Modernizing Rhetoric: Recuperation and Response

in Rhetoric, Modality, Modernity

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226777481
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226777504 | DOI:
Modernizing Rhetoric: Recuperation and Response

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The quarrel of rhetoric and philosophy offers a specific and useful perspective on inquiry as a contrast of modality concerns: of rhetoric with possibility, opposed to philosophy with necessity—a contrast which illumines rhetoric's civil motives. Rhetorical habits discover, articulate, refine, and pose possibilities. Recall Geoffrey Hawthorn's “possibilities haunt the social sciences.” Rhetoric uses conjecture to expand, transform a problematic, and uses counterfactuals to revalue our past as our necessity. Thus, John Elliott wants us to review, strenuously, our sense of colonial enterprise in his “rhetorical” query—was Montezuma necessary? Bernard Williams' Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985) sets a program that meticulously makes a case against bad motives and thin arguments of political and ethical philosophy. Giovanni Battista Vico responds exactly to the loss of politics, while Thomas Hobbes reorients the discussion by removing the Classical moral carapace from political speculation. Hobbesian rhetoricized psychology and Vichian rhetorical-legal hermeneutic transformed political capacities as collective, requiring a new decorum of collectivity, new definitions of civil possibility.

Keywords: rhetoric; philosophy; Thomas Hobbes; Giovanni Battista Vico; modality; Geoffrey Hawthorn; Bernard Williams; politics; psychology; civil possibility

Chapter.  7235 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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