Posts Tagged ‘philosophy


Kent Sprague’s The Older Sophists

A concise summary of, well, summaries/biographies.


Richards’ Philosophy of Rhetoric

I.A. Richards
The Philosophy of Rhetoric
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Notes from book

•    Series of lectures at Berkeley
•    How we approach rhetoric
•    Introduction to metaphors
•    Stability/context
•    15: Mean what it means?
•    23: (Mis)understanding
•    27: Meaning about meanings
•    28: Conneciton between thing and mane
o    Theory: New Critical
•    31: Conceptual thinking
•    35: Simultaneously into number of sorts
•    38: Overdetermination: Freud
•    32: The Golden Rule
•    Interdetermination
•    Literary context
•    48: Movement among meanings
•    51: Words matter – in isolation – to another
•    53: Interpretation
•    70: Meaning of words with other words
•    90: Language and apprehension/representation
•    91: Rhetoric: superficial problems
•    94: Transaction between contexts
•    99: Construction of metaphor
•    106: Ought/do words work?
•    116: Reflexive awareness
•    117: Metaphor works w/ knowledge of its ground
•    118: Metaphors work even if we don’t know how
o    Words can be both literal and metaphoric
•    131: Presenting language as work only though senses is backwards
•    132: Plain speech is inaccurate—metaphors make it precise
Critical moments in the text
•    3: “Rhetoric should be a study of misunderstanding and its remedies.”
•    15: “How does a word mean? How does an idea (or an image) mean what it does?”
•    59: “Morpheme: two or more words are said to share a morpheme when they have, at the same time, something in common in their meaning and something in common in their sound.”
Notes from class presentation
•    A transcript of a series of seven lectures delivered at Berkeley, The Philosophy of Rhetoric by I.A. Richards examines the function of words in rhetorical situations.
•    In each of these seven lectures, Richards expands upon his definition of rhetoric – which he immediately terms as “a study of misunderstanding and its remedies” – by heavily emphasizing a specific textuality found within the text itself (3).
•    However, Richards also spends significant time on metaphor, generally distinguished as a textuality lying outside of the text.  With these two competing distinctions, compositionists, rhetoricians, and general readers alike leave these transcribed lectures with a complete view of the role of words, whether these individual words are performing by themselves, or in sentences and in connection with their surroundings.
•    In the first introductory lecture, Richards suggests that as teachers, it is our “business […] to guess at and diagnose the mistakes other people have made in understanding what they have heard and read and to avoid illustrating these mistakes” (4).
o    This is where I find difficulty with this particular text, as I don’t believe we should focus specifically on become diagnosticians, or error-checkers and correctors; rather we teachers should look on improving the writer and the argument through revision.
•    According to Richards, “metaphor” is a notion that problematizes meaning in general.  By stating, “The meaning we find for a word comes to it only with respect to the meanings of the other words we take with it,” Richards suggests that all words are relational to others, or further, that none carry their own particular essence (70).
•    Metaphor, then, becomes crucial in the sense that all words mean something else in various situations.  Richards illustrates this idea in the following passage by examining various handlings of the word ‘book’:
•    “The word book, for example, troubles no one.  And yet compare the use of book, in which we distinguish a book from a magazine or journal, with that in which a majority of speakers in England describe a weekly as a book.  Or compare the senses of book in ‘It’s a formidable volume, but it’s not a book.’ ‘He has a mind full of his book.’ ‘Writing a book.’ ‘Binding a book.’ ‘Printing a book.’ ‘Rearranging the books in the catalogue.’  In each of these we have shifted the sense of book, sometimes to positions incompatible with one another” (74).
•    What this section demonstrates is a specific nod towards the New Critics in the sense that the meaning of a text is found specifically within itself.  Here, Richards’ employment of the term “metaphor” is designed to represent how words mean differently in connection to others, rather than corresponding to ideas outside of the text.
•    In reference to his aforementioned definition of rhetoric, misunderstandings can be remedied much more easily by utilizing Richards’ characterization of metaphors, as one does not have to look further than the original text for meaning.
•    Intellectual Roots
•    Richards suggests that the meaning of a text must be found within itself, thus he is one of the early advocates of New Criticism.
•    In A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, Covino maintains that, “The return to rhetoric had begun in the 1930s, when proponents of New Criticism […] began to connect the importance of ambiguity as a characteristic of language to a reconsideration of rhetoric as the explanation of ambiguity” (37).
•    When Richards notes that “rhetoric is a study of misunderstanding and its remedies,” we can then begin to see how the return to rhetoric helps one refocus on the explicitness of a text as opposed external factors that might weigh it down (3).
•    Arguments For
•    In composition classes, I believe it is very important to stick to what is said in the text, rather than looking to such factors as the author or motives behind the writing.  In my classroom, I always tell the students that they are being graded on their writing – what’s said in their essays – and not on their individual beliefs, personalities, etc.  This disctinction is crucial, especially when discussing Richards’ view of rhetorical pedagogy.  The student writer and the student text are two separate entities, and we must teach to these in very different ways.
•    Arguments Against
•    On the other hand, by incorporating the student writer and the student text, we can better “remedy the misunderstandings” by understanding where the individual is coming from: is English the student’s second language? have they always struggled with writing? did they have enough time to write the paper? am I properly explaining the assignment?

July 2017
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