of these dark years’ struggle to survive, as a nation, as a State, as a way of life, as a culture, and as free and honorable human beings—out of a will to exist. A moral philosophy does not spring from abstract vagaries, but from living and dying. Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness under German oppression: how to be when nothing is. Hence how to be more than to endure. That is, to exist.

The Organic Morality of Refugees

So, the Ostenders are accommodated in an economically depressed coastal hamlet, a far cry from the gay daily life of La Rochelle. The locals pity them heartily, because everyone knows, and is told, we should pity these “poor people,” insulting them on account of their king’s surrender, “a stab in the back,” letting the Germans in. Come June 1940, the Rochelais and the villagers start to feel ashamed for having blamed the Ostenders for what the French army, routed in one fell swoop, inflicted in its turn on millions of refugees. The Ostenders do not say a word about it.

The hamlet is half in ruins, and its filth appalls the Ostenders. They are blond, hygienic and organized; they wash every day. They are Nordic and do not speak French, but rather a language that sounds like “Boche,” which intimidates the locals but enables them to get by with the occupiers once the region is under military rule. Omer rents an uninhabited, once bourgeois, dwelling for his family. He settles his lesser relatives to a house “across the yard,” immediately cleaned and whitewashed, while his deckhands’ families settle “at the back” in hovels turned into cottages made spic and span. Simenon—and this is his great art—plants a Vermeer painting in a scene from Les Misérables. An organic community is resurrected, and with it, its values.

The Ostenders create a natural yet civic microcosm, made of distinctions between the master of the trawlers, the skippers, the sailors, and their families. They observe etiquette. It is not a feudal order, but a vertical, kin and clan arrangement, based on a single, natural certainty—a fisherman fishes, the fishing boat provides work that determines duties and rights, and a hierarchy of labor. No one goes hungry, no one goes in rags, no one is unruly. Children attend classes. Every adult can speak their mind. Going astray results in quiet and firm ostracism. This is a natural, organic community.

The Ostenders’ relationship with the locals follows the same ethos. They never complain. They never raise their voice. But their fortitude comes across as arrogance, and it pains the villagers so cruelly that, going hungry themselves, they leave large crates of flounder to rot on the doorstep of the town hall: how can one accept to be fed by refugees? The locals reject this miraculous, yet in their eyes, immoral fishing. None see the Christ-like allegory.

It is so, because Omer and his injured clan will not ask for help, even in grief. What they need, they purchase. They never demean themselves to seek some special treatment. Actually, their only French word is “non,” thrown politely at bureaucrats when they try to pull a fast one on them. They are respectful of the law. They expect the locals to do the same. They are not idle, drinking white wine in port cafes, smoking cigarettes, or chatting in front of the fateful wireless claiming, “Paris, open city!“

The Ostenders offend popular common sense and the moralizing propaganda that proclaims, “Welcome them! We have to help them, no matter how, because it is the gesture that matters.” They will not allow authorities to put a checkmark on a to-do list: “Les Belges, c’est réglé.” They are, strictly speaking, demoralizing.

However, in the mine-infested waters Omer, loses a cherished boat, with her crew and his eldest son, and then more trawlers are hit and sunk, with his youngest son at the helm. The stopover in La Rochelle has come at a high price. Omer’s brood is decimated. A daughter-in-law goes mad with grief.

Refugees’ Fear

Of the sea they have no fear. The sea gives, the sea takes.

Nor do they live in the same fear as the thousands of refugees, corralled in cantonments, and quickly sliding back to a state of nature where homo homini lupus soon rules. The Ostenders live in a fear of their own—that of no longer being what they are. They fear to be denatured. They fear losing their organic civility.

This is the profound reason why they work, day and night; the women are cooking, mending, washing, mothering; and the men and boys, at every tide, when the weather is right and the anti-aircraft guns are not firing, go fishing as far away as the coasts of Morocco and the Balearics, passing destroyers and submarines, friends and foes, to whose captains Omer, strong in his rights, shows his “papers” of a fisherman from Ostend. Captain to captain, they understand each other. They salute him.

And then it happens. In the hazy coolness of a summer’s dawn, having transported aboard their bare essentials, the Ostenders weigh anchor and silently prepare to sail away. The two surviving trawlers depart, in defiance of the Germans and the French. That night was also the night of the wake for their dead, sons and sailors. The small flotilla is crossing their chosen Acheron. But it is also the night they wake up, as free and honorable.

The Noble Refugee

So, what is the lesson of The Ostenders?

Published in 1947 (in the same year as The Plague) by a Simenon whose conduct during the Second European General War was prudent, The Ostenders redeemed his cowardice. Indeed Simenon had taken refuge in a fantasy world of good detective work, while, at the same time, the French odious secret police, the Carlingue, was busy torturing Resistants, aided by the French Police nationale and the Gendarmerie that, somehow, escaped opprobrium, and worse, when accounts were settled in 1945.

Quite possibly Simenon tried to expiate his bystander’s behaviour, when he carried on with his dystopian Maigret novels, as well as not disowning movies adapted from his works with the Germans’ stamp of approval and material help.

