Language and politics in the philosophy of Adam Small: some personal reflections

Michael Cloete


Small’s philosophy draws its inspiration from the humanistic tradition of Western philosophical thinking. His appropriation of this
tradition is especially evident in his reformulation of the western legacy of “philosophy-as-dialogue”. From this perspective, Small
proceeds by way of a linguistic turn, in which Kaaps (the language of “ordinary”, “simple” so-called “coloured people”) is
presented as a worthy conduit of human reason in the pursuit of dialogue and justice in apartheid South Africa, in spite of
numerous attempts over the years by racist-inspired scholarship to reduce the language to the level of ridicule and caricature.
This article seeks to evaluate the philosophical merits of Small’s linguistic turn, in which the “will-to-dialogue” is postulated as
the normative context for exploring the question of the possibility of being-human in apartheid South Africa. Keywords:
intellectual conscience, humanism, Kaaps, linguistic turn, philosophical reason, will-to-dialogue.

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