1 Mar 2009

Sound, Speech, and Statement in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book VII, §57, and in Deleuze's Logic of Sense (Logique du Sens)

by Corry Shores
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Diogenes Laertius

Lives of Eminent Philosophers
(Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων)

Book VII


Language's elements are the alphabet's 24 letters.

The term "letter" has three meanings:

1) the spoken letter's particular sound, and

2) the written letter's symbol or character,

3) the letter's name; for example, 'alpha' for α.

Now, there is a difference between voice and speech.
1) the voice might just be mere noises from the mouth. But,
2) speech must always be articulate.

And, there is a further difference between speech and a sentence (or statement):

1) a sentence or statement always signifies something, and is never unintelligible. However,

2) a spoken word need not always signify something. For example blituri (βλίτυρι) is unintelligible, yet still it is a spoken word.
And to frame a sentence is more than mere utterance, for while vocal sounds are uttered, things are meant, that is, are matters of discourse. (text page 167a)

In Logic of Sense (Loqique du Sens), Deleuze distinguishes bodily non-sense expressions and surface articulations.

To render language possible thus signifies assuring that sounds are not confused with the sonorous qualities of things, with the sound effects of bodies, or with their actions and passions. What renders language possible is that which separates sounds from bodies and organizes them into propositions, freeing them for the expressive function. It is always a mouth which speaks; but the sound is no longer the noise of a body which eats – a pure orality – in order to become the manifestation of a subject expressing itself. One speaks always of bodies and their mixtures, but sounds have ceased being qualities attached to these bodies in order that they may enter into a new relation with them, that of denotation, and that they may express this power of speaking and of being spoken. Denotation and manifestation do not found language, they are only made possible with it. They presuppose the expression. The expression is founded on the event, as an entity of the expressible or the expressed. What renders language possible is the event is confused neither with the proposition which expresses it, nor with the state of affairs denoted by the proposition. And in truth, without the event all of this would be only noise – and an indistinct noise." (Logic of Sense 208-209)

Rendre le langage possible signifie ceci : faire que les sons ne se confondent pas avec les qualités sonores des choses, avec le bruitage des corps, avec leurs actions et passions. Ce qui rend le langage possible, c’est ce qui sépare les sons des corps et les organize en propositions, les rend libres pour la fonction expressive. C’est toujours une bouche qui parle ; mais le son a cessé d’être le bruit d’un corps qui mange, pure oralité, pour devenir la manifestation d’un sujet qui s’exprime. C’est toujours des corps et de leurs mélanges qu’on parle, mais les sons ont cessé d’être des qualités attenant à ces corps pour entrer avec eux dans un nouveau rapport, celui de la désignation, et exprimer ce pouvoir de parler et d’être parlé. Or la désignation et la manifestation ne fondent pas le langage, elles ne sont rendues possibles qu’avec lui. Elles supposent l’expression. L’expression se fonde sur l’événement comme entité de l’exprimable ou de l’exprimé. Ce qui rend le langage possible, c’est l’événement, en tant qu’il ne se confond ni avec la proposition qui l’exprime, ni avec l’état de celui qui la prononce, ni avec l’état de choses désigné par la proposition. Et. en vérité, tout cela ne serait qui bruit sans l’événement, et bruit indistinct. (Loqique du Sens 212-213)

Images from the Diogenes text [click image for an enlargement]:


Deleuze, Gilles. Logic of Sense. Transl. Mark Lester. London:Columbia University Press, 1990, reprinted by Continuum, 2001.

Deleuze, Gilles. Logique du Sens. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1969.

Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Vol 2. Transl. R.D. Hicks. London: William Heinemann, 1925.

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