But what is not ambiguous is the meaning of this allegory about refugees. Who are they? Are they fugitives, the destitute, the weak, the “expelled” like millions of Germans driven later from their ancestral lands now in Polish hands? The Ostenders are nothing of the sort. They came back to Ostend from Iceland instead of anchoring safely in North America. And from Ostend they left again, some twenty families, under heavy artillery fire. They anchored at La Rochelle, to get supplies, and with the intent to push on, probably crossing over to the Argentines. And it is not their fault if the local bureaucrats and their chorus of villagers wanted to entangle them in the mantra of “welcome to our refugees,” and in the last instance to turn them into detainees at the mercy of the enemy.

So, they set off to remain themselves, leaving their dead in the shell-strewn sands and in Heaven, and to remain honorable. For them, all but honor was lost. And the honor of a fisherman is to be a “toiler of the sea,” as in Victor Hugo’s famous novel. The people, now fleeing back to Paris, channeled by German troops, in the delusional peace of the armistice, were willing to live lives without honor. In June 1940, the Resistance and the Free French were yet to come. The first to join De Gaulle were a clan of hundred Briton fishermen from the Isle of Sein.

The Ostenders’ only respect, as they regroup, mourn their dead, pray for the living, and prepare to depart is reserved to their rustic counterparts, those peasants in wooden clogs pushing their exhausted cattle ahead of them, back to their far away farms soon to be plundered by the Germans, then plowed and razed by Anglo-American bombings.

The Ostenders did not conform to any coded expectations that would reassure the villagers, and neighboring Rochelais, of their moral rectitude. The Ostenders turned the tables—they showed how not to be a refugee. They set themselves apart. Indeed, as they set sail, the armistice Demarcation line comes into effect, a divide that would soon turn this region into a no-go military zone, in addition to the main split between the harshly occupied North and the vassal “free” South basking, for another two short years, in the meridional sunshine sung by Charles Trenet.

The Ostenders had swallowed bitter tears in the winds and frosts of Newfoundland, humiliated by their king’s surrender. They are now restoring their honor, not of a vainglorious military kind but of a deeply civic and organic communal virtue.

Redeeming Honor

The wake—in both senses, funereal and nautical—of the trawlers powering up in a yellow mist toward England drew the Ostenders’ very own demarcation line, between being and existing. So doing, they were also drawing another demarcation line, between the rhetoric of good feelings about “refugees,” contrived to ennoble those who give refuge and find moral reward in it, and the nobility of the fugitives or the expelled who act to restore for themselves honor and self-respect.

The final sentences of Le clan des Ostendais sum up the metaphysical meaning of the escape. “We are there, aren’t we?” replies Omer to his wife and matriarch Maria’s interrogation, half-question, half-puzzlement: “England?” Omer says this, if one pays attention to his words beyond the idiomatic turn of phrase: that “there,” that place, “is it not” or “is it?” Is this landing a stage in a journey of self-respect and the organic preservation of who we are? Omer adds: “Lord, I’ve done what you would have me do”—that is, my natural community has held, and will hold, here or there, so long as we remain ourselves. Honor is our place.

This gives an entire new meaning to the cliché of cosmopolites and soccer players (not that we expect these morons to know about it), ubi bene, ibi patria: where my honor exists (honor being the “bene,” the true summum bonum), there is my homeland. England is merely a stage emerging from a yellow mist. It is a harbor; it is no more than that. For when one’s autochthony has been lost, when the ancestral ground has caved in, when the natural ruler has surrendered, then existing in honor replaces it all.

Le clan des Ostandais carries a powerful lesson about virtue among refugees, and the inner life of organic fortitude whose roots are deep, autochthonous, if one cares about them.

Recently, in a village of the French Pyrenees, the local mayor welcomed a motley group of refugees from the Ukraine. One woman was reported as saying she would go back when the moment is right, hardly expressing any gratitude. How this moment will come, she has no idea. There is no honor and no virtue in her reply. The pained mayor turned then to a family and explained that integration may not be easy: “France is a very old country.” The father, surrounded by his wife and two teenagers, a boy and a girl, replied: “We are learning French, we want to belong to our new motherland.” It is unlikely the rural mayor or the Ukrainian father knew that French kings, otherwise proud of their Frankish names, were the first European dynasts, in the 11th century, to adopt the outlandish “Philippe” as a royal name, which endured till the last monarch. It is owed to Anne of Kiev, queen-regent of the Franks, mother of Philippe the First. Honor is indeed organic, or it is not, among refugees. It may, or may not, rekindle roots a thousand years later. Whether those who welcome refugees in France today have a sense of organic honor, and a will to exist, is another matter.

French philosopher and essayist Philippe-Joseph Salazar writes on rhetoric as philosophy of power. Laureate of the Prix Bristol des Lumières in 2015 for his book on jihad (translated as, Words are Weapons. Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror, Yale UP). In 2022, the international community of rhetoricians honoured him with a Festschrift, The Incomprehensible: The Critical Rhetoric of Philippe-Joseph Salazar. He holds a Distinguished Professorship in Rhetoric and Humane Letters in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

A much different version of this text appeared first, in French, at Les Influences.

Featured: Three Fishermen Pulling a Boat, by Peder Severin Krøyer; painted in 1885.

Scholarship Inferno—A Dantesque Meditation on Scholars in the Managerial Age

These thoughts were first delivered as an oration, the Third Stuart Saunders Memorial Lecture, given at the Auditorium of the Neuroscience Institute of the University of Cape Town, on May 22, 2023. This written version is considerably different.

