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An interesting question arises in the interpretation of the caption identifying Mr Onfray in a clearly imposing unnamed building which, is, however, situated in Nice.

Mr Onfray (I shall call him O hereforth) sits apparently at the centre of the photograph, but not at the centre of all present, and certainly not in the centre of his own side of the figure/ground duality.

In traditional legends (used here in the cartographic meaning), the human focii of interest are identified from left to right, and further subdivided, if made necessary due to numbers, with further qualifying identifiers such as 'seated' or 'standing'. In this particular case of 2 important 'performers', who could each be perceived as O, there can be no centre, except in the possible anthropomorphizing of the space between the two men, which in itself is an extreme philosophical position.

The microphone is also frequently used as a symbol of recorded speech, and may also represent O in absentia as a 'citatative voice' informing the discussion. It may be argued that Mike is not in the centre of the meaning landscape, except in the traditional left-right identification. If O is only present in symbolic form, his closeness to the unidentified 'seated man on the left' could indicate that 'smontl' is a follower of O's argument.

However, the correct legend "O (on the right)" could bring accusations of political bias, as, indeed, is "O (center)". This kind of semiology is clearly fraught with difficulties.

Audiences tend to deduce that if there is only one Mike, then the interviewer is the one holding it (especially if the interviewer is also holding a book of questions. Interviewees are normally expected to have answers, not questions). But what if O is an interviewer?

Sadly we have no further information with which to work. We are in Nice talking about Caen in a grand hall that dates at least as far back as the time when grand halls had large murals. The occasion is unidentified, as is the date. All we know is that O is in there somewhere.

No hyperlinks were damaged in the production of this comment.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 07:17:22 AM EST
The guy holding the mike looks to be an unbearable right-wing journalist-cum-wannabe-intellectual whose name I have chosen to forget. So yeah, he's presumably the interviewer in the context, i.e. is hogging the show.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 07:22:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Giesbert, known as FOG.

Bawn in the USA. I didn't know that.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 07:34:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for your reminder of the vacuity of some semiological speculation Sven :-)  I'm glad to say that I was never a fan of the theoretical elaboration of what had been, in Barthes' Mythologies, a quite straight-forward if perspicacious form of analysis. As implied by all your unresolved questions, a more practical response would involve a quick trip to Google, inserting "onfray" and "nice" and the third result is no less than a a link, via Onfray's page, to a video of the whole conference (you can even see me being ushered to a seat by a rather irritated member of staff). I include that link, as I know that you appreciate them so much :-)  


As you will see if you use the link, the conference took place at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen on 19th June 2011.

In my photo in the diary Onfray's mike can just be seen between his knee and a woman's head.

Here's a photo of Onfray with mike, typical of about 95% of the conference (Guisbert didn't "hog" it at all):


 More interestingly, I think, one of my friends wrote a surprisingly critical report about it and I wrote a response defending Onfray. I later learned that my friend's  wife is not only a doctor but also a psycho-analyst, and Onfray has written a very critical book about Freud.

As an example of inaccuracy and yet more hyperbole, you say that when the guy intervened with some rant about Marx, there were "Security guards running in from all corners". In fact one security guy went to the guy and spoke to him quietly without touching him, though he kept on ranting. Yes, Onfray did sensibly and with good humour say that he would reply to the guy and people did applaud hoping the guy would shut up till later. When it was question-time Onfray did make a point of replying first to the guy's point about Marx.

Where was the "fawning adoration by Franz-Olivier Giesbert"? (He had said in his introduction that he admired Onfray, but this didn't affect the way he handled the session). He merely asked quite reasonable questions such as citing a philosophy book's title: "Why Philosophy ?" and he asked Onfray for his reasons for doing philosophy. Later, noting that Onfray has been accused of being polemical and aggressive, he asked why Onfray followed Nietzsche's idea of "philosophy with a hammer". Onfray replied that it was important to be clear and not hypocritical about some things and to express disagreements, without getting personal - as some of his critics HAVE done - even though you may not have read them. When a psychoanalyst in the audience asked a question Onfray welcomed this and said he was happy to discuss Freud's ideas rationally (and that some psycho-analysts had even said that his book had been valauble in causing them to rethink their attitude to Freud).

Contrary to your ludicrous claim that there was "little or no argumentaion", Onfray replied to the guy asking about Marx that he was not totally opposed to Marx, that he particularly appreciated Marx's early writing on alienation. He said that his approach was often to set a thinker in context, thus while discussing Descartes he would also give more attention than was often the case to Gassendi. In the case of Marx, Onfray also dealt with Proudhon and the anarchists, as well as English thinkers such as Robert Owen. I'm not easily impressed, but in general Onfray's responses to interviewer or members of the audience were models of lucid argument, this quality partly explains the great popularity of his books. Have you read any ? 

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 02:03:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The video, zeitgeistal as it was, nevertheless revealed what I perceived to be the real semiotic motivation for your inclusion of that particular photograph taken at the conference that took place at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen on 19th June 2011. In Nice.

What you sought, subliminally, was to emphasize your intimacy with O: you were there. You were a witness. In my business we call it brand identification, or, in some areas of the trade, consumer loyalty.

But the diplomat should always avoid such penetrating tokens of support. "In what way can I present information so that all aspects of the challenges to the veracity of such information are equally represented?" "I said that."

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 02:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Sven, it's, er, more than generous of you to demonstrate yet again the inadequacies of certain kinds of semiotic speculation :-)  In this case, rather than using Goggle to get at some actual facts, you might have just asked me about my motivation. Instead this kind of pseudo-psycho-analytic invention, of the kind Onfray condemns in Freud, wrapped up with some marketing jargon, is quite mistaken.

In fact the reason for using one of the photos I took at the conference was much more prosaic; I wanted to use one of my own photos rather than having (as with some of the other pics in the diary) to borrow somebody else's from the net (though it's for small-scale, non-commercial use). Had I wanted to signal my "intimacy" with him, I might have chosen the photo I used in my previous reply to you. But I thought the one used, which puts him at a greater apparent distance from me, was a more interesting image and it fits with the point made in the diary about continental philosophy being more concerned with the historical context of ideas.

I think I make it quite clear that I respect and admire Onfray; it's for others to make their own judgments about the validity of his arguments and the worth of his Université populaire project and I cite some of his views and others can do their own research about him in order to form their own opinions.

I have no time for the idea that one should seek to conceal one's own convictions in the name of "diplomacy". That's the same sort of mistake as mainly US idea that in journalism objectivity is just a matter of balance - "he said - she said"  ("I couldn't possibly comment"), instead of the careful study of the evidence in order to arrive at the truth, as far as it can be ascertained. Unfortunately, even the fact-checkers in US journalism suffer from the "balance" syndrome:

It drives home the point that what journalists call "objectivity" is really a radical post-modernism-a denial that anything can ever really be known about the world, that all we really can do is report various claims about the world. While factchecking as an enterprise would seem to inherently accept the idea that, yes, there are facts and they can be checked, in practice the people called factcheckers deny that what they do can be used to meaningfully distinguish between candidates...


In Onfray's own case, he makes it quite clear in his recent book that he admires Camus and is very critical of Sartre; it's up to readers to decide whether his arguments and evidence justify his judgments.

But as Onfray himself said at the conference in Nice, to generally approve of someone doesn't mean one agrees with all of their views and I think, having read some Sartre and some things about him, including this:


that he's not really fair to Sartre. But I'm happy to know where he stands with regard to the people he writes about, including  justified (in my opinion) contempt for Freud.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Jan 25th, 2013 at 06:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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