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Democracy and Rhetoric

John Dewey on the Arts of Becoming

Nathan Crick

Publication Year: 2012

In Democracy and Rhetoric, Nathan Crick articulates from John Dewey's body of work a philosophy of rhetoric that reveals the necessity for bringing forth a democratic life infused with the spirit of ethics, a method of inquiry, and a sense of beauty. Crick relies on rhetorical theory as well interdisciplinary insights from philosophy, history, sociology, aesthetics, and political science as he demonstrates that significant engagement with issues of rhetoric and communication are central to Dewey's political philosophy. In his rhetorical reading of Dewey, Crick examines the sophistical underpinnings of Dewey's philosophy and finds it much informed by notions of radical individuality, aesthetic experience, creative intelligence, and persuasive advocacy as essential to the formation of communities of judgment. Crick illustrates that for Dewey rhetoric is an art situated within a complex and challenging social and natural environment, wielding influence and authority for those well versed in its methods and capable of experimenting with its practice. From this standpoint the unique and necessary function of rhetoric in a democracy is to advance minority views in such a way that they might have the opportunity to transform overarching public opinion through persuasion in an egalitarian public arena. The truest power of rhetoric in a democracy then is the liberty for one to influence the many through free, full, and fluid communication. Ultimately Crick argues that Dewey's sophistical rhetorical values and techniques form a naturalistic "ontology of becoming" in which discourse is valued for its capacity to guide a self, a public, and a world in flux toward some improved incarnation. Appreciation of this ontology of becoming—of democracy as a communication-driven work in progress—gives greater social breadth and historical scope to Dewey's philosophy while solidifying his lasting contributions to rhetoric in an active and democratic public sphere.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. ix-x

In Democracy and Rhetoric: John Dewey on the Arts of Becoming, Nathan Crick explores what it would mean for rhetoric to act as a means of radical democracy. He claims that the American philosopher John Dewey (1859–1952) points us to an understanding that rhetoric must reassert its status as an art that engages ethics, intellectual inquiry, and aesthetics. ...

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pp. xi-xii

This book is a product of the environment of which I am but a part. Its origins are not found in scholarly debates about the meanings of concepts; it grows out of the soil of experience in which the seeds of ideas were fortunate to take root. A few people who formed that environment are thus worth recognizing. ...

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pp. 1-15

Rhetoric is the radical expression of a radical faith. Dewey calls this faith “democratic,” but democracy is merely its political manifestation. The faith that makes both rhetoric and democracy radical is the faith in the constitutive and communicative power of art unfettered.2 ...

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Chapter 1: Rhetoric and the Ethics of Democracy

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pp. 16-79

What does it mean to say that rhetoric and democracy have an “ethics”? Traditionally the answers fall into one of two categories. On the one hand Kantian rationalism dictates that persuasive and political acts must follow from universal moral principles. In rhetoric one finds this ethics expressed most fully by Richard Weaver, ...

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Chapter 2: The Rhetoric of Inquiry

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pp. 80-129

If inquiry represents a disciplined act of concentration, rhetoric has traditionally been seen as its polar opposite—an unruly distraction. The Platonic caricature of rhetoric, in other words, has always associated it with a knack for manipulating circumstances for one’s own benefit. ...

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Chapter 3: Rhetoric and Aesthetics

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pp. 130-186

If the philosophical understanding of the relationship between logic and rhetoric has traditionally been one of master and slave, the relationship between rhetoric and aesthetics has been more complex. For instance, from the rationalistic perspective of a metaphysical logic, rhetoric is a fundamentally aesthetic practice. ...

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pp. 187-194

The great lesson of Dewey’s mature philosophy is that the constitution of civilization is intrinsically an accomplishment of art—the intelligent and sympathetic process of doing and making that makes our shared world a richer place to inhabit. As he writes, “It is by creation of the intangibles of science and philosophy, and especially by those of the arts, ...


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pp. 195-210


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pp. 211-220


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pp. 221-224

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About the Author

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p. 238-238

Nathan Crick is an assistant professor of communication studies at Louisiana State University. His research has appeared in College Composition and Communication, Philosophy and Rhetoric, and the Quarterly Journal of Speech.

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172355
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570038761

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication