Location

University of Windsor

Document Type

Keynote

Start Date

17-5-2001 9:00 AM

End Date

19-5-2001 5:00 PM

Abstract

Our varied communities of discourse face a rhetorical future shaped by juridical styles reminiscent of the "adversary culture" postulated by post-war American critic Lionel Trilling. Itself the subject of litigious debate, the adversarial spirit today shows few signs of weakening, but its influence can be better understood and guided along certain tracks. To influence this adversarial style in coming decades, we need to explore the difference between evidence-based reasoning, which draws on the sensationalist logic of induction, and reflexive reasoning, which draws on the second-order logic of presumption. This reflexive style expands in an "information age" saturated with symbolic expression and engaged in the process of "sending powerful messages" through speech and action. It shifts public debate to more radical postures, comparatively unconstrained by the settling factors of empirical data and factual authority. Its excesses are much condemned, even as we value its powerful sweep on behalf of our own preferred presumptions. Understanding the structures and dynamics of this reflexive style forces us to address our responsibilities as speakers, as we seek to shape our rhetorical future. Close examination of adversarial conflict may lead us toward useful consensus on how the new game should be played.

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May 17th, 9:00 AM May 19th, 5:00 PM

Shaping the Adversary Culture

University of Windsor

Our varied communities of discourse face a rhetorical future shaped by juridical styles reminiscent of the "adversary culture" postulated by post-war American critic Lionel Trilling. Itself the subject of litigious debate, the adversarial spirit today shows few signs of weakening, but its influence can be better understood and guided along certain tracks. To influence this adversarial style in coming decades, we need to explore the difference between evidence-based reasoning, which draws on the sensationalist logic of induction, and reflexive reasoning, which draws on the second-order logic of presumption. This reflexive style expands in an "information age" saturated with symbolic expression and engaged in the process of "sending powerful messages" through speech and action. It shifts public debate to more radical postures, comparatively unconstrained by the settling factors of empirical data and factual authority. Its excesses are much condemned, even as we value its powerful sweep on behalf of our own preferred presumptions. Understanding the structures and dynamics of this reflexive style forces us to address our responsibilities as speakers, as we seek to shape our rhetorical future. Close examination of adversarial conflict may lead us toward useful consensus on how the new game should be played.