Mere Rhetoric (education)

Kairos Podcast




Two definitions of time for ancient Greeks:, chromos and kairos


While chronos chucks around relatively constantly, one minute after minute hour after hours, without any particularly change, kairos is a moment of exigenence, where everything matters on timing. There’s a graph that I like about kairos that I would love to show you, but since I can’t paint you a picture, I’ll have to sing yo a song. While Chronos moves forward like this [solid pitch], Kairos starts low, comes to a fever pitch and then descends again. It sounds like this [assending and descending pitch].  If Chronos is time, Kairsos is timing.




So let’s break down the parts of the kairos song with an example, say, slavery in America:


(low tone) down here might be called the moment that slavery in American begins to be a public issue. This could be called the origin. It might be the 1619, when the first African slaves were brought by the Dutch, but only if the issue of slavery was contested. The origin isn’t necessary when the situation started, but only when people started talking about the situation. The escalating conversation is what makes a public problem move towards a moment of kairos. So even though there were slaves in America in 1619, the escalation came in the 19th century, as the institutuion of slavery changed from something small-scale, individual and temporary to something large-scale that lasted over generations. People began to furiously debate whether there ought to be slavery in the United States on both sides and the issue became more intensely argued (sliding upwards tone). This process is called the maturationof the public issue.  It eventually reached the climax  of the issue (high note.) This high point, the moment of kairos, can be hard to point down: is it the emancipation proclamation? Is it the whole period of the civil war? But somewhere in there, the issue of slavery in America had to be decided. The moment had come. This is what E. C. White calls “"a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.” Whatever various moments of kairos there were for the issue of slavery, there came a point where the moment passed. The 13th amendment was passed, northern soldiers were dispatched to make sure no one got “re-enslaved,” and the issue of slavery was settled. Now that doesn’t mean people still didn’t argue able it. In fact, lots of people may still debate something after the moment of kairos has passed. This is called deterioration. (sliding lowering tone) The issue of slavery, and what counted as slavery continued through the 19th and even into the 20th century. Today, though, there is effectively no debate about slavery. Sure, there might be a few whack jobs, but you won’t see letters to the editor in the New York Times or Washington Post recommending that we go back to chattle slavery in America. The issue has disintergrated. (low note).




Some issues, like slavery, come to a head, to a single moment of kairos, and then disintegrate for ever, never to return again. Others, though, return periodically. For examples of these kinds of cyclical moments of kairos, you might think about how debates about gun control are renewed every time there is a particularly horrific act of violence. Something terrible happens—the origin—and people renew a fierce debate about whether gun control would have prevented the tragedy. The issue escalates into maturity and then the moment of kairos arrives-- a law is passed, or isn’t passed, and then people gradually stop talking about the issue so much and it deteriorates down again. But then after a few months or—hopefully—years, another tragedy occurs and the issue of gun control again leads to a moment of kairos. Many issues fade in and out just because people lose interest, or get caught up in a public issue that seems more pressing. For instance, people stopped talking so much about violence in schools after Sept 11th because issues of terrorism and privacy and war seemed to be more important. The moment of kairos shifted.










The idea of Kairos is an old one, and a celebrated one. There are many paintings and scultures of Kairos, who was sort of a funny-looking fellow. Or let’s be blunt: he had the worst hair cut known to man. It was long in front and bald in the back, like a reverse mullet: party in the front and all business in the back. The haircut was a metaphor for how you had to grab the moment when it came, because once it was gone, you couldn’t catch it. He had a few other descriptive features. Instead of be describing them, let this Greek poem, translated by Jeffrey Walker,  explain. This poem is ekphersis, a piece of writing that describes a piece of art, in this case a sculpture of Kairos done by Lysippos of Sicyon. The rest explains itself.




From where is your sculptor? Sicyon. What is his name?


Lysippos. And who are you? Kairos the all-subduer.


Why do you go on tiptoes? I’m always running. Why do you have


Double wings on your feet? I fly like the wind.


Why do you have a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men


That I’m sharper than any razor’s edge.


Why does your hair hang down in front? For him that meets me to grab,


By God. Why is the back part bald?


None that I have once passed by on my winged feet


May seize me, even if he wishes to.


Thus the artist fashioned me, for your sake,


Stranger, and placed me at the entrance as a lesson.






--Trans. J. Walker






Direct download: Mere_Rhetoric_-_Kairos_FINAL.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 12:14pm CST

Canons of rhetoric




Today we’re going to talk about the canons of rhetoric (sound: boom). That’s silly. The canons of rhetoric (sound: pachabel’s canon). Okay, now this has just devolved into a morning show called something lik Zaph and the Pigman in the Mornings. The canons of rhetoric were the five parts of rhetoric that were emphasized in ancient classical rhetoric. They were canons the same way that people in literary studies might talk about whether Moby Dick or Huck Finn belongs in the canon—as essential to being an educated individual. They were the five elements that every good Roman rhetor had to study and develop as a student and also practice as a public speaker. The five canons are also kind of arranged in the order that you go through in working on a public speech. So without further introduction, here’s the canons:
















I like to remember these by a mnemonic: I always state my demands, just like I’m a bank robber. But












  Or, I always state my demands.




These canons of rhetoric


So let’s go through these 5 quickly:


Invention: this one is one of the controversial. There are some villains of rhetoric who will say that rhetoric doesn’t have any business dealing with invention. Soctrates, sometimes, is in this camp, saying invention, or coming up with what to say, is the business of philosophy. Or Francis Bacon who will say that you just need to figure out a tree of possibilities and don’t trust rhetoric, which is slippery with telling you how to get at knowledge. It’s true that invention wasn’t always anything under the sun and could be sticky. for example, commonplaces were these common…places from which you could argue. So a commonplace is a culturally accepted argument, like that pirates are stinky, could be a starting place to come up with your speech against a stinky person who is accused of being a pirate. Aristotle separated topics of invention into common topics, which work for any type of rhetoric and special topics which have to do with judicial, oratory or forensic speeches. Common topics include things like parts and the whole, compare and contrast, past fact and future fact, things like that. Once you explore the ways to come up with something to say, the next step in arrangement.




Arrangement is how you set up the argument. In Plato’s Pheadrus, which we’ve talked a bout in an earlier podcast, Socrates argues that a speech should have a head, a body and a conclusion. This is sort of the standard form that many pieces of western rhetoric begin to take Arrangement often took a very specific form in Classical rhetoric: introduction, statement of facts, division of parts, proof, refutation of the opponent and then conclusion.




