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    Monday, 29 October 2007

    Beware rhetoricians!: the sense of nonsense

    There was a nice piece by Zoe Williams in the Guardian on Friday that focused on the 'opinionator' Melanie Phillips. Quite apart from what might be considered a pleasant tone of derision for an arch anti-liberal commentator, the article offers the sensible reminder to take the messages offered with a pinch of salt. The alleged purpose of such commentators' bombast, far from contributing to a search for truth, is rhetorically to undermine any mutual commitment to finding understanding in favour of encouraging retrenchment to preconceived 'positions'.

    The ease of resort to, and difficulty of identifying the use of, such techniques by systemic and other actors is often cited as a weakpoint in Habermasian notions of communicative rationality and its relevance to working understandings of the public sphere. He is often considered 'hostile to theatre' (spectacle or rhetoric as communicative devices) and therefore somewhat divorced from reality. A better reading, however, is that his work invites a focus - in a manner not dissimilar to that of Foucault - on precisely such attempts to distort public discussion that is notionally oriented towards reaching consensus / sense.

    1 comment:

    Russ said...

    Andrew,

    Habermas? Foucault?

    Too early in the morning for that blast of theory...

    (smile)

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