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Rhetoric, Discourse and Knowledge

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Edited By Maria Załęska and Urszula Okulska

The authors of this volume explore rhetorical and discursive strategies used to negotiate and establish legitimate knowledge and its disciplinary boundaries, to make scientific knowledge interesting outside academic settings as well, and to manage (c)overt knowledge in different social and political contexts. The volume focuses on the cultural concept of knowledge society, examining diverse linguistic means of knowledge transmission from the perspective of the complex interplay between knowledge and persuasion. The contributors discuss both sociological and philosophical issues, as well as textual processes in different genres that aim to communicate knowledge.

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Argumentation as an intellectual tool in the knowledge society (Christian Plantin)

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Christian Plantin

Lyon University

Argumentation as an intellectual tool in the knowledge society

Abstract: Contesting the opposition between (scientific) ‘demonstration’ and (rhetorical) ‘argumentation,’ the author claims that argumentation is a full-blown, legitimate way of knowledge acquisition and knowledge-based decision making. The form and substance of argumentative dialogue is presented as a powerful intellectual tool that can build a bridge between the ‘two academic cultures.’

1. Introduction

This paper will argue implicitly against a vision limiting rhetoric to a mere communication polishing device, and, explicitly, in favor of a concept of argumentative rhetoric able, first, to make a substantial contribution to science education and, second, to be robust enough to collaborate in the construction of a common language between what Snow calls the two cultures (Snow 1961), i.e., the sciences and the humanities. As far as rhetoric wants to deal with human affairs, it has to integrate the fact that nowadays, in a knowledge-based society, human affairs are science-dependent (see also Kowalski, this volume). Consequently, rhetoric can no longer be defined in relation with what is traditionally called ‘opinion’ and ‘common sense;’ it has to engage in a new relation with the ‘other culture.’

The second section will specify the concept of rhetorical argument used in this presentation. Then, in section three and four, the question of the status of argumentation in the knowledge society will be addressed through a foundational rhetorical commonplace, the...

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