Toward a Phenomenological Rhetoric: Writing, Profession, and Altruism

Synopsis

Current rhetorical and critical theory for the most part separates writing from consciousness and presumes relative truth to be the only possible expressive goal for rhetoric. These presumptions are reflected in our tradition of persuasive rhetoric, which values writing that successfully argues one person's belief at the expense of another's. Barbara Couture presents a case for a phenomenological rhetoric, one that values and respects consciousness and selfhood and that restores to rhetoric the possibility of seeking an all-embracing truth through pacific and cooperative interaction.

Couture discusses the premises on which current interpretive theory has supported relative truth as the philosophical grounding for rhetoric, premises, she argues, that have led to constraints on our notion of truth that divorce it from human experience. She then shows how phenomenological philosophy might guide the theory and practice of rhetoric, reanimating its role in the human enterprise of seeking a shared truth. She proposes profession and altruism as two guiding metaphors for the phenomenological activity of "truth-seeking through interaction".

Among the contemporary rhetoricians and philosophers who influence Couture are Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Martin Buber, Charles Altieri, Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Jurgen Habermas.