Okay, once you have your argument and you’ve arranged it the next step is to write the actual words. What Style are you going to use? Although Hermogenes described many types of style, generally in Roman rhetoric there were 3 types




Roman Levels of Style

English Term

Latin Names

Greek Name

Rhetorical Purpose

High Style or Grand Style

supra, magniloquens


to move

Middle Style

aequabile, mediocre


to please

Low or Plain Style

infinum, humile


to teach




Every thing as style. Style isn’t something you add on because even plain style is a type of style




Memory and delivery were really important to classical rhetoricians, but these elements of the canon have been downplayed, even as invention has become more important in 21st century rhetoric. Memory was critical for presenting an oral argument in front of a judge or the senate without speech. There were several diff ways of looking t memory:


  • the degree to which a speaker successfully remembers a memorized oration
  • the facility with which a speaker calls upon his memory of apt quotations and thoughts that effectively meet the rhetorical intention
  • an analysis of the methods a speaker uses in order for the message to be retained in the memory of those hearing (mnemonics)
  • assessment of direct appeals to memory or the mention of it or related terms


In order to keep up memory, many rhetoricians used mind maps or mind palaces. You might have seen this on the BBC Sherlock: you place different information in a physical location and then imagine yourself walking through that space. For example, maybe in your speech against the supposed pirate you’ll put the things from the introduction, the sunk ships and lost gold, in the front room of a house. Then the statement of facts: the peg leg, the stinkiness, the eye patch, might be on stairs that you step over on your way to the next floor. Then you see the division of the parts of the argument in the bedroom. And so forth as you walk through the space it’s easier to memorize locations of physical things than the order of abstract things, although I’ve lost my keys enough time to know it’s no walk in the park.




Delivery is the other thing we don’t really talk about much any more. Again, back in the classical days this was all oral. Cicero and Quintilian emphasize the need for the orator to have big lungs to shout and good posture and hand gesture, stuff we don’t’ even think about in terms of rhetoric. And what about enunciation? Demosthenes the great orator who was able to incite a revolution with his words allegedly suffered from a speech impediment. So he put pebbles in his mouth and learned to speak around them. Through doing something unnecessarily hard he was able to learn to enunciate clearly. Allegedly when he was asked to name the three most important elements in oratory, he replied "Delivery, delivery and delivery! Classical orators were doing this sort of thing all the time. Many writers suggest things like doing to the sea short to shout against the waves or doing gymnastics to improve gesture and posture.




So those are the canons of rhetoric. Less dangours than canons of war, less wedding-associated than pachabel’s canons, but vastly important in the anceitn world. It’s funny to think how much rhetoric has changed. For all that we look back at ancent rhetoric to clarify rheteorical theory, we forget how oral a culture it was, and how much traditions and commonplaces figured in. If you have an idea of what the new canons of rhetoric are or how modern rhetoric would look if we recaptured some of the older canons, feel free to email me at Until next time [canon]








Direct download: Mere_Rhetoric_-_Canons_of_Rhetoric_FINAL.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 9:24am CST

Kenneth Burke




Welcome to Mere rhetoric a  podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that have shaped the rhetorical world. I’m mary h and today we’re talking about KB




Burkey was a major rhetorican who lived May 5, 1897 – November 19, 1993. Also, his middle name was Duva and his grandson wrote this song. [Cat’s in the Cradle]




But Burke didn’t always want to be a rhetorican. In fact, rhetoric was kind of out of favor as an academic discipline when Burke was coming of intellectual age: he wanted to be a poet, live in Greenwich Village and be part of the Marxist bohemians. But events conspired to develop Burke as rhetorican. For one thing, he got the Marxists mad at him when he suggested the word “people” as a replacement for “worker.” Also, his poetry wasn’t taking off. That made him begin to move away from politics and production of poetry and start thinking more about criticism.




His first critical work counter-statement is still powerful today as a response to new criticism and the artforart’ssake crowd. Here he demonstrates the power of art on an audience, the rhetoricality of art. In Gregory Clark’s words, here he is “less concerned with seeing the arts thrive than helping the people on the other end of the arts” as form is received by the reader. He developed his aesthetic-rhetorical connections when he wrote extensive on how literature is a sort of "equipment for living," giving people the models of action, wisdom and expectation that help them deal with reality.




From this auspicious start, Burke’s importance to rhetorical studies only took off more. His re-definition of rhetoric as “a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” broke rhetoric out of the aristotlian understanding of rhetoric that had dominated for millennia.




Burke’s A Grammar of Motives  has as its epigraph, ad bellum purificandum -- toward the purification of war. He supposedly handwrote this saying mounted over his windowframe where he worked in an obscure New Jersey farmhouse, far from the typical academic hubbub. It’s possible that what he meant by a purification of war is that according to burke scholars James P. Zappen, S. Michael Halloran, and Scott A. Wible’s gloss of A Grammar of Motives “studying "the competitive use of the coöperative," helps us to "take delight in the Human Barnyard," on the one hand, and to "transcend it by appreciation," on the other.” Transending binaries was a big deal for Burke.




One of his biggest ideas is the “burkian third term.” Let’s imagine a war. A sandwich war. Say you really, really want tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, and I think tuna is gross (I don’t, but that’s just what makes it hypothetical). I want peanut butter and marshmellow sandwiches for lunch, but you think they’re too high in calories. We can argue all day, through lunch, and on empty stomachs about which sandwich is better, but Burke would remind us that there is a “third term” which unites us: sandwiches. We can both see eye-to eye about sandwiches. The ablity for people to connect ad divide over similarities and differences was fascinating to Burke.




In fact, that leads us nicely to another of his main ideas: identification. In A Rhetoric of Motives (not to be confused with the Grammar of Motives or the never-published Symbolic of Motives), Burke describes how symbols don’t just persuade people to do things—they also persuade people to an attitude (50). When I tell you, “well, at least we both agree on sandwiches for lunch,” we haven’t changed anything about our inablitity to choose a sandwich, but maybe I’ve changed your attitude—to me, to our lunch, to arguments in general. If I’m able to “talk your language by speech, gesture, tonality, order image, attitude idea” I’m doing what Burke calls “identifiying [my] ways with yours.” In that moment, we become consubstantial: part of me is you, and part of you is me as we engage in this identification. We are “both joined and separate, at once a distinct substance and consubstantial” (21).  




