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  Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 9, no. 1, 2013 RHETORIC AND RATIONALITY Steve Mackey  A BSTRACT : The dominance of a purist, ‘scientistic’ form of reason since the Enlightenmenthas eclipsed and produced multiple misunderstandings of the nature, role of and importanceof the millennia-old art of rhetoric. For centuries the multiple perspectives conveyed byrhetoric were always the counterbalance to hubristic claims of certainty. As such rhetoric wastaught as one of the three essential components of the ‘trivium’ – rhetoric, dialectic andgrammar; i.e. persuasive communication, logical reasoning and the codification of discourse.These three disciplines were the legs of the three legged stool on which western civilisation stillrests despite the perversion and muddling of the first of these three. This essay explains howthe evisceration of rhetoric both as practice and as critical theory and the consequent over-reliance on a virtual cult of rationality has impoverished philosophy and has dangerouslydimmed understandings of the human condition.K EYWORDS ; Rhetoric; Dialectic; Rationality; Enlightenment; Philosophy; Communication;C.S.Peirce: Max Horkheimer; Theodor Adorno; J ü rgen Habermas; John DeelyTHE PROBLEM There are many criticisms of the rationalist themes and approaches which burgeonedduring and since the Enlightenment. This paper enlists Max Horkheimer (1895 – 1973) and Theodor Adorno (1903 – 1969), John Deely (1942 – ) and Charles SandersPeirce (1839 –1914), along with some leading Enlightenment figures themselves inorder to mount a critique of the fate of the millennia-old art of rhetoric during thatrevolution in ways of thinking. The argument will be that post-Enlightenment over-emphasis on what might variously be called dialectic, logic or reason (narrowlyunderstood) has dulled understanding of what people are and how people think.There have been two serious consequences of this mistake. Firstly philosophers havebeen circumvented and have lost potency because of their over-reliance on logic as the   way of guiding human affairs. Secondly charlatans have invaded what was hitherto www.cosmosandhistory.org 203  STEVE MACKEY 204 the quasi-sacred and much more prestigious space of persuasive communication. Thisspace was sacred and prestigious when it was under the control of the church andother moralists. From the nineteenth century onward paralysis in thinking about thecrucial role of the rhetorical-dialectical nexus has enabled philistines and themendacious to capture and exploit this poorly understood realm of ideological andcultural production. This paper argues that putatively democratic countries nowoperate with a lobotomised intelligence where it comes to understanding andconfronting the ways persuasive communication controls political and socialconstruction. It calls for the aesthetes of science and logical reason to reverse theirantiquated, modernist, rejection of the realm of rhetoric. If intellectuals do notsufficiently grasp the notion of what rhetoric is they will be doomed to increasing marginalisation in a contemporary world where rhetoric dominates. RHETORIC AND ITS REJECTION Francis Bacon (1561-1626) has a good summary of what rhetoric is and its importancein his: The Advancement of Learning:    …the duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the bettermoving of the will. For we see reason is disturbed in the administration thereof by three means--by illaqueation or sophism, which pertains to logic; byimagination or impression, which pertains to rhetoric; and by passion oraffection, which pertains to morality. And as in negotiation with others, men arewrought by cunning, by importunity, and by vehemency; so in this negotiationwithin ourselves, men are undermined by inconsequences, solicited andimportuned by impressions or observations, and transported by passions.Neither is the nature of man so unfortunately built, as that those powers and artsshould have force to disturb reason, and not to establish and advance it. For theend of logic is to teach a form of argument to secure reason, and not to entrap it;the end of morality is to procure the affections to obey reason, and not to invadeit; the end of rhetoric is to fill the imagination to second reason, and not tooppress it; for these abuses of arts come in but ex oblique, for caution. 1   In other words morality and the ways facts are presented have a major role in shaping thought. Thought is not formed by logic alone.For Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): Rhetorick is an Art consisting not only in moving the Passions of the Judge; butchiefly in Proofs. And that this Art is Profitable...It consisteth therefore chiefly in 1 Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning  , retrieved 25 February, 2013, from website:http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/5500/pg5500.txt, 2004.    