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P A R T T H R E E Empty Speech 219 S E V E N The Writing on the Wall Missed Connections Heidegger never cared for Freud, least of all his metapsy- chological works. “He simply did not want to have to ac- cept that such a highly intelligent and gifted man as Freud could produce such artifi cial, inhuman, indeed absurd and purely fi ctitious constructions about homo sapiens,” the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss recalls. When reading Freud’s theoretical works, “Heidegger never ceased shak- ing his head.”1 The philosopher’s frustration was readily apparent in

A Conceptual History of Everyday Talk
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Contents List of Abbreviations in Text Citations ix Introduction 1 P A R T O N E Chatter 13 1 Barbers and Philosophers 15 2 Fuzzy Math 49 3 Preacher- Prattle 85 P A R T T W O Idle Talk 121 4 Beginning More than Halfway There 123 5 Ancient Figures of Speech 157 6 The World Persuaded 191 P A R T T H R E E Empty Speech 217 7 The Writing on the Wall 219 8 First and Final Words 240 9 A Play of Props 260 Conclusion 288 Acknowledgments 305 Notes 307 Index 319

one in need of philosophical commentary and now, in the algorithmic era, ongoing technological support. In particular, the following chapters trace the conceptual history of everyday talk from Søren Kier ke gaard’s inaugural theory of “chat- ter” (snak) to Martin Heidegger’s recuperative discussion of “idle talk” (Gerede), to Jacques Lacan’s culminating treatment of “empty speech” (parole vide)— and ultimately, if only allusively, into our digital present, where small talk on various social media platforms has now become the basis for big data in the hands of

becomes one of many means to the ends of public opinion and collective will- formation. As we have seen, however, there is often something incessant about everyday talk, particularly when it occurs as chatter, idle talk, empty speech, and the like. More than means- turned- ends or means- to- ends, these average, everyday modes of discourse frequently operate as means without end. Speakers regularly suspend the pursuit of attainable rhe- torical advantage in order to prolong their own utterances— and for no other reason than to prolong their own utterances. If

) Durchsprechen (speaking- through), 181, 185– 88, 189t, 192– 94, 193t, 199, 202t, 208– 10. See also dialegesthai (speaking- through) echte Sprechen (genuine speech), 181, 185, 188, 189t, 192, 193t, 199, 202t, 208– 10. See also logos Eckstein, Emma, 263– 66, 268, 275, 286– 87 education in Germany, 131– 34, 147– 48 Eftersnakken (parroting), 40– 42, 47– 48 egalitarianism, 56– 58 ego, 229– 38, 240– 42, 249– 53, 257, 259, 261, 277, 285, 286, 298 eiron (mock- modest person), 45, 48, 174– 75 eironeia (mock modesty), 45– 46 elitism, 58 empty set, 77– 81, 83 empty speech: in

measures deemed necessary for cutting out this unhealthy part of the body politic. The genius of Touré’s political strategy was that he left the category of coun- terrevolutionary sufficiently open so that anyone might one day find him- self on the wrong side of the line separating “the healthy part” from the “enemies of the people.” This required the use of empty speech, in which the terms embedded in sonorous rhetoric seem to point to clear referents, but those referents were constantly shifting and being redefined. Mary Cal- lahan (2005) describes a similar

consequence is, What are the effects on thought and behavior of verbal formulas that are forced upon people, and that they treat with skepticism and irony? i argue that as in other authoritarian settings (see navarro- Yashin 2002; Yurchak 2006), such empty speech has discernible effects on people’s behavior, even (or perhaps especially) when it is treated with irony. We must make a clear distinction, however, between clearly articulated ideological positions, even those that are treated with irony or are parroted unthinkingly, and the situation that prevailed in

the analysis is the finely calibrated reaction of the mass of the Guinean population3 to events simultaneously 2. Literally “wooden” language, the term is best translated as “empty speech.” 3. it is important to note that the popular uprising of 2007, like the two general strikes of 2006, was a nationwide event, garnering mass participation in every region of the country. State The Symbolic Death of Sékou Touré / 167 proximate and more distant. Guineans gauged the rise in the cost of fuel and transport; the prohibitive cost of the staple food, rice; and the