The Exemplary Rhetor: On Anti-Philosophy and Sophistics in Alain Badiou




Rhetoric, Alain Badiou, Sophistics, Anti-Philosophy, Exemplarity


This article investigates the ambiguous status of rhetoric, situated between proper philosophy and mere sophistry, through Alan Badiou’s three exemplary figures of thought: the philosopher, the anti-philosopher, and the sophist. With the recent return of the sophist in politics in the form of populist politicians, contemporary rhetorical studies have expressed a need for the discipline to reconsider its alliance with relativist sophistics. However, by studying Badiou’s three exemplary figures, and relating them to his understanding of the three forms of negation, the article explores a possible rift between sophistical rhetoric and anti-philosophical populism that complicates prevalent understandings of the relationship between rhetoric, philosophy, and sophistics. Finally, the article brings up some issues concerning how to fit exemplarity in general, and the three exemplary figures in particular, into the framework of Badiou’s entire philosophy and discusses how to potentially counteract these limitations.


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