This article addresses the contentious philosophical claim that rhetoric is merely a “philosophy without tears.” Mindful of the institutional and disciplinary stakes of this claim today, it offers a genealogy of “philosophy without tears” across the past century, from the popular “no more tears” genre to midcentury debates between ordinary language philosophers and logical atomists. What emerges is an ethical argument concerning the materiality and transitivity of language, fleshed out through a rhetoric of tears and as an ontology of pain and suffering. Drawing on a rhetorical reading of Wittgenstein’s “form-of-life,” I argue that both pain and its expression should be understood as transitive rather than as epistemological or private phenomena. Transitivity helps us to better understand the perlocution-ary power of pain and suffering in the politics of war and terrorism, in the “man-philosopher,” who disavows such transitivity, and, finally, in the necessary risk of responsibility toward the “other” of philosophy (and of rhetoric).

Ontology, Pain, Suffering, Transitivity, Wittgenstein
Philosophy and Rhetoric
Department of English Language and Literature

Murray, S.J. (2017). On rhetoric and the school of philosophy without tears. Philosophy and Rhetoric (Vol. 50, pp. 528–551).