In this article, I consider the moment where speech becomes violent because it wants to name at any price – something that can be felt as a desire in speech, a tension of creation and destruction. I discuss Habermas' theory of communicative action and the propositional conception of truth that underpins it. That conception of truth can be contrasted to the theory of truth as event, as it has been developed by Alain Badiou. A similarity between Badiou's theory of truth and the latent utopianism of Adorno's negative dialectics shows that, for contemporary philosophy, the first phase of Frankfurt School theorising remains important. A philosophy that is able to ‘motivate and guide the will’ (Habermas) needs to include a non-propositional conception of truth; only with a non-propositional conception of truth can we articulate what is involved in communicative violence and come to understand what the place of what cannot be said is, in thought as well as in private, social and political life.
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