Rhetoric of science

Rhetoric of science is a body of scholarly literature exploring the notion that the practice of science is a rhetorical activity. It emerged following a number of similarly-oriented disciplines during the late 20th century, including the disciplines of sociology of scientific knowledge, history of science, and philosophy of science, but it is practiced most fully by rhetoricians in departments of English, speech, and communication.


Rhetoric is best known as a discipline that studies the means and ends of persuasion. Science, meanwhile, is typically seen as the discovery and recording of knowledge about the natural world. A key contention of rhetoric of science is that the practice of science is, to varying degrees, persuasive. The study of science from this viewpoint variously examines modes of inquiry, logic, argumentation, the ethos of scientific practitioners, the structures of scientific publications, and the character of scientific discourse and debates.

For instance, scientists must convince their community of scientists that their research is based on sound scientific method. From a rhetorical point of view, scientific method involves problem-solution topoi (the materials of discourse) that demonstrate observational and experimental competence (arrangement or order of discourse or method), and as a means of persuasion, offer explanatory and predictive power.[1]: 185-193 Experimental competence is itself a persuasive topos.[1]:186 Rhetoric of science is a practice of suasion that is an outgrowth of some of the canons of rhetoric.


Since 1970, rhetoric of science, as a field involving rhetoricians, flourished. This flourishing of scholarly activity contributed to a shift in the image of science that was taking place.[2]:xv A conservative approach to rhetoric of science involves treating texts as communications designed to persuade members of scientific communities. This approach concerns scientific claims that are already considered true as a result of the scientific process rather than the rhetorical process. A more radical approach, on the other hand, would treat these same texts as if the science held within them is also an object of rhetorical scrutiny.[3]:622,3 Among those in the conservative camp, who view science texts as vehicles of communication, are Charles Bazerman, John Angus Campbell, Greg Myers, Jean Dietz Moss, Lawrence J. Prelli, Carolyn Miller and Jeanne Fahnestock. Bazerman's close readings of works by Newton and Compton as well as his analysis of the reading habits of physicists and others led to a greater understanding of the successes and failures of communication.[3]:623,4 For a depiction of the views of the more radical camp, see the section titled "Critique of Rhetoric of Science".

The history of the rhetoric of science effectively begins with Thomas Kuhn's seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). He examines first normal science, that is, a practice which he saw as routine, patterned and accessible with a specific method of problem-solving. Building on past knowledge, normal science advances by accretions in a knowledge base.[2]:xiii Kuhn then contrasts normal science with revolutionary science (ground-breaking science marked by a paradigm-shift in thought). When Kuhn began to teach Harvard undergraduates historical texts such as Aristotle's writings on motion, he looked to case studies, and sought first to understand Aristotle in his own time, and then to locate his problems and solutions within a wider context of contemporary thought and actions. [4]:144 That is to say, Kuhn sought first to understand the traditions and established practices of science.[4]:162 In this instance, Michael Polanyi's influence on Kuhn becomes apparent; that is, his acknowledgement of the importance of inherited practices and rejection of absolute objectivity. Observing the changes in scientific thought and practices, Kuhn concluded that revolutionary changes happen through the defining notion of rhetoric: persuasion.[2]:xiv The critical work of Herbert W. Simons – "Are Scientists Rhetors in Disguise?" in Rhetoric in Transition (1980) – and subsequent works show that Kuhn's Structure is fully rhetorical.

The work of Thomas Kuhn was extended by Richard Rorty (1979, 1989), and this work was to prove fruitful in defining the means and ends of rhetoric in scientific discourse (Jasinski "Intro" xvi). Rorty, who coined the phrase "rhetorical turn", was also interested in assessing periods of scientific stability and instability.

Another component of the shift in science that took place in the past centres on the claim that there is no single scientific method, but rather a plurality of methods, approaches or styles.[2]:xvi Paul Feyerabend in Against Method (1975) contends that science has found no "method that turns ideologically contaminated ideas into true and useful theories", in other words; no special method exists that can guarantee the success of science (302).

