Rhetoric is an art that finds its habitation in events. Rhetoric emerges within growing points of opposition and struggle, using language to constitute facts that stand out from situations in order to give to an audience the burden of judgment. This article seeks to provide a framework for articulating the relationship between rhetoric and events through the writings of John Dewey and his collaborator Arthur Bentley, who found in the term “event” a way of advancing their transactional perspective on human action that they believed could function as a corrective to pervasive social pathologies. Using their vocabulary, it advances a definition of rhetoric as an art that reacts to events by constituting meaningful situations in which judgments of character are possible. But it also claims that the ethics of transaction requires a more subtle and long-term effort to show how our own characters as “individuals” are themselves formed in transaction with rhetoric and events.


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pp. 251-272
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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