Re: MD Rhetoric as Philosophy

From: Matt the Enraged Endorphin (
Date: Sun Sep 15 2002 - 19:49:00 BST

Hey Rick,

Thank you for the academic redescription. As it happens, I understand that
rhetoric is commonly meant today as the "art of persuasion." That dance,
the Mona Lisa, and Beethoven's 5th, under the academic rubric of rhetoric,
are not considered to be rhetorical or as having sprung from rhetoric.
That Toulmin, Burke, and Aristotle are major voices of academic rhetoric.

However, that redescription misses the point of what I wrote. I
consciously redefined rhetoric in an attempt to better formulate the causal
dependence of the communication of beliefs.

For instance, what you say here would supposedly give my narrative a
reductio ad absurdum quality:

>Consider that under your
>definition, absolutely every last word, action or product of any person
>would be "rhetorical." The Mona Lisa would be a work of rhetoric, as would
>Beethoven's 5th...

Indeed, that was the point of my redescription: our communication is
rhetorical by nature. The Mona Lisa either convinces us of its beauty or not.

And further you attempt to undermine the rest of what I say as not having
anything to do with rhetoric (a very strategic, ethos-ended, rhetorical
move, I must say):

>the rest of your comments seem overly general and really have nothing to do
>with the study of rhetoric. If you're really interested in finding out what
>the study of rhetoric is about consult books by Chaim Perelman, Steven
>Toulmin, Kenneth Burke, IA Richards, and of course Aristotle.

On the other hand, once one follows my redescription, I think my other
points do have something to do with rhetoric, though maybe not Professional
Rhetoric. Essentially, my effort is in the same vein as Rorty's attempt to
de-professionalize, de-Fach philosophy. This isn't to say that Toulmin,
Burke, and Aristotle don't have anything to add to the conversation. But
it is to say that people like Pirsig, Rorty, Grassi, Foucault, Habermas,
Derrida, Bloom, Davidson, and Nietzsche do. I believe that if we move to a
different understanding of rhetoric it will facilitate our moving into a
post-Philosophical, literary culture. That, if we move to an understanding
of rhetoric as philosophy, rhetoric as striving towards excellence, we will
be better off.

But, thank you. Your description of academic Rhetoric, as a contrastive
measure, does well to underscore the differences between the former and my
new redecription.


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