“Lasciate ogni Speranza voi ch’ entrate,” said a placard outside the senior common room. A doctoral student must have posted it, in propitiation of a desired but improbable job given the “financial constraints,” I thought. I sat down and let my mind wander and wonder. What did that future jurist, or perhaps lawyer, mean? Why this gesture, this interpellation, this sorrow even? A moral claim, in any event. An occasion to reflect on scholarship?

In an age of universities and academics “ratings,” of Nespresso conferences offering quick and easy 15-minute presentations, and the vulgar business of journals held, in firm accountants’ hands, by international publishing groups, “sovereign” funds in disguise, in short a Hell university managers (and Presidents or Vice-Chancellors), refuse to consider, I took the grad student’s caveat literally, and I stepped forward, as it were, walking behind Dante, and Virgil.

This is no stroll up to the illuminating Ideas of the Table of Cebes, but a slow progress into the phantoms that inhabit scholarship’s morality. Mine is a tropological reading of Dante’s Inferno applied to the negative ethics of scholarship. It is not exhaustive. It is a rhetorical exercise in the very best sense of the word, clearing stuff that encumbers reason and argument—let us remember how at the very beginning of Rhetoric Aristotle calls for getting rid of rubbish, and opening a straight path. In this case, Iet us try and clear the rubbish indeed that stands in the way, the hodos, of a scholar’s progress.

Let us follow Dante.


In the first circle, Dante meets, in particular, ancient philosophers, Greek thinkers, such as Plato and Aristotle.

Why are scholars of ancient Greece, the source of all scholarly knowledge at the time, from physics to medicine, morals to logic? Why are they in Hell, and why at its most benign level? Reason is that they have perceived the truth of what it is to be a human being, be it in metaphysics or in physics, in ethics or in formal and informal reasoning. But they lacked a true concept of it.

Their scholarly endeavours lacked something fundamental. What French thought-libertines, such as La Mothe le Vayer called, with a bold oxymoron, “la Sagesse des Païens.” Wise, sage, indeed, but lacking a knowledge of divine truth, despite the aletheia-Revelation. Those words “wise, sage” were a trope for “knowing,” and to deny them the status of “doctors of the faith” which, undoubtedly, had they contemplated the Word made Flesh, and acceded to “knowledge” they would have earned (such was the tale which spared the French sceptics a dire fate).

However, ancient philosophy itself made a clear distinction between “knowing” and “knowledge,” aistheta kai noeta, to put it differently: “percepts” and “concepts.”

The wise ancients perceived a connection between human understanding and the human condition, but they lacked a concept of that relationship between what a human being can achieve, in a scholar’s case intellectually, and the purpose of the universe within which scholarly enterprise fits, which for Dante was its placement within a superior divine order. In this case, ancient scholars had a percept of the ultimate goal of scholarship, they did not have a true concept of it, that is of the truth of Nature. We know that the position of science regarding a divine scheme of Nature still rages on today.

A tropological, and moral, translation with regard to a scholar’s enterprise ensues: to be clever as a scientist or perceptive as a philosopher, to be intelligent and enterprising as a scholar, that is to follow the ways and uses of a given scholarly community, its properly named ethos, yet without a firm concept of truth, is advantageous, but fraudulent.

Often scholars stay there, and quite happily. They go through the moves, but remain at the level of percepts—cleverly constructed, persuasively presented as concepts, forcefully argued, but percepts, aistheta, none the less.

For instance, the so-called “robust” debates on climate change, the nasty controversies about the warring situation in Eastern Europe, and the opposing arguments about Covid, rest, among scholars (I am not talking here about the public), on a constant game between percepts and concepts, opinions presented by scholars as veracity, and established facts or arguments logically valid as well as exact.

When scholars behave like the public who is naturally swimming in the amniotic liquid of percepts, they fail being scholars.

I have tried that notion on some of my brighter graduates. They see the point, but they do not see what to do about it, and with it—as scholars. They often prefer to fall back on percepts. Many are “wise,” smart, perceptive, and that suffices to sustain an academic or professionally “learned” career. Scholars they are not.


In the second circle of Hell, Dante meets those who lead lives driven by passionate love. Love, human love, is supposed to be what people, especially in the Western mindset, are made to believe as being a superior feeling. Some cultures do without it and are none for the worse. Roland Barthes, a critic unorderly decried today, wrote A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments to debunk the narrative of human love—as just a narrative. By contrast, he had read Loyola closely, when the Jesuit saint’s Spiritual Exercises were a terra incognita to secular critics (but oddly he gets no credit for it). He had a clear idea that “love,” dispassionate, is a travail of the mind, an active arming of the mind, as the word exercitium says, and Barthes knew his Latin (and his Greek).

But how does “love” relate to scholarship?

Again, tropology: scholars are not supposed to fall in love with ideas, theirs or others’. They are not supposed to be in love with what they think. They must maintain a distance. Getting infatuated with a topic, a research theme, an author, an idea, is dangerous. One gets ensnared by the self-loving turns of a narrative about one’s own mind. Some of us get caught in the loving knots of libido sciendi.

Why? It has to do with fetishism.

There is often a fetishist approach to a scholar’s endeavours, just like love is in essence fetishist.

