Francis Wolff

Vers une épistémè de l’épistémè. Les techniques de vérité à l’âge classique grec

Listening track

[00:00-03:05] In this presentation, Francis Wolff uses the Foucaultian “archaeologist” in order to uncover the episteme of the Greeks, their “historical a priori” – that is to say, the historical conditions of the possibility of knowledge and rationality in antiquity (5th-4th century BC). [03:06-15:32] To underline the singularity of this “Foucaultian” analysis, Wolff carefully distinguishes the archaeological point of view from two other possible perspectives on the history of sciences: the “evolutionary” point of view and “historical epistemology” à la Kuhn. [15:33-26:03] Then, Wolff wonders why history of mathematics as a science began in the 4th century BC, while the history of physics as a science only began two thousands years later. And he proposes five “classical” hypotheses, which he considers false, to try to provide his own “archaeological” answer. [26:04-35:40] Thus, he detours through the procedures of veridiction in the judiciary, which (during the classical Greek period) took for the first time an “agonistic” and “logocentric” structure. Wolff does not view this as the substitution of an archaic irrational model for a rational one but rather the constitution of a new “dialogical” model. [35:41-48:16] This same model is also discovered at work in the order of scientific knowledge: a Greek “scientific” text proves indeed to be a collection of arguments that aims to persuade the undecided with technical or extra-technical “proofs”. [48:17-52:27] Thus, what is the historical a priori of Greek knowledge that the archaeologist discovers? It is characterized by three dialogical techniques of truth: the persuasive technique of rhetoric, the demonstrative technique of apodeixis, and the refutation of dialectical contradiction. These three techniques constitute the “democratic” regime of truth typical of the classical Greek period: a proposition can be recognized as a truth if and only if the interlocutor recognizes it effectively as a truth. [52:28-59:59] Discussion.

Keywords: truth, archaeology, history of sciences, techniques, Ancient Greece.

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