Archive for February, 2011

Becoming Beside Our Disorientations

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 by iamgreatness

This week’s post is in direct response to our conversation of last week regarding the possibilities of future projects, etc., in terms of a rewriting of Aristotle to account for the way we react to things in a more technological age. we’ve discussed Stiegler’s project in relative depth in past meetings when we discussed A New Critique…, and Disorientation didn’t necessarily cause a drastic change in my perception of the project overall. However, what I found interesting was a further discussion of tertiary memory outside of A New Critique‘s political/economic focus (proletarianization) and within Husserlian phenomenology. I found this perspective very interesting in thinking through our discussion of a need to revamp and update the “Rhetoric.” In a quick glance through Aristotle before writing this post, a distinct focus on primary and secondary memory (in terms of initial experience of phenomena and the subsequent memorization), but there is also a strong reliance on the tertiary (technologically exteriorized) memory in the topoi and types of argument (enthymeme, example, etc.)–in the formulae for arrangement of arguments that Aristotle puts forward–thus providing evidence for my earlier claim of the Rhetoric being an initial technologizing of the “art.” However, with networked technologies and the ever-present access to the Internet, the idea of topics and types of argument are expanded exponentially and it is seemingly harder to think through fitting the sheer magnitude of what is available into specific categories (not too get too Ulmerian, but more chora and less topoi?).

There is also a distinct sense of a logical progression of one step to the next (sort of “if/then” statements), that is attached to, as Rotman argues, the linearity perpetuated by the alphabet. And this linear system of progression does seem lacking in our contemporary experience of multiple-windowed, multi-tasked, data-clouded milieu. If, again as Rotman argues, we are indeed realizing ourselves as more parallel and less linear, thus initiating a break away from the alphabetic regime and into something different, the Aristotelian model of “if an appropriate enthymeme cannot be found, then move to an appropriate example” is in need of a little more “parallel-ness” itself (a para-rhetoric?).

Not to be too technologically determinant about it (or to cry foul and damn technology as we discussed last week), there is something to be said for the sheer magnitude of the Internet and the way we access it as having an impact on how we interact, access information, communicate, and think of ourselves as beings. If the linearity of the alphabet had the power to (perhaps hyperbolically) make monotheism possible (although I do find Rotman’s argument compelling), then the magnitude of the cloud and its ever-present accessibility (and its function as a repository for tertiary memory) has got to have some power to change our current paradigm–something that the relatively cut and dry system of the Rhetoric can’t necessarily account for, although it does still provide a solid foundation for us to rethink what would be a more sensible current structure (or lack thereof).

If we, as beings, have a finite capability for retention and therefore must rely on (and always already have relied on) external, technological sources for memory, and if we do not function in the linear fashion that the alphabet prescribes, then the current linear/systematic approach to rhetoric that Aristotle puts forward in in need of a revamp as well.

Homo Dialecticus

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 by iamgreatness

After reading through Aristotle’s Rhetoric, reading Burke (not ever having read Burke) lends interesting insight into the development of rhetoric as it is more commonly used today, i.e. the myriad “rhetorics of …” Whereas Aristotle looked to the categorization of the means of persuasion (in terms of audience, enthymeme, example, etc.), I can see in Burke’s text the opening up of these strictures and positing rhetoric in a much broader sense. It is no longer the “either this or that” relationship found in Aristotle (where there are clearly very right and/or wrong ways to conduct a speech, for example the use of example only if a proper enthymematic argument can’t be found) but rather a more open relationship between things that allows for mystery (“magic”) and that which lies outside of the linguistic. I find his discussion of rhetoric as identification to be particularly interesting as it, again, widens the scope of what rhetoric is and/or can do. Rather than rhetoric simply being the art of determining all available methods of persuasion in oratory or speech writing, or as the “good man speaking well” in terms of eloquence, rhetoric can be internally derived as well as externally imposed (e.g. Burke’s discussion of bureaucracy/heirarchy or psychological malingering), again separating “New” rhetoric from classical rhetoric:

“Classical rhetoric stresses the element of explicit design in rhetorical enterprise. But one can systematically extend the range of rhetoric, if on studies the persuasiveness of false or inadequate terms which may not be directly imposed upon us from without by some skillful speaker, but which we impose upon ourselves, in varying degrees of deliberateness and unawareness, through motives indeterminately self-protective and/or suicidal” (35).

Thus, rhetoric can be internal/external, applied to things other than the strictly linguistic, and can be either used in a creative capacity (rhetorica utens) or as a means of study (rhetorica docens)–reminiscent, as well, of more recent arguments (Mailloux/Davis/Muckelbauer) of rhetoric as necessarily hermeneutic. This opening up of rhetoric as the bridging of divides between people (and, arguably, things) by means of identification, according to Burke, also collapses the thesis/antithesis relationship of rhetoric and dialectic (as we discussed in terms of Plato/Socrates) exposing the rhetorical nature of dialectic:

“The dialectical method would also be rhetorical in this sense. But we may note its use of other rhetorical elements likewise: First, there is the rhetoric of the dramatic agon, the clash of the partisan rivals, each of whom seeks to overthrow the others; next, there is the rhetorical appeal of the dialectical resolution, the formal satisfaction that comes of transcending such conflicts by systematic means; and finally, there is the rhetoric of enargeia, as the New Vision” (207).

All in all, what I found most compelling about Burke’s argument is the expansion of rhetoric to include certain things under the heading of rhetoric that “would not have been traditionally labeled ‘rhetoric'”(43) and to move past the idea of rhetoric as merely “persuasion” as such and instead the means with which different classes (hierarchies, etc.) or people/things can communicate, thus moving them to act through identifying with each other. This, to me, adds interesting dimensions to Aristotle, because although the classification of the means of persuasion is important, it leaves out the element of relationship between communicators and communicative symbols that Burke’s identification adds.