COSMOS AND HISTORY 205 Proofs;  which are Inferences:  and all Inferences  being  Syllogismes, a Logician, if hewould observe the difference between a plain Syllogisme, and an Enthymeme,  (which is a Rhetoricall Syllogisme,  ) would make the best Rhetorician. For all Syllogismes  and Inferences  belong properly to Logick;  whether they infer truth orprobability: and because without this  Art  it would often come to pass, that evilmen by the advantage of natural abilities, would carry an evil cause against agood; it brings with it at least this profit, that making the pleaders even in skill, itleaves the odds only in the merit of the cause. Besides, ordinarily those that are Judges, are neither patient, nor capable of long  Scientifical proofs, drawn from the  principles  through many Syllogismes;  and therefore had need to be instructed by the Rhetoricall, and shorter way. 2    A plain syllogism is the attempt to arrive at irrefutable conclusions by the logicalprogression of statements of apparently clear facts. An enthymeme is reasoning whereone of the statements presumes and relies on prior understandings in the audienceand thus is vulnerable to charges that it is not irrefutable. What Hobbes is essentiallysaying is that people do not usually base their understanding on lengthy, perfectexplanation. We may presume that we think rationally. But most of the time weoperate in terms of the multiple assumptions in the discourses which are thefoundations of our culture. By discourses  here we mean mental constructions which areformed and expressed by language and other cultural forms. In practical terms, whenthinking about something we nearly always have no option but to think in shortcuts.We interrogate our largely culturally formed ways of perceiving in order to mentallyseize onto the most expeditious depiction of what seems to be the case. That is wereason as reasoning is commonly understood enthymematically rather than syllogistically. On a day to day basis we do not reason as if we were in a scientific or social scientificlaboratory 3 . Instead in colloquial terms we reason by making reasonable assumptions.Nobody is equipped or has time to always seek ultimate scientific truths abouteverything we encounter every day, about everything we think every day, abouteverything we do every day.Hobbes is saying that for this reason it would be a mistake to presume we orothers privilege what are in fact impractical levels of attaining the ultimateunassailable scientific truth. The rhetorical wisdom of his period understood thatpeople operate at the enthymematic level. The enthymematic level is that aspect of the operation of culture which involves the rhetorical – which involves the ways thingsare ‘put’. This enthymematic/rhetorical aspect of human communication is no 2 Thomas Hobbes,  A Brief of the Art of Rhetoric  , retrieved 25 February, 2013 from ‘Classic rhetoric andpersuasion’ website: http://www.classicpersuasion.org/pw/hobbes/index.htm, 2013. 3 See discussion on ideoscopy and cenoscopy below.  STEVE MACKEY 206 different today. However scientism has ordained that the bulk of us ordinary folk neglect to equip ourselves with a full understanding of, or significant skills in, theoperation of rhetoric. This field has been vacated to the instrumentally motivatedspecialists in: psychology and social psychology, organisational communication,psephology,   public relations, public affairs, media advice, opinion editorialproduction, corporate communication, think tanks, advertising, market research,opinion research, customer relations, event management and so on.   This intellectual vacation of the field of rhetoric, this leaving it to the experts, involves a lulling, ascientistic lullaby which has left this powerful art in how thinking and thus howculture is formed vulnerable to manipulation by the mendacious, the stupid, thedownright evil. Another Enlightenment figure Etienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780) can alsobe quoted to challenge too exaggerated a reliance on rationalism when the humancondition in fact requires another dimension to how we make up our minds.Condillac stresses the way people’s thought is influenced by their passions and affect  inaddition to cold logic. Condillac writes: The influence of the passions is so great that without it the understanding is virtually at a standstill, so much so that for lack of passions there is barely anyintellect left. For certain talents they are even absolutely necessary. 4   For instance killing an animal for food cannot just be conceived by those who wewould count as human in a purely logical manner and killing animals for fun even lessso. Hopefully most of us have sentiments and affections which steer our rationalisationabout whether or how either sorts of killing should be done. Similarly how refugees ordisaster-hit people are aided is surely not decided on a so called ‘rational’ basis alone? As another example thinking about climate change, including the fate of futuregenerations starting with lowland island dwellers can surely not be judged simply onpurely ‘rational’ grounds? Purely ‘rational’ grounds might include the reasoning forinstance: Unaided victims might be involved in mass migration and politicalinstability; the economic output of their regions will decrease; and so on. But isn’tthere a different dimension to our thought which irrationally (that is, not by cold logic)tells us people just should not be left to die? Reason as the term is commonly usedmight militate that workers have adequate wages and health and safety conditions.Better working conditions might increase productivity. But does instrumental reasonalone stipulate that families should not have loved ones maimed or killed on factorymachines? Does this sort of logic stipulated that women should or should not get left 4 Etienne de Condillac, Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge  , New York: Cambridge University Press,2001, p. 69.
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