How do you think rhetoric works?

A recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker seeks to explain “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” The article is in reference to several new books written by cognitive scientists. The first, by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, called The Enigma of Reason recounts numerous psychological studies examining the various ways in which people hold on to their…

reality checks

Maybe you saw John Oliver on Last Week Tonight describe his plan to begin airing commercials on morning shows Trump watches in order to educate him on a few key points. If you haven’t, it’s worth a laugh. Oliver’s basic argument though is that we have a president who doesn’t believe that an agreed upon reality…

interpretation, tarot cards, and the power of truth

Long ago, when I was an undergrad, I learned how to read Tarot cards. (Hey, stop rolling your eyes; I saw that.) I haven’t done it in years, though when I was a professor at Cortland we’d go on writing retreats to this Adirondack camp with our students and my colleague, Vicky Boynton, and I…

beware the ides of Marching

Sometimes (well most of the time) a blog is means for exorcising and exercising one’s thoughts. Sweating them out of the mind, where maybe you can return to them later. It’s the “beware the ides of Marching” as we’re in the middle of it now and perhaps some caution is warranted. David Brooks has a…

living the post-American dream

Baudrillard’s America was one of the first books of “theory” I encountered as a student. It’s a weirdly poetic, aphoristic book. I honestly can’t tell you what to make of it, but here are few bits. Deep down, the US, with is space, its technological refinement, its simulation is the only remaining primitive society. The fascinating this is…

teaching for democracy in first-year composition

Asao Inoue has a thoughtful post here revisiting James Berlin and the idea of composition as instruction in democratic citizenship. Undoubtedly there is a deep connection to classical rhetoric in this connection, though Berlin revitalized that link for the postmodern era. Like Inoue, I was also strongly affected by Berlin as a grad student in the…

identity and pedagogy in first-year composition

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Mark Lilla’s NY Times op-ed, “The End of Identity Liberalism.” As I noted then, I did not imagine many of my colleagues would share his views (and neither do I, as I think that post made clear, though perhaps I had different objections than other academics). Chris Newfield offers…

robot empathy and ethics in a jobless future

Perhaps this is a departure from concerns of distributed deliberation, fake news and such. Perhaps not. Here though I begin with the rhetoric of an emerging sub-genre regarding humanity’s slow, dismal apocalypse in the wake of intelligent machines. I offer two examples, one from the New Yorker, “Silicon Valley Has an Empathy Problem” by Om Malik…

consensual and competing media hallucinations

In Neuromancer William Gibson famously described cyberspace as A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations…

distributed deliberation: beyond echo chambers and fake news

If some Americans are slowly rousing to the realization that getting information via social media resulted in a distorted (and sometimes completely false) view of past election, perhaps they might be able to extend that epiphany to recognize that the distortion is ongoing and not limited to presidential politics. It is also not limited to…