Now, what is a fetish? A fetish is a strategy of replacement. In it most serious form, someone who is deeply mentally disturbed will hallucinate that an object, any object, is reality; reality meaning the subject of desire—“love.” An object replaces a subject.

Benign example: Buying an expensive perfume or getting into debt for an expensive car are fetishist acts: you replace the lifestyle you cannot afford with a fetish of that lifestyle. You fulfil your desire, and hallucinate that which you cannot have (worse, is denied to you, and in full display—cruelly, hence feeding the narrative of endless dis-satisfaction).

In intellectual matters the desire, the passionate love for fetishes is a very strong “drive,” especially among younger scholars. “Drive” is correct, but placed here in-between inverted commas, because those who use it all the time are evidently ignorant of its true meaning: it is the Trieb of psychoanalysis—Eros and Thanatos at work. It coheres.

It is indeed a natural bend, exacerbated by the demands for “teamwork,” “collaborative research,” and the like. But it leads to repetitive research. One cannot let go and move on. One has found one’s object of desire, and one wants to stay with it. You can call it silo thinking if you wish. In reality, it is a fetish. Roland Barthes, him again, warned his students: do not fetishize your dissertation into a book.

That sort of fetishist behaviour is often encouraged by funding agencies and managers: many, not all, want to see how a scholar has a trajectory, follows a path, undertakes a “journey” even as some say, having read that book by Coelho, and, nail in the coffin of noeta: a track record. Funding outfits often look at deviations from the course as proof of a lack of focus. Of course, they would, since they think along managerial lines—and their own fetish.

What is their fetish?

The magic bullet of Management: POLC, plan, organize, lead, control. With it the panacea of “lean management,” where things have “got to” move fast and in one direction, and “produce” “deliverables.” Ideas do not “move fast.” When you hear “productive” about a scholar, hear the alarm bell ring. It is a red flag for managerial fetish. Thanatos, that fundamental Trieb, reigns.

That sort of intrusion in the life of scholars produces a poorer intellectual life indeed. Which does not mean a poorer academic life. Both lives need not coincide. It is an error to envision that colleges and universities are places for scholarship. They may be places of scholarship, where some scholars can follow their path. But they are not places for scholars. That is no longer their teleology, their final cause. Universities may be the efficient cause of scholarship, but it mostly is no more that—“efficient” is a concept naturally adopted by the managerial university.


The third circle is about gluttons. That is, figuratively, about those who instead of being satisfied with meeting basic, bodily, needs, always want more.

In other words, their body has replaced their life. They are not human beings but recipients for other bodies, meat, vegetables, fruits, drinks. They eat animal and vegetal life in order to augment their own bodily life. I often wondered if the disgust strong-minded vegans feel toward meat-eaters, does not come from the carnivorous image of bodies eating bodies.

What about scholars? When I read verses from Canto VI, and I look for a tropological meaning, I am reminded of the expression: body text. And then I think of bloated footnotes in research papers, or one word followed by a bracketed string of So-and-So, page such-and-such, sometimes running for an entire line.

A gluttony of so-called references. Swelling the body of an article with others’ scholarship without, usually, any sort of pointed, coherent explanation between this word, hopefully concept, referenced and that kebab of data on a skewer. One feeds on anything that comes close and within grasp.

Others’ ideas and “body of work” do not exist to merely being gorged on, and regurgitated, often half-digested.

It is an illness most perceptible in the social sciences, in their strained effort to pass for “sciences,” less in the pure humanities whose scholars still see themselves members of a club, the Republic of Letters; but scientific papers are far from exempt from a rhetoric of agglutination and precedence to tick the boxes of credits parsed down to the least intelligent lab gesture by X (fifth “author”).

There is also little value in demanding from students, in their apprentice-ship of scholarship, to chew on so-called literature reviews and methodology parading. What is the actual value of filling up two compulsory chapters of a dissertation with those pre-emptive strikes? Or inane preliminaries, in academic articles, reciting a litany of saints of a particular faith as a preamble to get on with the job? Yes, we know what Agamben said about emergency; spare us triteness, show us what you do with it. What I want to see at work, in the body of an analysis, is how sources are activated in the course of a dissertation, or a paper, how a methodology is put into action.

To refer to them is not a scholarly gesture.

To infer from them, is a scholarly gesture.


In Hell 4 Dante casts the misers and the spend-all.

First, why are they stuck together in Hell 4? Because, possibly, they are a living hell to one another, as in a Balzac’s novel.

Figuratively both are the two sides of the same delusion: either they indulge in material goods by accumulating them, in order not to share them. Or they indulge in throwing away everything without any regard to the value of each item, which is a way of not sharing, as sharing has to be discriminate in order to fit the purpose of generosity.

A tropological reading sheds yet another light on the threats to scholarship.

How does a scholar hoard? What is a miser-scholar, if I can coin that word?

A hoarder scholar indulges in never deviating from his, her primary hoarding, be it a doctoral dissertation or a book. Everything always goes back to it. Niches can be comfortable, but if you are alone in it, what is the value of being so specialized? You stay in your dog-pen (“niche”), chewing on your bone.

