Imagine two artists:
One travels the world over, searching for a human subject worthy of his skill as a painter of portraits. But so exacting are his standards and so fastidious his judgment that he has yet to discover a single person worthy of his efforts. Every potential subject is marred by some disqualifying flaw.
The second artist, on the other hand, has no special admiration for his own skill. Consequently, he never things to look beyond his immediate circle of neighbors for his subjects. Nevertheless, he has yet to find a face without something beautiful in it, something eminently worthy to be portrayed.
Wouldn’t this indicate that the second painter is the real artist? Yes–because this second one “brings a certain something” that enables him or her to find in others that which is worthy to paint. The other painter could not find anything worthy to paint anywhere in the world because he or she did not bring this “certain something.”
So it is with love, says Kierkegaard. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals–any individuals–that others cannot see (see Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love [New York: Harper and Row, 1962], 156-157).
[The above four paragraphs are slightly adapted from C. Terry Warner, Bonds That Make Us Free pages 306-307. C. Terry Warner also founded The Arbinger Institute, which wrote Leadership and Self Deception, The Anatomy of Peace, and The Outward Mindset.]
|I found this image on https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/Wang_Ximeng_-_A_Thousand_Li_of_River_%28Bridge%29.jpg/1280px-Wang_Ximeng_-_A_Thousand_Li_of_River_%28Bridge%29.jpg
While Technical Communication is commonly defined as a practice and not a field of research, any well-established field should have general research questions. So, what are the research questions in the field of Technical Communication? This is a difficult question because the field is a hybrid of many different fields, such as rhetoric, design, speech, psychology, education, computer science, etc. But questions are important, and good questions generate more questions.
To find the answer, Rude looks at 109 books, analyzing them on the large-scale, to see what questions the field is asking. Rude believes that Technical Communication’s main question is this: how do texts (defined broadly) mediate knowledge, values, and action in social and professional contexts?
From this question, Rude examines 4 related questions that divide the field into 4 main areas (though some of the questions can be in more than one area):
- Disciplinarity: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our history, and what is our future?
- Pedagogy: What should we teach and how?
- Practice: How should texts be ethical and effective? What are the best practices?
- Social Change: How do texts function as agents of knowledge making, action, and change?
Much energy has already gone to pedagogy and practice, but “a sustainable academic field is built on research questions that develop knowledge” (205). In other words, what are these researchers trying to discover? [But wait a minute: is Rude not implying a separation between knowledge and pedagogy and practice here? If so, why? Do we need to?]
From Carolyn D. Rude, “Mapping the Research Questions in Technical Communication,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 23.2 (2009); 174‐201.
While technical communicators and scholars have called for more studies between the intersections of rhetoric and technical communication, in this article, Todd writes that they haven’t done much with the canon of invention, and what has been done with that canon comes only from classical rhetoric. His article discusses what Burke has to add to these discussions. The article focuses on how Burke might be used in the technical communication classroom and other settings, and mentions several Burkean terms like the pentad, ambiguities, propoedentic or nimbleness of thought, limits of agreement, joycing or what Todd calls etymological extension, finding the complex in the simple, expanding the circumference, and four master tropes, all of which are shown to be invention strategies. Personally, I am surprised that Burke’s notion of form is missing here, but I will have to perhaps write something that adds to this discussion as well.
Jeff Todd. 2000. Burkean Invention in Technical Communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, January 2000; vol. 30, 1: pp. 81-96.
While other scholars have used many theories to talk about professional writing and to think about text and context, in this article, Thomas Miller draws on classical rhetoric because it justifies a social and ethics of technical and professional writing. Technical writing, after all, has a strong emphasis on purpose, practicality, and the fulfillment of goals. For civic humanists like Aristotle and Isocrates, the emphasis was on making a morally good person who demonstrated phronesis, or practical wisdom, the capacity to say the right thing at the right time, solving problems when perfect knowledge wasn’t possible. Miller writes, “For Aristotle (and for civic humanists generally), practical wisdom is based on a broad-based understanding of the shared experiences and traditions of the community that enables us to discover what is best in a particular situation” (57-58).
