Attempting to Situate Myself…Hold On

I find myself torn between two warring epistemologies: social constructivism/relativism and realism. On the one hand, I am deeply sympathetic to the idea that we construct our own versions of social truths; in fact, most of my research on epideictic rhetoric depends on that fact. If we truly do “make morality,” as I argue society is largely in the process of doing, I can’t very well argue that morality just “is.” Yet, on some level, I do believe that. One of the questions that I posit to my students when this topic comes up is one of scale: are things wrong because society thinks they are wrong, or because there is something in the act itself that is just plain wrong? As with most dichotomies, I find this lacking. Can’t it be something in between?

More even than this issue is the issue I have with the nihilists, especially Nietzsche. In addition to having a completely unspellable name, I can’t reconcile myself to the complete lack of materiality that he seems to suggest. I can’t make myself accept that the world is fundamentally unknowable, that no matter what I am talking about, I am lying, that there is no truth, etc. However, I love Foucault. I think that the way Foucault looks at society makes perfect sense, and that there is a lot of value in seeing the connections and interplay of power in any given situation.

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The Rhetoric According to Dr. Moberly

For my paper this week, I interviewed Dr. Moberly. I asked him a few questions related to theory, and I got very satisfactory answers. I’m going to use that interview to place myself into the discussion of rhetorical theory.

As far as theories of rhetoric in general go, there are definitely some that are considered more authoritative/accepted than others. Though, perhaps when we talk about theories, we are really talking about theorists? When asked about theory, I noticed Dr. Moberly followed a lot of the postmodern/deconstructivists, and referenced Bakhtin, Brummett, Burke, Booth (perhaps having a last name that begins with B predisposes one to be sympathetic to rhetorical theory), Foucault, and Derrida. I brought up Nietzsche, who wasn’t dismissed, and there were currents of McLuhan running under our conversation, though he was never mentioned by name; I suppose that makes him less authoritative. These theorists seem to have some things in common…namely a tendency to see a wide range of texts as rhetorically constructed, and to devalue any sort of idea of truth beyond a social construct. No one on “the list” values a sensory-based epistemology; rather, they all seem to view knowledge as constructed by language, rather than language representing truth in any firm way.

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