As evidenced in the early theory papers after Kuhn's seminal work, the idea that rhetoric is crucial to science came to the fore. Quarterly journals in speech and rhetoric saw a flourishing of discussion on topics such as inquiry, logic, argument fields, ethos of scientific practitioners, argumentation, scientific text, and the character of scientific discourse and debates. Philip Wander (1976) observed, for instance, the phenomenal penetration of science (public science) in modern life. He labelled the obligation of rhetoricians to investigate science's discourse "The Rhetoric of Science" (Harris "Knowing" 164).

As rhetoric of science began to flourish, discussion arose in a number of areas, including:

  • Epistemic rhetoric and the discourses on the nature of semantics, knowledge, and truth: One example is the Robert L. Scott's work on viewing rhetoric as epistemic (1967). By the 1990s, epistemic rhetoric was a point of contention in the writing of Dilip Gaonkar (see "Critique" below).
  • The early 1970s Speech Communication Conference ("Wingspread conference") gave recognition to the fact that rhetoric, in its globalization (multidisciplinary nature), has become a universal hermeneutic (Gross Rhetorical 2-5). Much scholastic output evolved around the theory of interpretation (hermeneutics), the knowledge-making and truth-seeking (epistemic) potential of rhetoric of science.
  • Argument Fields (part of the Speech Communication Association and American forensic Association program): In this domain the work of Toulmin on argument appeals is exemplary. In addition, Michael Mulkay, Barry Barnes and David Bloor, as pioneers of the "Sociology of Scientific Knowledge" (SSK) movement, fostered a growing sociobiology debate. Others as Greg Myers expressed the benefits of a collaboration between rhetoricians and sociologists. Contributors to discussion pertaining to audience – the way arguments change as they move from the scientific community to the public – include John Lyne and Henry Howe.[2]:xxi-xxxii
  • Scientific Giants: The important works that investigate the suasive powers of exemplars in science include those of Alan Gross[5] (Newton, Descartes, argument fields in optics), John Angus Campbell[6] (Darwin), and Michael Halloran (Watson and Crick). J. C. Maxwell introduced differentiable vector fields E and B to express Michael Faraday's findings about an electric field E and a magnetic field B. Thomas K. Simpson has described his rhetorical methods, first with a guided study,[7] then a literary appreciation[8] of A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), and with a book attending to the mathematical rhetoric.[9]

Other major themes in rhetoric of science include the investigation of the accomplishments and suasive abilities of individuals (ethos) who have left a mark in their respective sciences as well as an age old concern of rhetoric of science – public science policy. Science policy involves deliberative issues, and the first rhetorical study of science policy was made in 1953 by Richard M. Weaver. Among others, Helen Longino's work on public policy implications of low-level radiation continues this tradition.[3]:622

The reconstitution of rhetorical theory around the lines of invention (inventio), argumentation and stylistic adaptation is going on today (Simons 6). The key question today is whether training in rhetoric can in fact help scholars and investigators make intelligent choices between rival theories, methods or data collection, and incommensurate values (Simons 14).

Developments and trends

Epistemic rhetoric

Seeing science from the point of texts exhibiting epistemology based on prediction and control offers new comprehensive ways to see the function of rhetoric of science (Gross "The Origin" 91-92). Epistemic rhetoric of science, in a broader context, confronts issues pertaining to truth, relativism, and knowledge.

Rhetoric of science, as a branch of inquiry, does not look at scientific (natural science) texts as a transparent means of conveying knowledge, but rather it looks at these texts as exhibiting persuasive structures. Although the natural sciences and humanities differ in a fundamental way, the enterprise of science can be viewed hermeneutically as a stream of texts which exhibit an epistemology based on understanding (Gross "On the Shoulders 21). Its task then is the rhetorical reconstruction of the means by which scientists convince themselves and others that their knowledge claims and assertions are an integral part of privileged activity of the community of thinkers with which they are allied (Gross "The Origin" 91).