By contrast, the reverse indulgence is forever turning yourself into an open house, having an open table, laying out whatever you have developed in terms of ideas, percepts often, to everyone. Large conferences, select colloquia, new associations that spring up all the time—made worse since the virus emergency—workshops on this and that, training about x, y z, compounded now by the invasive remote attendance, are all perfect avenues for academic spendthrifts.

I have seen intelligent colleagues, smart and astute, erudite even, cast to the winds whatever they have achieved, just for the sake of being present at, being heard at, publishing in. Relentlessly.

Clearly, spending or hoarding has to do with value—whether you hoard or you give away by largesse, you do so because you believe (percept…) it is valuable.

To go one step further: in scholarship there is worth, and there is value.

A scholar may have great worth, and lesser value.

The difference between the two is the following: worth is intrinsic. It resides within the field and discipline in which the scholar creates ideas. Value is extrinsic. It is assigned from outside the field and discipline.

Worth? I remember a colleague who never wrote a single monograph. He/she wrote short notices in small journals independent from the publishing industry. She/he never thought it necessary to share beyond a small circle of like-minded scholars, nor to assemble notes in a book, not even in that ersatz of the academic economy: the edited volume. That colleague placed no value in doing it, but knew her/his worth. So did friends.

Value? Clearly the prevailing ideology recoils at the worthy scholar. The industrialisation of academia discourages such scholarship. But scholars must have value for their institution as the vast majority of them usually belong to academia. Value is then assigned by outside processes—you know what they are: deans’ reports, funding agencies fantasies, internationally accredited “goals,” “visions” so-and-so, fabricated by overarching institutions. These are neither bad nor good; they are processes that reflect a current state of affairs in a managerial society. It is a fact. However, bending to extraneous facts uncritically is not what a scholar does.

Time lo leave Hell 4.


Secure in their frail skiff, Dante and Virgil now float on a stream of slime, and overboard they look at a slurry and at… the Dissatisfied.

A river of slime is a powerful image for those who see time and life pass them by, flow by irremediably, irretrievably, and fall into a deep dissatisfaction as they would do into sludge.

Being dissatisfied, especially when you are employed by a university, is quite common.

Among academics, dissatisfaction ranges from annoyance, to despondency, from hatred to self-hatred, from disdainful retreat to bilious withdrawal. In the classical theory of emotions, all these “passions” fall under one umbrella: anger.

It is one the strangest features of scholarly life in academia: a tendency to be fiercely angry, which befits sanguine characters, or to be bitterly morose, which befits more reserved ones. Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, which contains the first fully-fledged systematic theory of emotions and how they impact social life and are turned into public arguments, anger is the key emotion: anger surges forth when a feeling, a knowing (a percept) or a knowledge (a concept) of injustice, takes over.

For classical thought, anger is the driving force of politics, from subdued dissatisfaction to open rebellion, but it is always caused by a belief that an injustice has been done. The dissatisfied usually believe they have been treated unfairly. Academics do, as a rule.

The paradox is that, being intellectuals, scholars have all the means at their disposal to reflect on and analyze their own dissatisfaction. That is, to move beyond opinion to fact and argument. After all they spend their lives weighing hypotheses, testing results, refining conclusions. Their lives are immersed not in a slurry of bad ideas, but bathed in the clear waters of reason.


And yet a scholar, mildly or strongly dissatisfied, will channel one’s sense of injustice and dissatisfaction rarely along lines of reason, but along lines of opinion, mostly ideological lines.

Often a dissatisfied scholar will turn a personal grievance into an intellectual battle, will rally forces as must be necessary to show that it is not a personal grievance at root, but a case valid for a group.

Dissatisfaction and anger do produce results, in terms of power; it is doubtful they produce scholarship. It can pass for it. It rarely is.

Ideology is alienation as Marxist philosophy teaches us. An ideological scholar is alienated, on top of being angry.

Conversely a scholar who inflicts onto oneself the self-injury of withdrawing from confrontation, and turns anger inwards, becomes melancholiac. In the Renaissance it was deemed that melancholy was the right composure for a scholar. A scholar was supposed to brood over matters of the mind. Hence needs to retreat from too much intercourse, too much company, too many distractions. It is a pleasant melancholy; it is not dark, but the soft penumbra under the foliage of a grove-like retreat.

The irony of that fantasy could not be lost on Dante who wrote his masterpieces while being thrown out of his city, hounded, condemned to death and threatened to be burnt at the stake. He, a scholar, did not write in anger or melancholy—but in the quietening of fear.

He retreated.

Retreat is an idea which during a good millennium was central to the intellectual enterprise, and no longer is: it was called skhole. In the classical world, and that of Dante’s, a scholar lives in, and lives, skhole. The word “scholar” echoes it but it is a pale ectoplasm of the original concept. In the classical world skhole meant leisure, otium in Latin. The Augustinian tradition would call it, for its own ends of course, vita contemplativa. The application differs, but the concept is the same: skhole.

Leisure to what end? To provide a scholar with time and quiet to think without the pressures of negotium, life outside, social engagement, and working.

“School,” the word, copies skhole the idea, and indeed schools should provide the quiet time necessary to learn, without negotium interference. Children who attend school also should think about enslaved children who work in factories: they work, they don’t go to school.

Indeed skhole, peace and quiet to read and think, has always entertained a complex relationship with work. Real work. Backbreaking work.

