Rhetoric and Philosophy

Rhetoric and Philosophy

Rhetoric and Philosophy

Rhetoric and Philosophy


This important volume explores alternative ways in which those involved in the field of speech communication have attempted to find a philosophical grounding for rhetoric. Recognizing that rhetoric can be supported in a wide variety of ways, this text examines eight different philosophies of rhetoric: realism, relativism, rationalism, idealism, materialism, existentialism, deconstructionism, and pragmatism. The value of this book lies in its pluralistic and comparative approach to rhetorical theory.

Although rhetoric may be the more difficult road to philosophy, the fact that it is being traversed by a group of authors largely from speech communication demonstrates important growth in this field. Ultimately, there is recognition that if different thinkers can have solid reasons to adhere to disparate philosophies, serious communication problems can be eliminated. Rhetoric and Philosophy will assist scholars in choosing from among the many philosphical starting places for rhetoric.


Henry W. Johnstone Jr.

This book explores alternative ways in which the attempt has been made to find a philosophical grounding for rhetoric.

Throughout the period since 1952, when I first became associated with people in the field now usually referred to as "Speech Communication," I have noticed that practitioners of this field, especially those concerned with rhetoric, have continued to feel a need for philosophical grounding.

There has been a succession of ways in which theorists of Speech have sought to satisfy this need. At first they proceeded in total independence and indeed ignorance of the studies that their colleagues in Philosophy were engaged in. They put their own seal of approval on works most professional philosophers regarded as worthless, such as Count Korzybski Science and Sanity and the writings of S.I. Hayakawa; they blithely taught their own philosophy courses using works like these as textbooks. Indeed, they even taught their own courses in logic (non-Aristotelean, of course), unaware, it seems, that they were bound to wind up losing this battle for turf. I mention these early days characterized by confusion and lack of communication only to illustrate the fact that these Speech people were groping in their own way toward a legitimate goal -- the goal of discovering and articulating the philosophical foundations of the authenticity of their own enterprise.

In speaking of the need for philosophical grounding, I mean something beyond the interest in the rhetorical theories of Plato and Aristotle and in the relations between these theories and the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle that has been characteristic of students of classical rhetoric for a long time. the outcome of that interest has mainly taken the form of historical conclusions rather than a recommendation of philosophical . . .

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