Rhetoric

Topics: Truth, Epistemology, Rhetoric Pages: 3 (698 words) Published: July 31, 2014
In 1967, Robert L. Scott started a seminal debate within the rhetoric community with his essay, “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic.” His argument – rhetoric is epistemic - has been analyzed and/or criticized by many scholars. Scott himself followed up in 1976 with an article titled, “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic: Ten Years Later” in order to address some of these concerns, and add to his original thoughts. Despite this follow-up, authors still continue criticize and defend his work. This essay will focus on three responses in particular, each focusing on a different aspect of Scott’s argument, in order to prove that rhetoric is in fact epistemic. First, Brumett’s, Three Meanings of Epistemic Rhetoric (1979) will examine three possible meanings and implications of Scott’s claim. Second, Harpine’s What Do You Mean, Rhetoric is Epistemic? (2004) will hone in on the debate between Scott and Cherwitz and Hickins, defining the positions of each. Finally, Bineham’s The Cartesian Anxiety in Epistemic Rhetoric: An Assessment of the Literature (1990) will address four key positions within the debate, and bring them together with his Bernstein term, “Cartesian Anxiety.” From these responses it will become clear that while many scholars agree that rhetoric is epistemic, their definitions and viewpoints still vary. Before jumping into the responses of other scholars, it is probably worth examining Scott’s own response, especially since it predates the essays soon to be examined. In this essay, Scott attempts to address three questions: “Is there one way of knowing or many? What sort of knowing does rhetoric strive to achieve? Is rhetorical relativism vicious?” (1976, 259). He states that there are many ways of knowing, emphasizing the pluralistic nature of ‘ways of knowing.’ He believes that rhetoric should strive to achieve an actuality, or an agreed social construction (later it will become apparent that this facet of his argument is the one sparking the most debate)....
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