In an article titled "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic" (1967), Robert L. Scott offers "that truth can arise only from cooperative critical inquiry" (Harris "Knowing" 164). Scott's probe of the issues of belief, knowledge and argumentation substantiates that rhetoric is epistemic. This train of thought goes back to Gorgias who noted that truth is a product of discourse, not a substance added to it (Harris "Knowing" 164).

Scientific discourse is built on accountability of empirical fact which is presented to a scientific community. Each form of communication is a type of genre that fosters human interaction and relations. An example is the emerging form of the experimental report (Bazerman "Reporting" 171-176). The suite of genres to which the rhetoric of science comes to bear on health care and scientific communities is legion.

Aristotle could never accept the unavailability of certain knowledge, although most now believe the contrary (Gross "On Shoulders" 20). That is to say, Aristotle would have rejected the central concern of rhetoric of science: knowledge.[3]:622 Knowing itself generates the explanation of knowing, and this is the domain of the theory of knowledge. The knowledge of knowledge compels an attitude of vigilance against the temptation of certainty (Maturana 239-245).

The claim of the epistemic problematic of rhetoric of science concerns:

  • truth - property of statements with respect to other statements
  • knowledge - configuration of mutually supporting true statements
  • arguments - are situational (first principle of rhetoric)

(Harris "Knowing" 180-181).

Argument fields

By the 1980s, Stephen Toulmin's work on argument fields published in his book titled The Uses of Argument (1958) came to prominence through rhetorical societies such as the Speech Communication Association which adopted a sociological view of science. Toulmin's main contribution is his notion of argument fields that saw a reinvention of the rhetorical concept topoi (topics).[2]:xxi

Toulmin discusses at length the pattern of an argument – data and warrants to support a claim – and how they tend to vary across argument fields (Toulmin 1417-1422). He delineated two concepts of argumentation, one which relied on universal (field-invariant) appeals and strategies, and one which was field dependent, particular to disciplines, movements, and the like. For Toulmin, audience is important because one speaks to a particular audience at a particular point in time, and thus an argument must be relevant to that audience. In this instance, Toulmin echoes Feyerabend, who in his preoccupation with suasive processes, makes clear the adaptive nature of persuasion.[2]:xxv

Toulmin's ideas pertaining to argument were a radical import to argumentation theory because, in part, he contributes a model, and because he contributes greatly to rhetoric and its subfield, rhetoric of science, by providing a model of analysis (data, warrants) to show that what is argued on a subject is in effect a structured arrangement of values that are purposive and lead to a certain line of thought.

Toulmin showed in Human Understanding that the arguments that would support claims as different as the Copernican revolution and the Ptolemaic revolution would not require mediation. On the strength of argument, men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries converted to Copernican astronomy (Gross "The Rhetoric" 214).


The rhetorical challenge today is to find discourse that crosses disciplines without sacrificing the specifics of each discipline. The aim is to render description of these disciplines intact – that is to say, the goal of finding language that would make various scientific fields "commensurable" (Baake 29). In contrast, incommensurability is a situation where two scientific programs are fundamentally at odds. Two important voices who applied incommensurability to historical and philosophical notions of science in the 1960s are Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. Various strands grew out of this idea that bear on issues of communication and invention. These strands are explicated in Randy Allen Harris's four-part taxonomy that in turn foregrounds his viewpoint that "incommensurability is best understood not as a relation between systems, but as a matter of rhetorical invention and hermeneutics" (Harris "Incommensurability" 1).

Incommensurability of theory at times of radical theory change is at the heart of Thomas Samuel Kuhn's theory of paradigms (Bazerman 1). Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions offers a vision of scientific change that involves persuasion, and thus he brought rhetoric to the heart of scientific studies.[2]:xiii

Kuhn's Structure provides important accounts related to the concept representation, and the key conceptual changes that occur during a scientific revolution. Kuhn sought to determine ways of representing concepts and taxonomies by frames.[10]:224-230 Kuhn's work attempts to show that incommensurable paradigms can be rationally compared by revealing the compatibility of attribute lists of say a species outlined in a pre-Darwinian and a post-Darwinian milieu accounted for in two incommensurable taxonomies, and that this compatibility is the platform for rational comparison between rival taxonomies.[10]:230,1 With a view to comparing normal science to revolutionary science, Kuhn illustrates his theory of paradigms and theory of concepts within the history of electricity, chemistry and other disciplines. He gives attention to the revolutionary changes that came about as a result of the work of Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Roentgen, and Lavoisier.

