Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue and three modern rhetorics
Barbara Jeanne Kelb
School: Purdue University (0183)
Date: 1991; pp: 171
Advisor: Gaston, Thomas
Source: DAI-A 52/08, p. 2903, Feb 1992
Subjects: Language, General (0679); Philosophy (0422)
ProQuest Document Number:
UMI Number: AAT 9201348
This dissertation tests the applicability of Martin Buber’s concepts within his philosophy of dialogue to three modern rhetorics. Rogerian rhetoric, Bruffeean rhetoric derived from social constructionism, and Henry Johnstone’s definition of rhetoric or wedge theory are examined through Buber’s I-Thou dialogue.
Each one of these modern rhetorics has given the field of rhetoric and composition new ways of looking at human communication, interpersonal relationships, and the origin and nature of knowledge. Each one, also, as the dissertation points out, has certain limitations in the way it views these issues. Buber’s philosophy of dialogue helps to reveal these limitations and challenges these prevailing perspectives of rhetoric.
First, Rogerian rhetoric, which is based on Carl Rogers’ methods in psychotherapy, is critiqued through Buber’s I-Thou philosophy. Rogers’ principles of person-centered counselling are set alongside Buber’s ideas of interhuman relationships. The result of the comparison shows how Rogers’ concepts and methods are more monologic than dialogic and thus more expressive than rhetorical. Buber’s ideas, by contrast, are dialogical and rhetorical.
Second, Kenneth Bruffee’s interpretation of social construction theory, which is the foundation of his collaborative learning practices, is set against Buber’s notion of interhuman community. The important differences between collective and communal living and learning are established, and Bruffee’s concept of consensual knowledge is debated.
Third, Henry Johnstone’s definition of rhetoric or wedge theory is reinterpreted in terms of Buber’s I-Thou dialogical philosophy. Johnstone’s definition of rhetoric moves us to the point of understanding the self as evoked by conflict, while Buber’s philosophy takes us beyond this to the point of I-Thou existence in the realm of the Between.
In conclusion, it is hoped that this dissertation brings Buber’s concepts more solidly to the field of rhetoric and composition and that they form a legitimate perspective from which to critique other rhetorics.