Persona & Parrhesia: Research notes on the dialectics of the real

Matteo Stocchetti


If reality is socially established through practices that, directly or indirectly, depend on communication and therefore on some notion of truth, the idea of a post-truth communicative regime or “age” may seem not only bizarre but also worrying. The dissolution of the real announced by the prophets of postmodernism in the form of either a “perfect crime” or a “liquid reality”, has been interpreted as the effect of the crisis of truth and legitimation that Jean-Françoise Lyotard referred to with his notions of ”performativity” and ”legitimation by force”. In this perspective, reality depends on truth and the possibility of truth depends in turn, by configurations of power that seem too elusive and ephemeral to be effectively engaged with in either theory or practice. In this paper, I mobilize the notions of parrhesia and persona in an effort to establish an alternative standpoint to discuss the epistemological and ontological implications of the postmodern condition and the crisis of truth associated to it. The main point can perhaps be summarized in the idea that, if the new regime of truth (or post-truth) relies on persona expressing the roles/characters compatible with it, the notion of parrhesia may gain a critical relevance for the normative evaluation of these personas and the social implications of their truth. Famously re-introduced by Michel Foucault in his analysis of truth and its discursive conditions, the notion of parrhesia has a heuristic potential that is not fully exploited. While challenging in fundamental ways the social construction of reality on practical grounds, the digitalization of social life presents also theoretical challenges some of which can be addressed by the reconceptualization of parrhesia in relation to the social role of the persona rather than the individual. In my paper, I present some preliminary research notes in this direction.


Parrhesia, persona, dialectics of the real, post-digital, post-truth

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