It is interesting that in the 1950s a French socialist, Joffre Dumazedier, invented a new sociological notion which revived, in contraposition to working, the antique practice of skhole, with a new twist: “society of leisure.”

More than an idea it was an intellectual activism at the service of those who, actually, work: training and methods were set up and implemented to give workers “leisure,” time and space, that is skhole, in order to cultivate their minds, to learn how to argue and analyse; that is: how to reflect knowingly (noeta) on why being exploited made them so angry, or dissatisfied, and thus turn instinctive “knowing” (about the workers’ conditions) into an actual knowledge. The “society of leisure” was a form of scholarship. Leisure society was the humanist response to class struggle. A new skhole, to sum.

No longer today. Today “leisure” is quite the opposite: it is fabricated with consumer goods, in order to prevent workers from having time to think about their conditions, and make them hallucinate fetishes of the Good Life through more consumption. They are not afforded skhole but merchandise to be distracted from their condition, and from thinking, and to allow their masters to extract more work out of them.

Thus, when a scholar, who belongs to an institution, is dissatisfied, the first question to ask is: are you angry because you are a worker? Are you a worker? How do you define work? How do you retreat into leisure?


Dante and Virgil are now standing at the gates of the City of Hell.

In bolgia 6 are relegated heretics, religious dissenters, and partisans, political fanatics.

I am setting aside the religious aspect, but I retain Dante’s figurative intent: what to make of a scholar who holds partisan views within the scholarly enterprise? Not outside of it, as an individual engaged in society—many are not bothered, and often are not cleverer than the average citizen when it comes to politics—but what of those who, inside scholarly endeavours, activate partisanship as a part of, or even a drive for, their scholarship?

In intellectual intercourse scholars encounter, inside and outside academia, other intellectuals who are entirely devoted to defend a cause. That cause can be anything, but its function, when activated, is to override everything else.

Scholarship is then an expanding of personal prejudices, of firmly held percepts. Scholarship is put at the service of a set of opinions, a set of feelings, a set of values: it becomes secondary to reason. It is domesticated to serve a potent master that often suffers no contradiction.

Yet it is a choice. Or “heresy”: “heresy” is a not specifically religious, it means choice.

In matters of belief, it refers to an intellectual choice. Theologians called a heresy a “sententia humana,” a human statement—departing from the logos of the Scriptures. Today, outside the Christian frame, we could call a heresy a “personal choice.”

Scholars who allow themselves to push forward their “choice” of opinions, about politics mostly, over truth, have chosen a set of beliefs, percepts, as guidance for their erudite work. They have chosen to cast their scholarship into the mould, the chosen mould, of a knowing, not a knowledge.

They become partisans within their own fields of intellectual enquiry.

Some fields of enquiry are more fertile than others in allowing partisan choice to take over rational enquiry. Scholarship then often takes the public, publicized, claimed form of dissenting, in order to push forward the choice that drives it, and helps pass partisan opinion for reasoned scholarship. Grandstanding ensues. Intellectual “heresy” and partisanship are presented as more dignified, more important, more ethical, more useful to society than the prevalent scholarship. They claim the moral high ground. Some scholars build careers on their sententia humana—a personal choice driven like a nail into scholarship, and driving it.

However, those who really are in danger are young scholars.

For young scholars to declare upfront, “I believe that… I am passionate about” gives them an emotional drive, of course. But is it a scholarly approach?

When my MA or PhD students embark on a dissertation, and I have supervised for 40 years now, I always warn them: never begin your analysis by knowing what you want to prove. Do not have a conclusive opinion on the matter. Let the evidence lead you to what is the rightful, truthful conclusion. Never discard what goes against what you believe.

You may not like it, as it may not fit your belief, but then you have three choices.

First, you can review all the evidence and then lay it out in such a way that it will give you the result you wish, in line with your belief. You will side-line all that disproves your belief. What you will then perform is not scholarship, but an act of advocacy. It requires agility to do so.

As for me, I will be observing how smartly you do it, and possibly I will evaluate you on that skill, regardless of the veracity of the outcome. Nobel laureate in physics, Richard Feynman, famously called it “cargo cult science,” when he indicted funder-satisfying research. Long before Latour, he had, as a scientist, uncovered the inherent “rhetoric” of industrial, politically driven research: an exercise in advocacy, and in epideixis (orating on the “virtues” of an extraneous factor, be it political or industrial).

Or, second, you may not engage in that sort of selective work, and do a proper scholarly work. Confronted with an outcome that goes against your belief, you will ask yourself a moral question. That question will not be about the truth of the protocols you followed, since you have decided not to engage in cargo cult science, nor in epideixis (playing up to what funders want, in fawning obedience).

No, the question will be a moral question you will have to ask yourself: why was my initial belief so wrong? Yes, I was wrong but why did I believe in it? It takes courage to admit error in perceptions of reality, especially social, political. That is what a true scholar does.

But, third, if you lack that ethical courage—which can also be a professional safety mechanism in a hostile environment—then you have a third choice, a choice of pure partisanship: you retreat from rational scholarship back into belief, and say, well, yes, that is the correct outcome, but I don’t like it. It does not suit me. Very few have the perversity to do that in full awareness of the fact they are doing it. But it happens. And it is a violence against reason.

In short, in Circle 6, inside the City of Hell, Dante allows us to reflect on intellectual violence.