So, there should be no division between theory and practice. Professionals run in to problems when they know more than they can put into practice. They have to learn common sense and how to apply principles in order to be successful. Knowledge is not an object, but is socially constructed.
Civic humanism manages the so-called divide between theory and practice. We can’t pretend that rhetoric is just theory whereas composition is the techne, the practice of that theory. Technical writing is social action. Writing is not amoral, and neither science nor writing is free from values (63). Miller sounds a lot like James Berlin’s 1988 argument in several parts of this article. Humans can’t be reduced to information. We’re much more than that.
An uncritical but fragmented knowledge can be dangerous to humanism (69). Separating context and text can be, too. We should teach technical and professional writing as social praxis so that it becomes more than just a skills class–so that it becomes practical in the most important sense of that word.
Miller, Thomas P. 1991. “Treating Professional Writing as Social Praxis” JAC. Vol. 11, 1: pp. 57-72.
Miller clearly explains her argument in these terms:
“I wish to argue that the common opinion that the undergraduate technical writing course is a ‘skills’ course with little or no humanistic value is the result of a lingering but pervasive positivist view of science.”
The positivist view that Miller is arguing against seems to be similar to, if not the same thing that Burke calls semantic meaning and argues against in “Semantic and Poetic Meaning.” Positivism reduces science to the testable, and words are not science but they get in the way of knowledge. From that perspective, only sensory data is pure knowledge.
For Miller, positivism has unfortunately influenced the teaching of technical writing in at least 4 ways.
- First, we talk about clarity, but the term clarity is not objective because we can’t actually explain what it means.
- Second, we talk about style and form without talking about invention. Does science invent? Or discover?
- Third, we teach that tone should be objective and impersonal, but there are real people reading our writing.
- Fourth, we talk about levels of audience.
But philosophers don’t believe in positivism, anymore, and rhetoric is actually epistemic. In other words, words are themselves forms of knowledge, and knowledge is created. Science is about symbols and arguments, not just about material things. In short, science is a form of rhetoric.
Since communication occurs in communities, we should talk about understanding in technical communication and not just skills because discussions on skills tend to emphasize the writer, whereas a focus on understanding emphasizes both writer and reader. And that focus on both writers and readers is necessary because we don’t want to neglect the one while privileging the other.
From Carolyn R. Miller, “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing.” Johndan Johnson‐Eilola and Stuart A. Selber, Eds., Central Works in Technical Communication, Oxford University Press, 2004.
In User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts, Robert Johnson takes James Kinneavy’s application of I.A. Richard’s rhetorical triangle and appropriates it to technology, concluding that technical communication and usability studies can benefit from centering technology on users instead of designers. Users are practitioners, producers, and citizens, he writes (46).
In other words, rhetorical theory can be used to talk about artifacts in technical communication and usability studies. Technology, like speeches, are designed for users and not designers. But, historically, designers were privileged over users, and to some degree, they still are, but they shouldn’t be because the audience plays a key role that cannot be neglected: the end of technology is users–people, human beings. The rhetorical situation triangle thing of speaker, audience, and purpose, should be used to talk about and think about technology.
In short, users are practitioners, producers, and citizens.
Here’s the citation for the book:
Johnson, R. R. (1998). User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts. State University of New York Press.
Wikramanayake responds to Grimaldi’s 1957 article by saying that Grimaldi only discusses how pistis is used in 1354-1356 in the Rhetoric, arguing that Grimaldi is wrong on the grounds that the entire treatise needs to be discussed, not just the first bit. So, for Wikramanayake, while pistisis used in 3 senses throughout Aristotle’s Rhetoric, one of these senses, the “pledge of good faith” at 1375a10 is not relevant to Aristotle’s rhetorical theory.
