The relevant communication of rhetorical arguments
Jonathan Lee Campbell
School: Purdue University (0183)
Date: 1990; pp: 443
Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
Source: DAI-A 51/06, p. 2001, Dec 1990
Subjects: Language, General (0679); Language, Linguistics (0290); Speech Communication (0459)
ProQuest Document Number: 303890610
UMI Number: AAT 9031303
In order to “vindicate” everyday, communicative discourse, in the face of incoherent, implausible stories of communication and of theories of discourse that make discourse a self-deconstructing “text,” an emergent approach to communication in linguistic pragmatics called “relevance theory” is applied to the communication of rhetorical arguments. The result of this application, a story of the relevant communication of rhetorical arguments, is a version of communication in which utterances are made and understood with regard to multiple horizons of awareness, utterances achieving a “coincidental” relevance as they are contextualized in each of these horizons at once.
Rhetorical arguments are utterances made and understood with regard to three horizons of awareness: people’s spatio-temporal encounter, the sequence of utterances in an interaction, and the social, cultural, and historical life-world. In the encounter, arguments are utterances that achieve a “strategic” relevance, made and understood with regard to purposes that people have that are in dispute. Such “stasiastic” arguments are investigated from the perspective of classical rhetoric. In the interaction, arguments are utterances that gain a “rational” relevance, made and understood with regard to people’s intentions to support or justify a claim that is the object of a disagreement. Such “epistemic” arguments are investigated from the perspective of modern argumentation theory. Finally, in the life-world, arguments are utterances that achieve a “life-worldly” relevance as they are made and understood with regard to people’s sedimented motivations, about which there is resistance. Such “working” arguments are investigated from the perspective of a phenomenological theory of relevance in the everyday “world of working.”
This application of the concept of relevance to the making and understanding of arguments addresses problems in argument theory and in composition studies. In argument, the application suggests that the rational relevance of arguments cannot be privileged without impoverishing rhetorical discourse. In composition, the application suggests a version of composing situated in multiple horizons upon which writers artfully deliberate and tacitly integrate in anticipations of the worldly consequences of their discourse.