Which leads Dante to confront other forms of violence—against human nature.


Hell 7 is, indeed, the dwelling of the truly violent ones. Of perpetrators of violence against human nature, immersed in a river of boiling blood. Their crimes are not what we would today, in democratic societies, call violent crimes, such as rape. These crimes against nature are quite unique. And loaded with tropological meaning with regard to scholarship.

Dante speaks of the fraudsters, the corrupt, the suicides, the blasphemers and—the bankers.

Let us look at the apex of crimes laid out by Dante, leaving aside the fraudsters: suicide, blasphemy, lending money at profit.

What is the logic behind that sequence, not immediately obvious to our flat, linear way of reasoning? Tropologically, it tells a different story. Dante’s argument is about violence against human nature, and it is connected to the idea of giving.

Suicide? Today suicide has become a societal issue: bullied teenagers, workers harassed by managers, and also terminal patients, euthanasia.

Whatever the euphemism: to kill oneself or let oneself being killed is suicide.

In Dante’s time, suicide was an eminent crime, and for two reasons: first it is murder; second it is murder of the gift of life. In the Christian tradition, suicide is not laudable and honourable, and legal, as it was in ancient Greece and Roman stoicism, or still today in Shinto, but it is the violent, criminal refusal of the gift of life. This unique gift does not belong to the human individual, but to God alone.

Now, how does a scholar commit scholarly suicide? Or, to rephrase it, how does a scholar reject the gift of scholarship? It is a tough one, I admit, to read tropologically. Let us set it aside for now. But let us store the idea of gift.

Blasphemy? All major religions, of the Book or not, have some interdict against insulting the divine. That is, nature itself. The human shall not insult what is above human condition. The creature shall not insult the Creator. Still today in many societies that are, or close to being, theocratic, insulting God is a crime punished by death.

The reason why, in the religions of the Book, blasphemy is a violent crime issues from the fact God cannot retort in words: God cannot speak back; the one who utters a blasphemy arrogates language. Saint Augustine called it “operatio per linguam” (De Moribus manicheorum II, 10, 19).

That is why, already in Leviticus (24.16), the law, human law, responds in lieu of the divinity, by imposing legal sanctions. It is for human law to punish that crime against nature, blasphemy, as God is nature itself.

You will find the same network of ideas regarding “save the planet,” whereby daring to query “nature” as portrayed by “climate change-apologists,” is cast as a blasphemy against Nature—Nature that cannot speak back, hence needs human surrogates and legal rejoinders.

Where is the gift? In a religious vision of nature, God has given humanity the gift of speech, unique among living creatures, a gift now turned against the giver, God. A gift defiled.

Usury, money-lending at interest? Against nature?

That complex argument occupied scholars for some six centuries in Europe, in the distant wake of Roman jurisprudence on mutuum (loan), mediated by Christian theological interpretations, and may be boldly summed up as follows: the lender of money uses money as a measure to decide on interest rates, hence commits a moral fault. What is moral is charity. Natural justice wants you to give, not to lend at profit. Lending money at interest or expecting a refund is immoral. Charity is immeasurable.

Let us keep in stock the idea of a moral fault; that is a crime of violence against natural law, here charity—and again the idea of giving.

To sum we have, reading Hell 7, three crimes against Nature; all three bound to the idea of the gift. How does it relate to scholarship?

Suicide? For a scholar, suicide is not to realize that scholarly activity is bound by and to the “nature” in which a scholar lives, as we say without thinking seriously about what it implies: a natural environment.

If you are a scholar at a university, the university is your natural environment. It does not mean you agree, in private, with its diktats and arbitrary fancies; it means that you have fully understood what that “nature” requires of you.

Some institutions used to, some still do, require adherence to a set of explicit values, faith or ideologically based. That is their nature, and like in Dante’s world, the scholar who does not comply is perceived as committing a grave injustice, a moral fault, of violence against the nature for the university, refusing the gift of belonging to it.

The situation is perverse when the nature of the institution is not declared contractually: often, universities speak of their “values,” of their “vision,” of their “goals,” yet without having themselves (and their communication office) a clear idea of what it entails and what these words mean. In fact, they are creating a nature against which scholars can be held accountable for blasphemy, and may be led to commit, figuratively, suicide.

But what about usury, the third crime against nature? To recall the argument that it is the opposite of giving: Scholarship is in essence charitable. It is a gift. Some academics are scholars, many are not. And that is fine. It is part of the division of labour that makes up an academic workforce. But the gift of scholarship is generosity: sharing without expecting a return, a profit; and conversely accepting gracefully to be given knowledge.

There are two factors at play here: freedom and value.

Concerning a scholar’s freedom, a true scholar must retain the right to choose with whom scholarship should be shared, and thus be able to share it freely, and not under duress of “protocols” and what not. In order to make sharing it a real gift, an act of free choice. Giving under rules of obligation, thus for non-scholarly reasons, is not giving. It is not caritas. It is an economic transaction to satisfy “stake holders.”

Current college ideology is to push for Open Source, and indiscriminate sharing of research “products.” I suggest that it is not such a good scholarly practice. Scholarship requires to be selective. A scholar’s freedom is not to share everything with all and sundry, or with “partners” imposed by outside protocols; that is a false freedom. It is a usurpation.

