Stanley Fish Response

As I sit here and attempt to digest Stanley Fish’s chapter, “Rhetoric,” and how within it seems to be a debate regarding membership to the species homo seriosus or homo rhetoricus, I realize that this is about getting the right sort of juices flowing rather than identifying with one or the other. 

Fish references authors from the fields of philosophy, science, and economics to demonstrate that there is a practical need (or desire) to pursue truth, and ultimately, many ways to skin the rhetorical cat.  Kuhn’s proposal of a "‘neutral observation language’" for scientific research is yet to be achieved, still “unavailable,” for instance (130-131).  Almost as if saying—it’s a nice thought, but impossible.  Situations, context and the infinite possibilities of interpretation line up with J. L. Austin’s view on the importance of appropriateness that “words must match the world, and if they do not they can be criticized as false and inaccurate” (131). 

Perhaps then, the point is less about achieving a universal language, and more about the approaches we take to better understanding our naturally flawed ability to communicate.  It begs the (possibly rhetorical) question:  Why is fairness a worthwhile pursuit?

The contradictory nature of rhetorical study opens many doors.  It allows each of us the opportunity to stake our own claims, much like Fish and those he references.  Our individual interpretations are relevant, though they may be overwhelming to consider.  This inescapable subjectivity inspires a narrowing of focus which provides some relief for me, now, as a student of rhetoric. 

“‘Rhetorical man is trained not to discover reality but to manipulate it.  Reality is what is accepted as reality, what is useful’” (127).  I’m curious to learn more about the relationship between rhetoric and achieving a sense of power and control, how through manipulating the language available to us might transcend the inevitable and existing limitations.