Another big idea is Burke’s pentad. This way to interpret motives and intention is described in depth in the grammar of motives. Then pentad is this: act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose. Later, Burke would say that he wished he could had added “attitude” as a sixth-ad. The eample burke gives is this: say a guy trips you with his legs on the bus: do you get angry? You might But if the guy had a broken leg, that changes the agent and the agency—maybe he couldn’t help it. And if the purpose was not to humiliate you, but an accident, you might not think it an insult. The pentad can impact this human action’s communication: was getting tripped a deliberate rhetorical insult or wasn’t it?




The last big idea of Burke’s is the terministic screen. The way we use language, especially poetic language, determines how we see the reality against us. If we’re used to seeing the world through certain terms: war, sandwich, bus, we’ll only see those terms. The terms, to use a catch phrase, both reflect and deflect the reality around us.




This is only a brief introduction to Kenneth Burke, and there’s lots more to say about him and his influence on Rhetoric. I recommend checking out, a free resource of Kenneth burke scholarship for more information. You also might check out of the work of some of the biggest Burke scholars: Jack Selzer at Penn State, Ann George at Texas Christian University, Gregory Clark at Brigham Young University, Elizabeth Weiser at Ohio State.




If you have experiences with Kenny B (as I think we can now call him) or if you would like to have another podcast about one of Burke’s theories, please email me at




Until next time, remember even if you become a big-time rhetorician, you should still  take time play ball with your boy in the backyard.


Direct download: 01_Mere_Rhetoric_-_Kenneth_Burke.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 12:55pm CST

Today, as promised, the sequel to last week’s episode on I.A. Richards. Last week we learned about Richards’s The Philosophy of Rhetoric, where he sought to redeem rhetoric from a pejorative by recognizing that every word is intimately tied to its social context. Today we get to talk about his other major work, the Meaning of Meaning. Some initial thoughts: first off, this is a somewhat cheekier title. Second, The Meaning of Meaning is always filed under the works of I.A. Richards, but actually it’s a joint effort by Richards and CK Ogden. Ogden was a bit of an eccentric linguist. He invented a language called Basic English, which was like English but...Basic. He figured this would lead to world peace because people could communicate more easily. Because a simple English is a better idea than a simple other language? I donno, but he brought a hefty dose of old-school linguistics to Richard’s already linguistically inclined bent. The Meaning of Meaning  was a fundamental text for much of the 20th century’s obsession with the connection between words and their referents.


At the heart of the text is a three-part semiotics. There are symbols, thoughts and referents. Symbols are things like words and images. Or as Ogden and Richards put it, Symbols are “those signs which men use to communicate one with another and as instruments of thought, occupy a peculiar place” (23).  Referents are things that exist in the “external world,” things like teacups and tanks, Churchill and Lady Gaga and Switzerland. Thoughts represent the third point of the triangle, what happens in the brain to connect these referents and symbols. If there’s a good relationship between the thought and the symbol, it is “correct”; if there’s a good relationship between the thought and the reference, it is “adequate” and if the sign to referent connection is good, it is “true.” So do you have a clear image of what this looks like? A triangle with three points and three sides of symbols, thoughts and referents. For Ogden and Richards, “Words and Things are connected “through their occurrence together with things, their linkage with them in a ‘context’ that Symbols come to play that important part in our life [even] the source of all our power over the external world” (47).


The source of all our power! That’s some heavy stuff. But here’s the tricky stuff, the fly in the ointment of all this--”Signs,” the authors point out “are not pictures of reality” (79). And appealing to the dictionary does no good: As Ogden and Richards say, “When we define words we take another set of words” (110). A dictionary is only a complication of internal references.


Even the pictures aren’t pictures of reality. Here’s an example. Imagine a dog for me. Go ahead. When you have a good image in your brain of “dog,” imagine how you would paint it. What does it look like?  How did you do that? Well, you had some series of experiences with what we’re calling dogs here and your specific dog may be determined by that experience. Maybe you thought of your own dog, or maybe you imagined something with a long tail, even though there are some dogs with docked tails.  Ogden and Richards put it like this”the effects upon the organism […] depend upon the past history of the organism, but generally and in a more precise fashion” (52).


Wait, it gets worse: Further, “speech on almost all occasions presents a multiple, not a single sign situation” (230), whole sentences of referents, grammatical markers, prepositions that complicate and befuddle the philosopher looking for clear linguistic meaning.  So for symbols to be understood “requires that it form a context with further experiences” (210). The “weaving together of contexts into higher contexts (220) of all of these meanings spiral out irresolvably. Our individual experiences with these different symbols are irreducible.


This isn’t to say it’s time to give up on language. Without language, we can’t understand the world around us: “we can only identify referents through the references made to them” As Ogden and Richards tell us (127). So they give us Symbolism, which they define as the study of “the influence of language upon Thought” (243), and they tell is us a “science” (242).


In order to develop this science of symbolism, Ogden and Richards propose the five canons of symbolism [canon sound]


Sigh. Okay. the first point is that there should be one symbol for one and only one referent (88)


Second, interchangable symbols must refer to the same referent (92)


third, “referent of a contracted symbol is the referent of that symbol expanded” (93),


fourth, symbols should be descriptive rather than prescriptive (103),


“no complex symbol may contain constituent symbols which claim the same ‘place’” (105).


When you go through these tenets, you begin to see how Ogden could be the kind of guy who wants to invent a new, universal language. These seem like difficult, even impossible, conditions to meet.Think about the dog you imagined earlier. It’s likely that your dog looks very different from my dog, because we have different experiences. Our symbol to referent correlation is based on our experience and that’s a sticky thing. But that’s less of something for me to dig into than what Derrida dives into in Limited Inc. In fact, a lot of these ideas will get bandied around for a century as people argue about signs, symbols and referents.  And that’s not a bad influence for a guy who doesn’t get a lot of press time in rhetorical history.


If you know of a rhetorican who could use a little more love, why not send us an email recommended them for a future episode of Mere Rhetoric? send your email to and I’ll see what I can do. But now it’s time to go walk a dog. Whatever that means.

Direct download: 01_Mere_Rhetoric_-_IA_RICHARDS_Ed.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 10:00am CST

Gorgias podcast




Welcome to Mere Rhetoric the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped Rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I have--




Big news! Thanks the generous support of the University of Texas Humanities Project, you may notice that this is a beautiful recording. We’ve got a real microphone and not just my iPhone and a real editor and not just—me. So it sounds nice, yeah? That means we’ll be rerecording and rebroadcasting Vintage Mere Rhetoric in this snazzy, cleaned up and impressive new form as well as recording all our new episodes this way.