Some scholars, like Thomas C. Walker, feel that Kuhn's theory on paradigms leads to knowledge that is "gained in small, incremental, and almost unremarkable installments." Walker states that while "normal science is narrow, rigid, esoteric, uncritical, and conservative, Kuhn considers it to be the most efficient way to ensure a cumulation of knowledge." According to Walker, while "ignorance and intolerance toward other theoretical frameworks are regrettable features of Kuhn's normal science...meaningful conversations can only occur within a single paradigm."[11]

Kuhn's work was influential for rhetoricians, sociologists, and historians (and, in a more muted way, philosophers) for the development of a rhetorical perspective. His view on perception, concept acquisition and language suggest, according to Paul Hoyningen-Huene's analysis of Kuhn's philosophy, a cognitive perspective.[4]:183


Scientists are not just persuaded by logos or argument. Innovative initiatives in science test scientific authority by invoking the authority of past results (initial section of a scientific paper) and the authority of procedure, which establish the scientist's credibility as an investigator (Gross Starring 26-27).

Examinations of the ethos of scientists (individually and collectively) spawned significant contributions in the field of rhetoric of science. Michael Halloran notes in "The Birth of Molecular Biology" (Rhetoric Review 3, 1984) – an essay that is a rhetorical analysis of James D. Watson and Francis H. Crick's "A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid" – that a large part of what constitutes a scientific paradigm is the ethos of its practitioners. This ethos is about an attitude and a way of attacking problems and propagating claims.[2]:xxxi

In "The Rhetorical Construction of Scientific Ethos," Lawrence Prelli provides a systematic analysis of ethos as a tool of scientific legitimation. Prelli's work examines the exchange of information in the court of public opinion. His work provides insight into the ways in which scientific argumentation is legitimized, and thus insight into public science policy. One of the domains of rhetoric is civic life. Rhetorical criticism of science offers much in the investigation of scientific matters that impinge directly upon public opinion and policy-making decisions.[2]:xxxiii

Rhetoric and language-games

Rhetoric can also be defined as the strategic use of language: each scientist tries to make those statements that - given the statements made by their colleagues, and the ones the former expects they will do in the future (e.g., accepting or rejecting the claims made by the former) - maximise the chances of the former's attaining the goals he or she has. So, game theory can be applied to study the choice of the claims one scientist makes. Zamora Bonilla (2006) argues that, when rhetoric is understood this way, it can be discussed whether the way scientists interact - e.g., through certain scientific institutions like peer review - leads them to make their claims in an efficient or an inefficient way, i.e., whether the 'rhetorical games' are more analogous to 'invisible hand' processes, or to 'prisoner's dilemma' games. If the former is the case, then we can assert that scientific 'conversation' is organised in such a way that the strategic use of language by scientists leads them to reach cognitive progress, and if the opposite is the case, then this would be an argument to reform scientific institutions.

Rhetorical figures in science

Corresponding to distinct lines of reasoning, figures of speech are evident in scientific arguments. The same cognitive and verbal skills that are of service to one line of inquiry – political, economic or popular – are of service to science (Fahnestock 43). This implies that there is less of a division between science and the humanities than initially anticipated. Argumentatively useful figures of speech are found everywhere in scientific writing.

