Speaking with authority

biographical and ethical reflection in the work of Raimond Gaita

Alexander Segal

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Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between the ethical reflection of the Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita and his biography Romulus, my father. The dominant picture is one of connectedness: the philosophy argues that ethics must be responsive to human individuality, and that the story of a person's life reveals their individuality; the biography tells the individuality-revealing story of the life of the author's father ' whose example shaped the author's philosophy. According to both the philosophy and the biography, individuality is expressed in speech; thus the paper explores the qualities of Romulus Gaita's speech as it is characterised in the biography. This exploration discovers something that displaces the picture of continuity between the philosophy and the biography and destabilises the concepts in terms of which this continuity is articulated. For the honesty that makes Romulus so impressive is tied to an insistence on being true to the meaning of one's words ' a kind of meaning that breaks with the context of utterance and hence with speech. And Romulus's emphasis on literal truth seems to entail lack of emphasis on the kind of truth-to-self that is essential to individuality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalAuto/biography: bulletin of the British Sociological Association Study Group on Auto/Biography
Volume10
Issue number1 / 2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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Raimond Gaita
Individuality
Authority
Philosophy
Continuity
Honesty
Context of Utterance
Person
Philosopher
Connectedness

Cite this

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title = "Speaking with authority: biographical and ethical reflection in the work of Raimond Gaita",
abstract = "This paper explores the relationship between the ethical reflection of the Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita and his biography Romulus, my father. The dominant picture is one of connectedness: the philosophy argues that ethics must be responsive to human individuality, and that the story of a person's life reveals their individuality; the biography tells the individuality-revealing story of the life of the author's father ' whose example shaped the author's philosophy. According to both the philosophy and the biography, individuality is expressed in speech; thus the paper explores the qualities of Romulus Gaita's speech as it is characterised in the biography. This exploration discovers something that displaces the picture of continuity between the philosophy and the biography and destabilises the concepts in terms of which this continuity is articulated. For the honesty that makes Romulus so impressive is tied to an insistence on being true to the meaning of one's words ' a kind of meaning that breaks with the context of utterance and hence with speech. And Romulus's emphasis on literal truth seems to entail lack of emphasis on the kind of truth-to-self that is essential to individuality.",
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AB - This paper explores the relationship between the ethical reflection of the Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita and his biography Romulus, my father. The dominant picture is one of connectedness: the philosophy argues that ethics must be responsive to human individuality, and that the story of a person's life reveals their individuality; the biography tells the individuality-revealing story of the life of the author's father ' whose example shaped the author's philosophy. According to both the philosophy and the biography, individuality is expressed in speech; thus the paper explores the qualities of Romulus Gaita's speech as it is characterised in the biography. This exploration discovers something that displaces the picture of continuity between the philosophy and the biography and destabilises the concepts in terms of which this continuity is articulated. For the honesty that makes Romulus so impressive is tied to an insistence on being true to the meaning of one's words ' a kind of meaning that breaks with the context of utterance and hence with speech. And Romulus's emphasis on literal truth seems to entail lack of emphasis on the kind of truth-to-self that is essential to individuality.

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