Nathaniel Rivers

Cultivating rhetorics: Exploring and exploiting the emergent boundaries of nature and culture

Nathaniel Aaron Rivers

  • School: Purdue University
  • Degree: PhD
  • Date: 2009 pp: 189
  • Advisor: Rickert, Thomas J.
  • Committee Members: Blackmon, Samantha; Blakesley, David; Sullivan, Patricia A.
  • Source: DAI-A 70/11, May 2010
  • Keywords:: Culture, Disciplinarity, Nature, Persuasion, Rhetoric, Science
  • Subjects: Rhetoric
  • ProQuest Document Number: 1953699671
  • ISBN: 9781109488777
  • UMI Number: AAT 3379719


    Working to extend the realm of rhetoric by incorporating cognitive science, biology, and anthropology, this dissertation argues for a revised definition of rhetoric as the cultivation of human nature. It takes rhetoric to be the means of social, biological, and environmental persuasion by which we cobble together both ourselves as a species and the places we inhabit. What we know as “human nature” continually emerges by virtue of rhetorical cultivation within social, biological, and environmental dramas. As long as theorizers, teachers, and practitioners of rhetoric (in all its disciplinary manifestations) hold “nature” (in all of its social, biological, and environmental complexity) to be stable and/or a priori , as well as distinct and thus cut-off from rhetorical agency, they will continue to reinscribe the weak defense of rhetoric (as described by Richard Lanham) and the Platonism upon which it is predicated. It is for two reasons, the hope of sustainable human practices and the institutional credit needed to promote them, that rhetoric must respond, fully armed, to disciplinary challenges. Lanham’s strong defense of rhetoric, wedded to a model of human physiology espoused by recent cognitive scientists, provides just such fully armed arguments. As humans live on the strength of their relationships, so too must the field of rhetoric.