Tell us what you think about the new quality and suggest new episodes, because summer reruns are what?—the worst. Our email address is mererhetoricpodcast, all one word, at gmail. I totally read every email I get and it can change how the series goes, so that’s internet fame for you.




For instance, remember how listener Greg Gibby recommended we do a series or a countdown and now we’re counting down the villians of rhetoric?






In our “Villans of rhetoric” series we met the taxonomy-obsessed Peter Ramus and the monarchy-loving Thomas Hobbes. We heard arguments against rhetoric by a cast of Renaissance naysayers of smooth sayers and the Enlightenment criticism of rhetoric. Now we have the number one villain of rhetoric on today’s show.




Okay, so here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, who is the villainous villain of rhetoric? Well. Socrates.


P-what? Yes, the guy featured in the Phaedrus, which not only defended rhetoric, but suggested a broader application of rhetoric, one that includes the private as well as the public stage. But while Socrates wants a more inclusive rhetoric in the phaedrus, in the Gorgias, he vehemnetally opposes the exclusive, political or demonstrative forms of rhetoric.




Gorgias is a dialogue writing by plato, which, like all dialoges is named after the main interlocutor, in this case the great sophist, Gorgias. Gorgias was a rock star rhetor. He gave sold-out performances of speeches that were counter intuitive. We’ll talk more about Gorgias in the future, but for now all you need to know is he was fabulously wealthy because of his rhetoric and people wanted to make gold statues of him. So there you have that.




When Socrates confronts Gorgias about his field, he’s taking on THE rhetor of the day.


Socrates interrogates Gorgias in order to determine the true definition of rhetoric, framing his argument around the question format, "What is X?" (2).[1] He asks, "…why don’t you tell us yourself what the craft you’re an expert in is, and hence what we’re supposed to call you?" (449e). He also challenges Gorgias on the immorality of rhetoric. Socrates gets Gorgias to admit that “effecting persuasion in the minds of an audience” is the only function of rhetoric (13).  There’s no sense that rhetorical thought can lead to any discovery or invention itself—which is quite different from the view of rhetoric as private as well as public and inspirational; the view of The Phaedrus.  So, rhetoric relies on duping the non-expert, over an expert (459a).  This creates immoral power differences. How can a teacher teach students to mislead people?




While it is true that rhetoric is amoral, it is not true that rhetoric is necessarily immoral. The best analogy of what rhetoric is in this dialogue is that of the boxer.  This is the example that Gorgias uses to defned teaching rhetoric—the trainer of the boxer isn’t responsible for making someone a bruiser and a bully because that boxer could also use his skills to defend women, children and small animals.




Gorgias is correct that the teacher is not ultimately responsible for the student’s morality. But additionally, the ability to fight well is one that, especially in Greek culture, was one that was without intrinsic right or wrong. It is right that people who can fight should fight to defend their country, their family, or a weak innocent. It is wrong that a person should use that same set of skills to harm the previously mentioned groups, in fact the action becomes treason, abuse and bullying, respectively. But fighting can also be neither good nor bad, as in the case of boxing exhibitions and competitions, which is only fighting for entertainment. With rhetoric, it is similar.




Another metaphor Gorgias and Scorates argue over is that of cookery. Socrates says that rhetoric is like good cooking, which makes things pleasant to the patient, instead of medicine, which tastes terrible, but is healthy. Nutrition arguments aside, Socrates doesn’t think about how if cookery could make medicine taste better, the people who need to take medicine would be more willing to do so. And while cookery’s capacity to do real good may depend on medicine, without cookery medicine might not be able to do any good if the patient is entirely unwilling to take it. This is the smaller argument for rhetoric that Socrates eventually makes. His view of rhetoric is that it “isn’t concerned with all speech” (7), isn’t the “only agent of persuasion” (15), and is only about serving other, deeper knowledges. Socrates concludes that rhetoric can maybe be okay as long as it is “used in the service of right,” like an appendage or ornament (527c).




At the beginning of the dialogue, Socrates made him promise that he would engage in dialogue (Socrtate’s speacialty) and not launch into speechmaking, which is Gorgias’ strong point. As usual,, though, Socrates dominates the conversation while insisting Gorgias is restricted to yes or no statements. It’s kind of playing dirty.


Eventually Gorgias gets either bored or frustrated and just leaves Scorates—who can blame him? That leaves Socrates to debate with Gorgias’ disciples, who are less principled than their teacher.




First he talks with Polus


Polus states that rhetoric is indeed a craft, but Socrates replies, "To tell you the truth, Polus, I don't think it's a craft at all" (462b). The dialogue continues:


"POLUS: So you think oratory's a knack?


SOCRATES: Yes, I do, unless you say it's something else.


POLUS: A knack for what?


SOCRATES: For producing a certain gratification and pleasure" (462c).


Socrates continues to argue that rhetoric is not an art, but merely a knack: "…it guesses at what's pleasant with no consideration for what's best. And I say that it isn't a craft, but a knack, because it has no account of the nature of whatever things it applies by which it applies them, so that it’s unable to state the cause of each thing" (465a).


Callicles is a Neizche  in embryo. He argues that might makes might and that suffering wrong is worse than doing it. He says enslaving people, killing and pillaging is only by convention shameful, and it is not wrong by nature. Nature says that if you can take it, you should take it. Pretty much he’s a bully.




There’s an argument implied by the way that Socrates begins by debating someone who is benevolent, if a little spacy and then by following his students and colleagues discovers that those who follow rhetoric’s precepts eventually descend into immoral cruely.






This dialogue had HUGE influence on the attitudes towards rhetoric. All the good platonists said, “nope, I can’t like rhetoric—it’s tricky and not universal and leads to tyranny.” In fact, most of our villians of rhetoric have directly mentioned Socrates as a source for why rhetoric is immoral, or else they have alluded to his same arguments about the lawlessness, fickleness or violence of rhetoric. Strangely, a lot of Socrates’ claims later show up in Phaedrus’ mouth, so he ends up contradicting himself later in the Phaedrus.




Also Aristotle and Cicero will have to respond to the claims that Socrates makes in the Gorgias about the social use of rhetoric—Cicero especially demands the kind of expertise in other topics that Socrates claims is missing. To be fair, Socrates’ complaints against rhetoric seem valid. But just that he’s attacking what we might see as the very worst of bad rhetoric, which leaves him open to change his position in the Phaedrus to accept a new definition of rhetoric.






Direct download: 01_Mere_Rhetoric_-_Gorgias_Edit_2.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 9:28am CST


“Today,” I.A. Richards begins his 1936 lectures, rhetoric “is the dreariest and least profitable part of the waste that the unfortunate travel through in Freshman English! So low has Rhetoric sunk that we would do better just to dismiss it to Limbo than to trouble ourselves with it--unless we can find reason for believing that it can become a study that will minister successfully to important needs” (3). this is just what Richards sets out to do in a series of lectures at Bryn Mawr that eventually became the thin book The Philosophy of Rhetoric.


For Richards, a literary scholar by training and one of the founders of the Close REading and New Criticism, rhetoric had been for too long about disputes and argumentation. Instead he proposes that rhetoric should be “a study of misunderstanding and its remedies” and investigation in “How much and in how many ways may good communication differ from bad?” To this end, the proposes a sort of philological rhetoric, one where there is to be “persistent, systematic, detailed inquiry into how words work that will take the place of the discredited subjuect which goes by the name Rhetoric” (23). This description may rankle contemporary rhetoricicans. We like argumentation, and resist the idea that what we should be doing sounds like the very work schoolmarmn sentence diagramming, but Richards recognized that the way words work cannot be divorced from society.


But Ricahrds also broadened the idea of what rhetoric could be--not just strict argumentation, but an exporation of all language. “Perausion is just one of the aims of discourse” he writes. “It poaches on others.” This opens up rhetoric to more than argumentation, and Richards’ focus on words, words, words does not come at the expense of thinking about meaning.


In fact, he derides what he calls the Proper Meaning Superstitution, the fallacious ida that “a word has a meaning of its own (ideally, only one) independent of and controlling its use and purpose for which it should be uttered” (11).

Instead “What a word means is the missing parts of the contexts from which it draws its delegated efficacy” (35). It’s all context.


In order to illustrate the importance of context, Richards gives the example of the metaphor, one of the four master tropes. He separates the metaphor into its two parts: the tenor and vehicle. the tenor is the thing behind the metaphor and the vehicle is the means of conveying it. So if I said love is a battlefield, love is the tenor and battlefield is the vehicle. That girl is a firework. girl is tenor, firework is the vehicle. So far so good? So metaphors, Richards says, “may work admirably without our being able with any confidence to say how ti works or what is the ground of the shift.” Richards gives his own, slightly outdated example “If we call some one a pig or a duck, for example, it si little use looking for some actual resemblance toa  pig or a duck as the ground. We do not call someone a duck ro imply that she has a bill and paddles or is good to eat” (117). Little venture into canniblistic imagry there, I.A., but, of course, we call someone a duck becuase they are “charming and delightful”--or we could call someone a duck if we were a little more british. But the duck example highlights that while some metaphors work because of a “direct remblance” between the tenor and the vehicle and sometimes because of a similar attitutude to both--love is like a battlefield because there are similar feelings to being at war and being in love. This all sounds like a lot of poetics, but it demonstrates Richards concern for the very small elements of communication.


Words are vitally important, down to the detail, for Richards. “Words are the meeting points at which regions of experience which can never combine in sensation or intuition, come together. They are the occasion and the means of that growth which is the mind's endless endeavor to order itself. That is why we have language. It is no mere signalling system. It is the instrument of all our distinctively human development, of everything in which we go beyond the other animals." (131)


Ultimately, he envisions a philosophical restructuring of rhetoric were “we may in time learn so much about words that they will tell us how our minds work” (136). Further, he goes on “It seems modest and reasonable to combine these dreams and hope that a patient persistence with the problems of Rhetoric may, while exposing the causes and modes of the misinterpretation  of words, also throw light upon and suggest a remdial discipline for deeper and more grievous disorders; that, as the mall and local errors in our everday misunderstandings with language are models in miniature of the greater errors which disturb the development of our personalities, their study may also show us more about how these large scale disasters may be avoided (136-7). The man who pioneered New Criticism proposes a New Rhetoric beyond argumentation.


for all that, you won’t read much rhetorical scholarship pulling on Richards. Back in 1997, Stuart C Brown pointed out that while most rhetoric students read the Philosophy of Rhetoric, or at least excerpts of it, rhetorical scholars don’t really pay much attention to Richards. Maybe they have a word or two of “faint praise” and ackowledge him as part of our tradition, but they don’t spend much time on him. Brown thinks this is a mistake and that Ricahrds “ established the basic argument for establishing a truly new rhetoric” (219) By acknowledging the multiplicity of meanings, the instabliity of langauge, Richards opens up space for rhetorical interpretation. Brown makes an indepth defense of the value of Richards’ work. But still, 1997 was a long time ago and Richards still hasn’t come to the forefront as a rhetorical influence.


that being said, we’ll get to spend a little more time with Richards, because next week we’re going to talk about Richard’s other major work--the Meaning of Meaning--so get ready to get hipster about your rhetorical theoretians next time on Mere Rhetoric.

Direct download: Richards_Philosophy_of_Rhetoric.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 1:11pm CST

When I was a kid, I bickered a lot with my brother Dave. Dave is three years older than me, which meant he was farther along in school and knew more things. This bothered me, so if he said something, I said the opposite. If he said that hippos were more dangerous than lions, then I had to prove that lions were more dangerous than hippos. If he said that indoor games were better than outside, I have to prove that outside were better than inside. Sometimes, like boxers circling eachother, we would switch positions and suddenly I was arging for hippos and indoor games and Dave was arguing for lions and outdoor games. It must have driven my mother crazy, especially on a long Sunday afternoon, but it turns out that what Dave and I were do has a long tradition in rhetorical education. We just didn’t have a word for it yet—dissoi logoi.




Dissoi logoi means “contrasting arguments” in Greek. You can sort of tease that out from the root word for “dissent” and “logos.” It goes really really far back, and we don’t know who came up with the first time, but the idea is that you argue your opponent’s position to better understand your own. There are two ways to practice dissoi logoi. One is the way I did as a 7 year old, by having an interlocutor and then switching positions. This method works great for school kids all learning together and you can see this practice in speech and debate classes even today. You research and write and then argue your heart out and then after you finish, the teacher holds up their hands and says, “Okay, switch.” When I argued what Dave would said, I’d know how to respond to his arguments, because I have heard his arguments.




The other way to practice dissoi logoi is to do it all yourself. You run through all the arguments on one side and then you run through all the arguments on the other side. You’re arguing with yourself in a sense. There’s a philosophical and cynical view to the practice of dissoi logoi. If you’re cynical you might say that this is an example of the relativism of the sophists at the worst. This is what people hate about lawyers and sophists—they don’t really care about the argument, but they only care about the language and winning, so they could arguing one thing just as impassioned as the other. It looks like you are two-faced or insincere if you can switch from caring deeply about one side and then, on the turn of a dime, care just as deeply about the other side. But the philosophical perspective sees dissoi logoi as an exercise for coming at a truthier truth. In fact, another term for dissoilogoi is dialexis, and the term is related to dialectic—the opposing forces method of getting at truth espoused by Socrates, Plato and other heavy hitters of classical Athens.




The practice of Dissoi Logoi is articulated in a text called the Dissoi Logoi, which was found at then end of a much later manuscript, and wasn’t published until the renaissance.  It was proably written around 425 BC, based on its references to historical figures and style of writing. The Dissoi logoi looks like student notes, which is what a lot of rhetorical tezts are, but there’s no way of saying it was one thing or another for certain, and we don’t know whose class the author was sitting in. It kicks off by saying that good and bad “are the same thing, and that the same thing is good for some but bad for others, or at one time good and at another time bad for the same person.” All of this is to say that some actions have different moral weight, depending on who you are and under what circumstances you engage in them. Then follows a series of examples—in sports, a certain outcome will be good for one team, but bad for the other; shoddy workmanship is bad for customers and good for the manufacturers, etc. The same event could be good or bad depending on who experiences it. Then there’s a list of the circumstances which are shameful in one setting and praiseworthy in another, like ow for Spartans, girls would walk around bare armed or naked while Ionians would never. You can kind of imagine a list of examples from an instructor. And some of the examples seem awfully sensational—not just regular suicide, murder, exhibitionis, and adultery, but drinking from your enemies’ skulls and eating your parents and cross dressing and incest. It’s all these off-color examples that make me think the Dissoi Logoi was an educational text—nothing gets kids’ attention like sex and violence.




And as a bit of a tangent, the question of education comes up explicitly at the end of the tract, where the question is asked whether wisdom and moral excellence can be taught. The author takes care not to claim that wisdom can be taught, but dismantles the arguments against such an education and argues for the ideal of the person who can “converse in brief questions and answers, to know the truth of things to please one’s cause correctly, to be able to speak in public, to have an understanding of argument-skills and to teach people about the nature of everything” (8.1). Oh, if that’s all an education takes… But it sounds a lot like the education  which Cicero describes in the dialogs on the Orator.




It doesn’t seem like a big stretch to say that two thinkers could have independently come up with the idea that the best education would be to know everything, but there’s also a possibility that the ideas of the dissoi logoi made it over to Roman thought. But heading back the other way, there may have just been a common ideal floating around in the Greco-Roman world. So did the Dissoi Logoi influence Cicero?




Yes, I think, and no. Whatever one Dave doesn’t think.


Direct download: dissoi_logoi.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 10:38am CST



Henry Hume, Lord Kames (1696-1782)




Henry Hume, Lord Kames was a distant relative as well as friend to David Hume, although they spell their names differently.  David Hume changed the spelling so that his English readers would pronounce it properly.  Henry Hume kept the original spelling H-O-M-E.        




Unlike David Hume, Lord Kames did not go to university nor even have the benefit of a sojourn to France to broaden his education. Much more like Jane Austen’s Lizzie Bennet, Kames was born the third son out of nine children to a heavily indebted but well-respected family.  He was educated at home with his siblings and was apprenticed as a solicitor.  Unlike Lizzie Bennet, who faces limitations due to her gender, Kames was able to participate in a number of philosophical societies and gentlemen’s clubs.  He further expanded his knowledge through jobs such as Curator of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh which gave him access to a wealth of books. 




There are a number of factors contributing to Kames success.  Clearly two of these factors were his talent and his drive.  Another was the luck of a long life.  Kames was born in 1696 and lived through much of the eighteenth century to the ripe age of 86.  Contemporaries commented on his remarkable good health in old age, the longevity of his memory, and his feisty personality.  Kames is quoted as saying of old age “why should I sit with my finger in my cheek waiting for death to take me?’  He did not specify which cheek. 




After his apprenticeship he worked his way up through the judicial ranks to become a highly respected judge, which is how he acquired the title Lord—it was not a hereditary title but an honor associated with his work as a judge.  Lord Kames again like Lizzie Bennett benefited from a lucky marriage.  He waited until age 47 to finally decide to marry.  His bride, Agatha Drummond, an attractive socialite eleven years his junior came from the wealthy Blair Drummond family.  James Boswell’s journals praise her for her looks, conversational skills and sense of humor—high praise from Bozzie.  Agatha’s original marriage portion was a moderate £1000 without any prospects due to an older brother with a family of his own.  However in 1766, Agatha unexpectedly became heiress to the entire Blair Drummond estate upon the unfortunate death of her brother and his son.  Thereafter, she and her children styled themselves Home-Drummond to acknowledge her family’s legacy and her husband Kames actively worked to enjoy and care for the sumptuous estate.




The inheritance impacted Kames’ work by providing a country writing retreat.  He was a prolific writer with 8 legal histories, plus books on diverse subjects like agriculture, and political science.  His book with the greatest impact on the history of rhetoric and the subject of our talk today was Elements of Criticism.  Published in 1761, Elements of Criticism brought the Enlightenment’s “scientific” view of human nature to the critical evaluation of the fine arts.  I would like to highlight how this interesting eighteenth century text connects to some very recent conversations about multimodal, visual and spatial rhetorics.          




Elements of Criticism made a splash and was a bit controversial due to its expansive inclusion of the visual arts with belle lettres.  Developing a theory of criticism for the fine artsrequired Kames to take sides in debates about human nature, beauty, and human nature.  He is participating in these with writers like Frances Hutcheson, Thomas Reid, and Edmund Burke.  At the time he was writing the orthodox and moderate factions of the Presbyterian church were vying for power in Scotland.  Based on theological ideas going back to the Reformation, both sides had mixed feelings about the impact of visual arts like paintings and sculpture on the viewer. In some areas theater was illegal.   




Most of Elements of Criticism engages with literary texts for its examples and illustrations but his methods take into account the multimodality of the work.  For example, Kames takes encourages readers to take into account the musical and melodic qualities of poetry in his analysis of meter.  In spite of the disapproval of theater in Edinburgh, he works in criticism of plays and operas—not just the librettos but also of the staging and sets tacitly indicating through these inclusions his views on theater debate.