There are only two other meanings—not Grimaldi’s three—and they overlap with one another: 1) the state of mind that is produced in the audience and 2) the means whereby that state of mind is produced. Wikramanayake’s first meaning—the state of mind produced in the audience—corresponds with Grimaldi’s third meaning, whereas Wikramanayake believes his second meaning is similar to Grimaldi’s second meaning. Wikramanayake contends that Grimaldi’s first meaning, pisteis as subject matter or source material, does not exist in Aristotle because whenever Aristotle talks about source material or subject matter he uses either circumlocution, or toposor eidos.
So, Wikramanayake’s second meaning is limited to pisteis atechnoias well as pisteis entechnoi, the latter of which for Wikramanayake includes ethical, emotional, and logical demonstration. Furthermore, the logical part of pisteis entechnoi contains demonstration by enthymeme and paradigm. Wikramanayake then contends that Grimaldi excludes enthymemes and paradigms from logical proofs, but demonstration is one of the proofs. In fact, enthymeme is, as Aristotle says, the body of proof, not just an appendage, so Grimaldi must be wrong.
Wikramanayake, G. H. 1961. “A Note on the Pisteis in Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” The American Journal of Philology 82(2): 1961, pp. 193-196.
Traditionally, the pisteis entechnoi have been defined as ethos, pathos, and logos, where ethos and pathos have been equated with non- or quasi-logical, and where logos has been equated with the logical and the enthymeme. But the way Aristotle uses the word pistis has no univocal meaning and is difficult to define, and what he actually means is much more nuanced. Furthermore, the misunderstanding of the different meanings of pistis have created much confusion and many seeming inconsistencies. In this article, Grimaldi analyzes sections 1354-1356 from Aristotle’s Rhetoric to give three different meanings of the word pistis:
- first, pistis is source material that can induce belief in an audience. This is where we find the atechnoi and entechnoi pisteis, which Grimaldi calls ethos, pathos, and pragma.
- Second, pistis is the method whereby the source material is used to produce pistis in the audience. This pistis, like episteme, is the result of demonstration. It is under this definition of pistis where enthymemes and paradigms are employed.
- Finally, pistis is the state of mind—belief—that has been produced or induced in the audience.
So, depending on how we define pistis, we will be talking about something slightly different. If pisteis are source materials for proofs, then those proofs lie in ethos, pathos, and pragma. But if pisteis are modes of demonstration, then they are enthymemes and paradigms. Hence, Grimaldi argues that the enthymeme must not be equated with the third definition of pistis, but the enthymeme instead employs the pisteis entechnoi, the source material. The enthymeme thus embodies the pisteis, giving them form so they can be used to persuade an audience. [And now I wonder if we can say something like induce belief.]
Grimaldi also recognizes that ethos and pathos are not non- or quasi-logical because as human beings, we make judgments and accept propositions with feelings, emotions, will, character, and intellect.
From Grimaldi, William M. A. 1957. “A Note on the Pisteis in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, 1354-1356.” The American Journal of Philology 78(2): 1957, pp. 188-192.
Wow. Look at this definition! “Now syllogism is a statement [logos] in which, certain things having been posited, something other than the posited necessarily results through what is posited” (100a). We have something—and something else comes in to being from it! Where’s Aristotle’s On Coming to Be and Passing Away when I need it? J
[logical demonstration] occurs whenever the syllogism is drawn from things that are true and primary or from things that are of the sort as to have taken the first principle of knowledge of them from what is primary and true; but a syllogism is dialectical when drawn from generally accepted opinions” (100a-100b18). Things that are true are persuasive in themselves and by themselves. Opinions, or endoxa,
are things that seem right to all people or most people or the wise, meaning most of the wise, or the most well-known as authorities.
Dialectic is useful for 3 purposes: mental training as a method to undertake discussion on any subject, serious conversation that lets us restate what other say to us, and philosophical science, since dialectic enables us to state both sides of an issue and thereby more easily see what is true and what is false.
“We shall possess the method completely when we are in the same situation as in rhetoric and medicine and such faculties: that is, [able] to accomplish what we choose from the available means; for neither will the one with rhetorical skill persuade by every means nor will the doctor heal, but if none of the available means is neglected we shall say that he has knowledge adequately” (101b).
[What exactly is “available means”?]
From Topics Book 1.1-3