Dialectic & Dialogic
Pat J Gehrke
Thu Mar 19 20:25:23 CST 1998
I certainly concur with Bill Balthrop that we cannot limit our view of the
last several years of rhetorical scholarship to the post-structuralists.
Foucault may be a favorite of mine, but is certainly not the only thinker
who has provided reasons we might want to rethink the way debate happens.
How many rhetorical scholars have directly or indirectly argued that we need
to rethink the way we engage in debate?
Brockriede is an obvious example of one scholar who expressed concern about
the form and function of the activity. RL Scott was voicing concern even
before the '67 Rhetoric as Epistemic article. Recent special issues of
Speaker & Gavel and also Argumentation & Advocacy have shared some
wonderfully engaging feminist critiques and reconsiderations of argument
practice. Conway, Desilet, Haynes-Burton, and Thomas have all made good use
of Nietzsche. Haynes-Burton does a nice job of advancing a communication
ethic that seems to be in tension with the normal form and function of the
Dialectic has value, I certainly agree. Yet, the very structure of the
activity of debate takes dialectic to be far more than that. It takes
dialectic to be the only way to engage in argumentation and debate. In my
opinion, we might be able to engage in argumentation and debate in a
dialogic fashion. Dialogue does not preclude disagreement, nor reasoned
argument. It does preclude, in my opinion, a burden of stable advocacy.
Now, I am asking this question: Why does the current form and function of
debate preclude authentic in-round dialogue? What justifies the
continuation of that exclusion?
I do not intend this to be an either/or. I think Bill Balthrop is right --
dialectic has value and should not be a-priori excluded from debate. I am
hoping for a way to come to both/and, something I think current
intercollegiate debate has not done.
From: Bill Balthrop <vwb at EMAIL.UNC.EDU>
To: EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU <EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU>
Date: Thursday, March 19, 1998 1:32 PM
Subject: Re: Academics and Coaching
>With all due respect, please let us not limit our view of the last
>several years of rhetorical theory to the positions advocated by the
>poststructuralists. I would argue that there is nothing wrong with
>debate and dialectic as modes of discourse. The dialogic is fine for
>many things, but it may be, too, that the dialogic when it strives for
>critical thinking and when unlimited time is impossible becomes more
>like the dialectic. There is room and value in *argument* and the clash
>of ideas. This does not mean, of course, that the debate should be
>uncivil but I don't really see the problem with saying that one
>person/team does better in a given instantiation of discourse than
>another. Foucault not withstanding.
>Univ of North Carolina
>Pat J Gehrke wrote:
>> Kevin Kuswa argues:
>> >5. Rhetoric could become more central in our argumentation
>> practices. This
>> >means more than simply kritiking the opposition's language:
>> >a) it means discussing CITATIONS, QUALS, the nature of evidence and a
>> >of other issues that often fall by the wayside.
>> >b) it means adding introspection to the debate process--what do
>> >styles and conventions do to certain arguments?
>> >c) it opens up a virtually unexplored area of research. Great cards
>> >the connections between policy and rhetoric can be found all over the
>> >CSMC, Comm. Monographs, the regional speech journals, and tons of
>> >studies journals.
>> >d) it makes graduate work in comm. studies more interesting.
>> >e) it grounds much philosophical or critical argument in solid
>> >(rather than email cards :) ).
>> I think that reconnecting debate to rhetoric requires much more than
>> Debate appears almost the oppossite of recent trends and movements in
>> rhetorical theory. This is an odd quandry. Debate does not look like
>> really has incorporated the rhetorical theories developed in the
>> latter half
>> of the twentieth century. Debate's form and function is much more
>> akin to
>> that advocated in the Phaedrus -- public speaking is used only to sway
>> others to some pre-existing truth that the wiser person (the speaker)
>> already discovered. Yeah, we fix things between rounds -- we reflect
>> decide we might need to change our advocacy or opinions, but we are
>> precluded from engaging each other outside of a polemical binary
>> within the
>> debate round.
>> Start with the burden of stable advocacy in rounds. This _requires_ a
>> polemical exchange, never dialogue, between the debaters. Authentic
>> dialogue, in my opinion, requires we be able to shift our advocacy.
>> In my
>> opinion, the very form and function of the acitivity (right down to
>> core) will need some reworking if we are to bring it aside
>> rhetorical theory
>> The kind of move advocated by Kevin is very attractive to me, but we
>> not take this step clutching tightly to all our assumptions and
>> presuppositions that came before. We need to think seriously, again,
>> how to restructure the activity so that it does not require
>> What would Foucault say about our style of discourse? Check out the
>> few pages of "Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations" in Ethics,
>> Subjectivity, and Truth: vol. I. Paul Rabinow, Ed.
>> With hope for the future,
>> Pat Gehrke
>> penn state
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