For those listeners interested in spatial theory or rhetorics of space, Kames applies the final chapter of the book the criticism of gardening and architecture.  The chapter thinks about how progression through space and the arrangement of objects in space can influence the mind and especially the emotions.  Kames emphasizes the natural style of gardening over more ornate or fantastic styles.  He presents the ornate French gardens as an example of what not to do, and praises the harmony of Chinese models.




Many of Kames’s proscriptive and prescriptive critiques participate in a larger Scottish Enlightenment conversation about taste in which moderates posed that fine arts were acceptable if morally improving to the audience or reader.  In this argument the wealthier members of society had an obligation to develop their taste as a sort of moral education.  For Kames, taste could also be developed by the lower classes through proximity to and observation of tasteful public works.  This idea represents a synthesis of ideas about the human tendency towards imitation and new concepts of the moral sense.  This chapter along with Sir John Dalrymple’s Essay on Landscape Gardening popularized the natural garden trend in mid-eighteenth century Scotland.        




Elements of Criticism had a lasting impact as a textbook well into the 19th century and was by no means confined to Scotland.  The work was quickly translated into German and appeared in the library of Emmanuel Kant.  It crossed the Atlantic where it was taught in rhetoric courses at Yale side-by-side with texts by authors like Hugh Blair and George Campbell, according to the research of Gregory Clark.  




To close our discussion of Elements of Criticism I would like to bring things back to the author himself.  Lord Kames, after all, did not have the benefit of a formal education, nor did he have the restrictions.  Although his writing is clear, he does not aspire to the heights of rhetorical eloquence.  In his judicial practice he was well known for using casual and even ribald language with his colleagues.  According to local legend, Kames at his retirement took leave of his colleagues with a cheery “Fare ye a’weel, ye bitches!”




Thanks for listening to our podcast today.  This is Connie Steel at the University of Texas for Mere Rhetoric.    




Chambers, Robert.  Traditions of Edinburgh, Vol 2.  Edinburgh:  W. & C. Tait 1825, p 171.   Googlebooks Web. 




Clark, Greg.  “Timothy Dwight's Moral Rhetoric at Yale College, 1795–1817.” Rhetorica:  A Journal of the History of Rhetoric.  Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 1987) pp 149-161.


Home, Henry, Lord Kames. Elements of Criticism.  Edited with an Introduction by Peter Jones (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). 2 Vols. May 31, 2015. Web.




Lehmann, William C. Henry Home, Lord Kames, and the Scottish Enlightenment: A Study in National Character and in the History of Ideas.  The Hague:  Martinus Hijhoff, 1971.  (International Archives of the History of Ideas.  Info on Agatha and the family, on Agatha p 64-65.  “Bitches” 135 (from Chambers).




Miller, Thomas.  “The Formation of College English:  A Survey of the Archives of Eighteenth-Century Rhetorical Theory and Practice.”  Rhetoric Society Quarterly.  Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer, 1990) pp 261-286.














Direct download: Lord_Kames.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 1:41pm CST

Today we’re doing a podcast on Dionysius of Halicarnassus, not least because it’s so fun to say his name. Some people just have the kind of name that makes you want to say it all out, in full. Say it with me: Dionysius of Halicarnassus. It’s lovely. Fortunately, we’ll lget to say Dionysius of Halicarnassus several times today.


Dionysius of Halicarnassus, being of Halicarnassus, was Greek, but he wasn’t one of the 5th century golden age Greek rhetoricians--he lived around 50-6 BC during the Roman empire. Indeed, he studied in Rome and gave lessons there as part of the Greek educational diaspora. Dionysius of Halicarnassus could be seen as a great reconsiler between Roman and Greek thought, or he could be seen as a stoolie for the romans. He wrote of the Romans as the heirs of Greek culture and was always talking up the qualities of the Romans.


But he did love Greek rhetoricians. He writes admiringlyof Greek poets like Homer and Sappho of Greek rhetoricians Isocrates and Lysius, and even of Dinarchus, whom most people thought was kind of a lousy rhetor and even Dionysius of Halicarnassus admits was “neither the inventor of an individual style … nor the perfector of styles whcih others had invented” (1). He compiledhis thoughts on rhetoric into a more-or-less treatise known to us rather unimaginatively as the Art of Rhetoric. Not to be confused with all of the other Arts of Rhetoric, but the one by Dionyius of Halicarnasus. In the Art of Rhetoric and On Literary Composition, he offers in-depth analysis of many of the greatest Greek rhetors and rhetoricians, giving long examples in his text. As a matter of fact, much of the fragments we have from folks like Sappho comes from Dionysius of Halicarnassus, because he loved to quote big chunks of text and then go back and describe what was happening in those texts, even down to the level of the sounds of the vowels. that’s the level of analysis you get from dionysius of Halicarnassus.


And rather not surprisingly. Dionysius of Halicarnassus cited big chunks of text because he was a firm believer of imitation. Imitation,in this case, wasn’t the same as mimesis. Let me describe the differences: For Aristotle, Mimesis was about looking to nature and imitation from nature. So you see a bowl of grapes, and you get your teeny, tiniest paintbrush and you paint thos grapes so realistically that someone walking by might jam their finger reaching out to grab one. that’s mimesis. Dionysian imitation, though, is about imitating an author. Or authors. So now instead of staring at a bowl of grapes, you might stare at a poem about a bowl of grapes. Pedagogically, you might first emulate the poem, trying to recreate the poem as closely as you can, then adapt the poem, maybe now instead of a poem about grapes you make it a poem about plums. then you might rework and improve the poem, cutting back the long winded parts, or where the original author used a lame analogy or something. But then, in your own work, you continue this process with not just one poem, but dozens of poems, and not just by one author, but by dozens of authors. Through careful reading and analysis, you can identify the styles and methods most appropriate to your situation. This was popular for the Romans and it’s popular with us. If you’re going to write a love poem today, for instance, you might write a sonnet because of the successful love poems of Plutarch and Shakespeare, and you might find yourself using similar kinds of tropes and figures as Plutarch and Shakespeare, cataloging the beauty of your beloved, or comparing them to an animal or flower.this is all Dionysian imitation on your part. The Dionysian imitation caught on in a big way among Latin writers. Quintilian was a fan and included imitation of authors in his own pedagogy. Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ 3-volume treatise, known to us as--surprise--on imitation became a relative best seller. It makes sense considering the politics of greco-roman relations: if the Golden Age rhetors, Isocrates and Lysius, really are teh best, they can serve as models for Roman writers. these Roman writers, though, can exceed the Greek models. Just like how Dionusus of Halicarnassus thought that Romans were the literal descendents of later Greeks, he found a way that their writing could be descended from Greek style.


