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Rhetoric for philosophers: An examination of the place of rhetoric in philosophy.

Goncalves Teixeira, Ligia Alexandra (2007) Rhetoric for philosophers: An examination of the place of rhetoric in philosophy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The debate between rhetoricians and philosophers goes back to the origins of the understanding of what philosophy is, which we can trace to Plato and the immediate Platonic tradition. I suggest that this tradition was not a disinterested one. Its concern was to carve out and develop a particular kind of discourse (i.e., what it takes to be the philosophical enterprise) for its own purposes (i.e., to marginalise its competitors). It did this in a particularly successful way, to the extent that it is difficult for us even to consider what the alternatives might have been. However, there are residual problems in the way that it conceives of the philosophical project, and this question is related to the widespread tendency of contemporary thinkers to view rhetoric as pompous vacuousness or mere trickery. Despite the theoretical questions posed, this thesis focuses primarily on concrete works, especially those of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Renaissance thinkers, Hobbes, and Locke. I analyse the rhetorical discourse in some of rhetoric's staunchest opponents, and some of its most well-known advocates for a very specific purpose. First, I am trying to show that all these philosophers, whether pro or against the art of rhetoric, recognise the danger of 'sophistic tricks', and acknowledge (more or less reluctantly) that rhetoric potentially represents a dangerous threat to the moral basis of political life, but follow different paths. Next, and this is a fundamental part of my argument, that in the works of philosophers who are widely regarded as some of rhetoric's staunchest opponents, we can find clear evidence, not only of the use of rhetoric to fight rhetoric, but allusions to what they see as a 'true' or legitimate rhetoric. In other words, echoing Plato, two forms of persuasion are alluded to in their works: (i) a rhetoric that produces persuasion for belief in the absence of knowledge, and (ii) a genuine or 'true' art of rhetoric, the sort of that produces knowledge (episteme) in the privileged sense. So in the Phaedrus, Plato suggests that the philosopher is the true rhetorician; for Hobbes the only 'true' rhetorician is, of course, the sovereign; and for Locke, any truly free and rational individual can, at least in theory, be a good rhetorician. At a more general level, and this constitutes the underlying theme of the thesis, I hope to show that philosophy itself, like all discourses, does not exist in a linguistic vacuum. Philosophy, like rhetoric and history, is deeply implicated in the social and political order that produces it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy, Language, Rhetoric and Composition
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Government

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