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 Coot’s argument, in order to prove that rhetoric is in fact epistemic. First, Brunette’s, Three Meanings of Epistemic Rhetoric (1979) will examine three possible meanings and implications of Coot’s claim. Second, Harping’s What Do You Mean, Rhetoric is Epistemic? (2004) will hone in on the debate between Scott and Cheerier and Haskins, defining the positions of each.
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Finally, Banshee’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 Coot’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 lyricist 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).
Finally, he attempts to dispel the positivist argument against him, that rhetorical relativism is vicious. This leads to some deeper discussion on the nature of subjective knowledge, of which his defining argument seems to be: “Relativism, supposedly, means a standard-less society, or at least a maze of differing standards, and thus a cacophony f disparate, and likely selfish interests.
Rather than a standard-less society, which is the same as saying no society at all, relativism indicates circumstances in which standards have to be established cooperatively and renewed repeatedly’ (1976, 264) Brume seeks to offer up what he deems to be the three prevailing philosophies on epistemology. The first is what is considered the positivist view, which is essentially that there is a truth out there, and that people are either right or wrong about what they think is true. He emphasizes that rhetoric is the path to reaching that truth.
The second is the classic interpretive approach, that different groups have different realities, and there knowledge within them. This means that within a group, someone can be wrong, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong in all groups. Finally, he addresses the view that the world is much too complicated for humans to understand, which is evidenced by our need to define and label everything. Harping focus on defining terms, as he sees this as the most critical step in defining hitherto as epistemic.
Specially, he examines the nature of “certainty’ and the implications of various definitions and views. Next he examines the term “rhetoric,” whose definitions has implications not Just in this debate, but for all rhetorical theory. Here he addresses the pros and cons of defining rhetoric in a broad or specific sense. Finally, Harping examines Justification, and how various scholar use justification within the realm of epistemology. Bingham compares four positions within ‘rhetoric as epistemic’ literature.