Theodosius Dobzhansky in Genetics and the Origin of Species offers a means of reconciliation between Mendelian mutation and Darwinian natural selection. By remaining sensitive to the interests of naturalists and geneticists, Dobzhansky – through a subtle strategy of polysemy – allowed a peaceful solution to a battle between two scientific territories. His expressed aim was to review the genetic information bearing on the problem of organic diversity.[12]:41, 53 The building blocks of Dobzhansky's interdisciplinary influence that saw much development in two scientific camps were the result of the compositional choices he made. He uses, for instance, prolepsis to make arguments that introduced his research findings, and he provided a metaphoric map as a means to guide his audience.[12]:57,8 One illustration of metaphor is his use of the term "adaptive landscapes." Seen metaphorically, this term is a way of representing how theorists in two different fields can unite.[12]:57

Another figure that is important as an aid to understanding and knowledge is antimetabole (refutation by reversal). Antithesis also works toward a similar end.

An example of antimetabole:

  • Antimetabole often appears in writing or visuals where the line of inquiry and experiment has been characterized by mirror-image objects, or of complementarity, reversible or equilibrium processes. Louis Pasteur's revelation that many organic compounds come in left-and right-handed versions or isomers as articulated at an 1883 lecture illustrates the use of this figure. He argues in lecture that "life is the germ and the germ is life" because all life contains unsymmetrical/asymmetrical processes (Fahnestock 137-140).

New Materialist Rhetoric of Science

A more recent trend in rhetorical studies involves participation in the broader new materialist movement in philosophy and science and technology studies.[13] This emerging area of inquiry investigates the role of rhetoric and discourse as an integral part of the Materialism of scientific practice. This approach considers how the methods of natural sciences came into being, and the particular role interaction among scientists and scientific institutions has to play. New materialist rhetoric of science of a feminist variety include those proponents see the progress of the natural sciences as having been purchased at a high cost, a cost that limits the scope and vision of science. Work in this area often draws on scholarship by Bruno Latour, Steve Woolgar, Annemarie Mol, and other new materialist scholars from science and technology studies.[14] Work in new materialist rhetoric of science tends to be very critical of a perceived over-reliance on language in more conservative variants of rhetoric of science and has significantly criticized long-standing areas of inquiry such as incommensurability studies.[15]

Critique of rhetoric of science

Globalization of rhetoric

Renewed interest today in rhetoric of science is its positioning as a hermeneutic meta-discourse rather than a substantive discourse practice.[16]:25 Exegesis and hermeneutics are the tools around which the idea of scientific production has been forged.

Criticism of rhetoric of science is mainly limited to discussions around the concept of hermeneutics, which can be seen as follows:

  • Rhetorical hermeneutics is about a way of reading texts as rhetoric. Rhetoric is both a discipline and a perspective from which disciplines can be viewed. As a discipline, it has a hermeneutic task and generates knowledge; as a perspective, it has the task of generating new points of view (Gross Rhetorical 111). Whether rhetorical theory can function as a general hermeneutic, a key to all texts, including scientific texts, is still today a point of interest to rhetoricians. Although natural sciences and humanities differ in fundamental ways, science as enterprise can be viewed hermeneutically as a suite of texts exhibiting a study of knowledge (epistemology) based on understanding (Gross "On Shoulders" 21).

A recent critique about the rhetoric of science literature asks not if science is understood properly, but rather if rhetoric is understood properly. This dissension centres around the reading of scientific texts rhetorically; it is a quarrel about how rhetorical theory is seen as a global hermeneutic (Gross "Intro" Rhetorical 1-13).

Dilip Gaonkar in "The Idea of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric of Science" looks at how critics argue about rhetoric, and he unfolds the global ambitions of rhetorical theory as a general hermeneutic (a master key to all texts), with the rhetoric of science as a perfect site of analysis - a hard and fast case.[16]

In his analysis of this 'case', Gaonkar looks at rhetoric's essential character first in traditional sense (Aristotilean and Ciceronian). Then he looked at the practice of rhetoric and the model of persuasive speech from the point of agency (productive orientation) or who controls the speech (means of communication). The rhetorical tradition is one of practice, while the theory evinces practice and teaching (Gross "Intro" Rhetorical 6-11). Gaonkar asserts that rhetoric seen as a tradition (Aristotilean and Ciceronia), and from the point of view of interpretation (not production or agency), rhetorical theory is "thin." He argues that rhetoric appears as a thinly veiled language of criticism in such a way that it is applicable to almost any discourse.[16]:33, 69

