Editor’s Note

Philosophy and Rhetoric 56 (3-4):213-214 (2023)
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Abstract

This issue of Philosophy & Rhetoric, a somewhat rare double-issue, features significant and inspiring work that moves in a variety of directions and proceeds in a number of idioms, while also responding directly and indirectly to a complex exigence, though perhaps in a less familiar sense of the term, as what Giorgio Agamben calls a “messianic modality” that “coincides with the possibility of philosophy itself”—exigency as the expression of what remains unforgettable in the midst of all that is no longer remembered for the sake of history’s progress. Appearing between contingency and necessity, exigency is not then a problem to be re-solved but the opening of a question; or more precisely, the epideictic expression of question-ability, the beginning of inquiry into what calls forth and perhaps even demands its possibility, for now.On what grounds do old questions stand? Through what power and by what happenstance are new questions found and formed? And when—in what kinds of moments do questions appear? With what force do they arrive? At what cost? What questions inflict violence? What violence thwarts a question? What do we (not) ask? How does the (un)questionable give way? Can multiple disciplines ever pose let alone inquire into the same question? What are the (de)constitutive elements of a good question? What does a good question do? Has pious genealogy corrupted the question? Does the discovery of a question remain one of the last “secrets,” the unhinged authentic insight about which little can or should be said?A century ago, announcing the launch of Angelus Novus, Benjamin reflected on the moment and contended that the “vocation of a journal is to proclaim the spirit of its age.” Such a task, in his view, demanded a strict “relevance to the present” even over “unity or clarity” and required exposing the “talented fakes” and resisting “the sterile pageant of new and fashionable events” that obscure how “impossible it is in our age to give a voice to any communality [Gemeinsamkeit].” It is a tall and certainly debatable order, one that Benjamin himself was unable to realize—Angelus never got off the ground. But perhaps the underlying insight remains, the basic importance of holding space for work that discerns and expresses the potential of question-ability.This potential may well be the spirit-breath of an age. And, for now, here and now, it may well be a pressing question—on the shore of Ontario’s Crawford Lake, waiting for official word that the Holocene has ended; in a largely unacknowledged transition, seemingly out of the pandemic’s worst, ramping back up to speed, and yet deeply uncertain about the next normal; in the midst of the two “wars” (a term to which all participating parties will not agree) that make the front page (or the top of the feed) and the many that do not, the grotesque surfeit of increasingly automatic-droning violence unfolding on the grounds of sanctified rage that makes it difficult to ask let alone grasp what violence is; at the gates of the university, where so much inquiry is supplanted with so many strategic plans, and academic freedom is slowly juridified to the advantage of legislatures eager to rewrite the mission; and, in the midst of the noisy quietude that thwarts so many of the small inquiries into well-being that weave the fabric of public life.It’s been a pleasure to work with all of those who have contributed to this issue of Philosophy & Rhetoric. Indeed, the pages that follow radiate with curiosity and insight. Together, they are an expression of inquiry in which question-ability remains unforgettable and there remains a moment to ask—after the question.

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Erik Doxtader
University of South Carolina

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