It may sound weird to us to not value originality, but Romans were sort of world-weary, “nothing new to be said” sorts who recognized the long literary precedent of Greek and Egyptian writers. Dionysian imitation could give them a way to feel that they were taking this long history and improving on it. And that meant a lot to them.


If you, like Dionysius of Hallicarnassus, have a fun name to say, or if you know of a rhetorician who, like Dionysius of Hallicarnassus, has a fun name to say, why not drop us a line at Until next time, Dionysius of Hallicarnassus.

Direct download: Dionysius_Of_Halicarnassus.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 12:00pm CST

Remember when you were a freshman and you took first year critical reasoning? Or in high school, when you took the AP thinking exam?


Of course not, because we don’t really teach philosophy or critical thinking. What we do teach is writing.




Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, movements and people who have shaped rhetorical history. today we’ll be talking about the mid nineties text “Rhetoric of Reason,” winner of the 1997 MLA Mina Shannassy book prize.

Titles one chapter “The end of Philosophy and the Resurgence of Rhetoric” Provocative idea. but can rhetoric and writing classes take over the millenia of philosophy and logic instruction that have long been cornerstones of a liberal education?


Crosswhite conceives his own book to be “a challenge to teachers of writing… to become much more philosophical about the teaching and theory of argumentation” (8).Motivated by “a social hope that people will be able to reason together” (17) in a civil responsibly taught in FYC classes the nation over.  Because “The teaching of writing is nothing less than the teaching of reasoning” (4). Purpose of university education is to write reasoned argumentation, “about conflicts that are matters of concerns to many different kinds of people, to fellow citizens who may not share their specialized knowledge” (296).

Rhetoric is philosophy without absolutes (“including negative absolutism”) (35).  If there is an end of philosophy in the 1990s as the influence of deconstructionists like Derrida is splashing over departments of English, can writing and rhetoric fill the gap in teaching the new good reasoning?As one review put it, “Crosswhite clearly moves away from the static view of formal logic in which propositions are measured against internally consistent rules rather than the more complex and shifty criteria articulated by live audiences” (Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Reed Way Dasenbrock, Andreea Deciu, Christopher Diller & Colleen Connolly).


In this, he is highly indebted to the work of new rhetorics like the kind you’ll find in Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s The New Rhetoric, which I promise we’ll talk about one of these days. For our purposes the key thing Crosswhite adopts is the idea of a universal audience. The term “universal” can be misleading. Crosswhite points out that “Unviersiality … depvelops along different lines; there are different and sometimes incompatiable ways of achieveing more universal standpoints. Universality is an achievement of particular people at particular times for particular purposes” (215). But another way, he says “Even if argumentation is a relatively universal practice, the occasions on which one argues, what one argues about, the requency with which one argues, the people with whom one argues, how explicitly one argues, how far one carries and argument--all these things may vary strongly from culture to culture” (218). It sounds a lot like rhetoric, doesn’t it, all this considering the audience and kairos and stases? Rhetorically specific communities, though, all will detirmine what is good reasoning and reflect that back to their interlocutors.Reasoning “is dependant on a background of deep competences, moods, abilities, assumptions, beliefs, ways of being and understanding” (254). “Argumentation is a “relatively universal practice” but how, where, why and for what of argumentation “may vary strongly from culture to culture” (218). Fundamentally, “People can argue only concerning those things about which they are willing to learn, and change their minds” (283).


Imagine an audience that is broadly conceived yet culturally dependant. An audience of good reasoners.With such an audience, good reasoning is “a matter not simply of what is true, but of the measure of the truth yielded by argumentation" (153). Audiences are crucial, because “there are those occasion on which an audience repsonds in ways we had not anticipated and in fact goes beyond our own reasoning and our own ideas. sometimes, and audience evaluates our reasoning  and in ways we could not have foreseen--but which we nevertheless recognize as legitimate” (152). Contradiction is important, becoming “powerful enablers of discovery” (263) and as such “contradictions should be cherished, nurtured developed” (264)


Other key influences come from philosophy, notably Levinas and Cavell, because the ordinary, the acknowledgement of other people are important, builds”mutual trust and respect [to] make possible rather extraordinary uses of the ordinary possibilities of communication” (31).



Mutual respect does not, though, mean consensus. In fact, Crosswhite is  bullish on dissent in general "Where there is no conflict of any kind,” he says, “there is no reason" (72). “We don’t need courses in ‘critical thinking’ nearly as much as we need course in suspending critical thought in order to read deeper understandings” (201), focusing more on questions than consensus (199). This proves a problem when looking at a significant third of traditoinal rhetoric: the epideictic. As Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and co-authors observe, this “view, however, forces Crosswhite to quickly pass over how both aesthetic discourse (he cites fiction, poetry, and plays) and, less quickly, how epideictic rhetoric complicate the way that rationality and argumentation be- come embodied and therefore persuasive.” Instead, the epideictic for crosswhite “seems to lack the connectio with social conflict and looks more like a struggle with nature” (104) and the only way is to “try to show how epideictic, too, is a form of social conflict” (105)--a proposition he invokes but doesn’t develop.


But let’s get back to what he does get to, which is surprisingly pragmatic for a book that cites so much Gadamer and Heidegger. He says That students simply “need more familiaryt with more diverse and more universal audience, with audiences which demand more explicit reasoning” (273) Crosswhite gives an extended example of what this looks like in his own classes.


Here’s the useful, wheels-on-the-road stuff: “ writing courses and textbooks often lack focus and purpose; they simply try to cover too much” (189); and he recommends more workshops with student-to-student audiences because “writers need real interlocutors and audiences—a real rhetorical community” (281). Crosswhite’s writtena  pretty brainy and philosophical text here, but he’s also made an argument for bringing questions of reasoning and philosophy into the writing class as key to what we do and key to what philosophy should do. What do you think? Should we be responsible for teaching reasoning in the university? How do we fit it in when we have so much to cover? Drop us a line at and let me know. Should first year composition be retitled first-year reasoning and writing?

Direct download: crosswhite.mp3
Category:Education -- posted at: 2:28pm CST