A scholar’s freedom, that is to exercise one own’s freedom as a scholar, is to decide who is worthy of being given the fruits of scholarship. The Republic of Letters of pre-modern Europe was not a network of free loaders: it was a consciously aware and careful exchange of ideas. The current, and often fraudulent “peer-review” nonsense is a mendacious copy of the true peerage of scholars of the defunct respublica literaria.

This inane, and innate now, percept of “sharing” scholarship is perilous.

At a banal level, we know how the Internet can translate complex scholarly arguments into political propaganda, concepts into percepts, veracity into partisan opinions. My mentor in rhetoric, Marc Fumaroli, used to say, scholarship rests on “des têtes d’épingle” (on pinheads), meaning: it is hard to share ideas with those who do not wish to understand minute nuances, which make “all the difference,” and prefer to believe in brushstroke “knowing.” Popularized knowledge cannot care about decisive, often imperceptible, nuances, the media hardly, the Web2.0, that agglutinative mess, never.

That alone should guard us against placing scholarly knowledge within the reach of anyone and everyone.

At a deeper level, the Open Source managerial ideology, as it is one, is based on a fallacy regarding the rewards of scholarship for the natural environment in which a scholar operates.

Here is how: universities expect returns from sharing all scholarship. When I say “expect,” I do not imply any explicit strategy but, as all ideologies, it is an internalized mindset hardly ever brought out into full light. That expectation is based on the capitalist notion of value.

Or rather, surplus value.

Scholars create surplus value, that is wealth in excess of the work they perform, and the costs attached to it. Some colleges use the “cost of employment” method of calculation in order to avoid measuring value. This is why academic institutions that retain a faint sense that academia is somewhat different from the service industry, have developed a system of rewards, in cash, in privileges or in titulature. It is made to supplement salaries, materially or symbolically, out of a sense, perhaps moral, perhaps amoral, in any case practical, that surplus value should be recognized, without being admitted fully.

As we all know, workers have no control on surplus value, no more than scholars have control of the surplus value they create. What remains surprising is how meekly scholars, and academics, accept that the surplus value they create has, in reality, next to no value to them. In that respect alone academic scholars are workers.

And here, on this controversial note, we shall leave Dante and Virgil when they enter the fantastic and fiery world of Hell 8, with its 10 pits, and finally reach the frozen lake of Hell 9: there they will contemplate Evil Incarnate chewing the brains of three ultimate human evils, three traitors. This will demand another ten pages.

Some References

Irène Rosier-Catach. Le blasphème—Perspectives historiques, théoriques, comparatistes. Annuaire de l’École pratique des hautes études, section des sciences religieuses (2018-2019), 127, 2020, pp. 535-550.

Cargo cult science:
Richard P., Feynman. Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! New York: W. W. Norton, 1985.

Charity and self-love:
Jean-Robert Armogathe, “Conférences,” in Annuaire de l’École pratique des hautes études, section des sciences religieuses (2005-2006), 114, 2005, pp. 333-339.

Epideixis (of scholars):
Philippe-Joseph Salazar, “Nobel Rhetoric, Or Petrarch’s Pendulum,” Philosophy & Rhetoric, 42(4), 2009, pp. 373-400.

Marie-Dominique Chenu, “Orthodoxie et hérésie. Le point de vue du théologien,” in Annales. Économies, sociétés, civilisations, 18(1), 1963, pp. 75-80.

Antonio Calcagno, “Hannah Arendt and Augustine of Hippo : On the Pleasure of and Desire for Evil,” in Laval théologique et philosophique, 66(2), 2010, pp. 371-385.

Republic of Letters:
Marc Fumaroli. La République des Lettres. Paris: Gallimard, 2015.

Science as percepts:
Gustavo Bueno. ¿Qué es la ciencia? La respuesta de la teoría del cierre categorial. Oviedo: Pentalfa, 1995.

Skhole and work:
Elisabeth-Charlotte Welskopf, “Loisir et esclavage dans la Grèce antique,” in Actes du colloque 1973 sur l’esclavage, Actes du Groupe de Recherches sur l’Esclavage depuis l’Antiquité (1976), 4, pp. 159-178.

Society of leisure:
Joffre Dumazedier. “The Masses, Culture and Leisure.” Diogenes 11 (44), 1963, pp. 33-42.

John T. Jr Noonan. The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957.

Vita contemplativa:
Christian Trottmann. “Vita activa, vita contemplativa : enjeux pour le Moyen Âge,” in Mélanges de l’École française de Rome. Moyen-Age, 117, n°1, 2005, pp. 7-25.

Wisdom of the Ancients:
François de La Mothe Le Vayer. De la patrie et des étrangers et autres petits traités sceptiques (first modern edition). Paris: Desjonquères, 2003.

French philosopher and essayist Philippe-Joseph Salazar writes on rhetoric as philosophy of power. Laureate of the Prix Bristol des Lumières in 2015 for his book on jihad (translated as, Words are Weapons. Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror, Yale UP). In 2022, the international community of rhetoricians honoured him with a Festschrift, The Incomprehensible: The Critical Rhetoric of Philippe-Joseph Salazar. He holds a Distinguished Professorship in Rhetoric and Humane Letters in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Featured: Chart of Hell, by Sandro Botticelli; painted ca. 1480-1490.