A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities

in Shaping Science with Rhetoric

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780226099064
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226099088 | DOI:
A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities

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A rhetorical analysis of Wilson's Consilience can offer a new way of understanding why his appeal for interdisciplinarity has not been as successful as he hoped it would be. It suggests that both opponents and supporters are right to a certain degree. This chapter argues that several rhetorical choices made by Wilson negatively influenced the outcome of his appeal for interdisciplinarity. First, Wilson's failure to inspire those who were not already in his camp was largely due to the fact that he employed rhetoric of conquest. Second, Wilson lost many of his readers because of the particular theory he chose to promote in his interdisciplinary appeal. Third, Wilson employed a form of polysemy that did more to damage his own ethos than to smooth tensions between disciplines. Even the biggest supporters of Wilson recognized his rhetorical error in treating the social sciences and the humanities as territories to be conquered, or entities to be cannibalized, by the intellectually superior culture of science.

Keywords: rhetorical analysis; Wilson's Consilience; polysemy; Interdisciplinarity

Chapter.  11965 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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