Gaonkar believes that this type of globalization of rhetoric undermines rhetoric's self-representation as a situated practical art, and in so doing, it runs counter to a humanist tradition. It runs counter to the interpretative function of a critical metadiscourse. If there is no more substance, no anchor, no reference to which rhetoric is attached, rhetoric itself is the substance, or the supplement, and thus becomes substantial, giving rise to the question how well rhetoric functions as interpretative discourse.[16]:77

Dilip Gaonkar's provocations have successfully opened the way to a broad reaching discussion that led to the defense of rhetoric analyses of scientific discourse. Responses to Gaonkar's provocations are many, of which two examples follow.

  • When Gaonkar asks if a theory grounded in practice can be translated into a theory of interpretation, Michael Leff in "The Idea of Rhetoric as Interpretative Practice: A Humanist's Response to Gaonkar" see his views as too extreme, treating as opposites two positions that are in dialectic tension (rhetoric as production and rhetoric as interpretation), and separating interpretation from practice in order to establish a causal, rather than accidental, relationship between rhetoric and the globalalization of rhetoric (Gross "Intro" Rhetorical 11).
  • John Angus Campbell in "Strategic Readings: Rhetoric, Intention, and Interpretation" also found in Rhetorical Hermeneutics is a verification of Leff's analysis (113). He argues, however, against Gaonkar's notion of invention and the mediation between producer or writer and the audience of a text(114). The differences between Campbell and Gaonkar is one of theory, and not whether agency figures in criticism (115).

New Materialist Rhetoric of Science

The new materialist approach to rhetoric of science has endorsed Goankar's criticisms of rhetoric of science more generally and seeks to overcome them through interdisciplinary engagement with science and technology studies.[17] However, the new materialist approach, itself, has been subjected to significant criticism within the field, and identified as a radical variant. The question as to the adequacy of rhetoric in its encounter with scientific texts (natural sciences) is problematic on two fronts. The first concerns traditional rhetoric and its capacity as a tool to analyze scientific texts. Secondly, the answer to the question relies on an attack of the epistomological presuppositions of a classical rhetoric of science. For this reason, the radical critique is a call for the renewal of rhetorical theory.[3]:626,7

See also


  1. ^ a b Lawrence J. Prelli (1989) A Rhetoric of Science: Inventing Scientific Discourse, University of South Carolina Press
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harris, Randy Allen (1997) "Introduction", Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies, editor Randy Allen Harris, Mahwah: Hermagoras Press
  3. ^ a b c d e Alan G. Gross (1996) "Rhetoric of Science", Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age. New York: Garland Publishing
  4. ^ a b c Nickles, Thomas (2003) "Normal Science: From Logic to Case-Based and Model-Based Reasoning", in Thomas Kuhn, edited by Thomas Nickles, Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-79648-2
  5. ^ Gross, Alan G. (1990) The Rhetoric of Science, Harvard University Press
  6. ^ John Angus Campbell (1989) The Invisible Rhetorician: Charles Darwin’s Third Party Strategy, The Rhetorician 7(1): 55–85, via University of Waterloo
  7. ^ Thomas K. Simpson (1997) Maxwell on the Electromagnetic Field: a guided study, Rutgers University Press ISBN 0-8135-2362-1
  8. ^ T. K. Simpson (2005) Figures of Thought, a literary appreciation of Maxwell’s Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Green Lion Press
  9. ^ T. K. Simpson (2010) Maxwell’s Mathematical Rhetoric: rethinking the Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Green Lion Press, ISBN 978-1-888009-36-1
  10. ^ a b Barker, Peter, Xiang Chen and Hanne Andersen (2003) "Kuhn on Concepts and Categorization" in Thomas Kuhn, edited by Thomas Nickles, Cambridge University Press
  11. ^ Walker, Thomas C. (2010) "The perils of paradigm mentalities: Revisiting Kuhn, Lakatos, and Popper", Perspectives on Politics 8.02: 433-451
  12. ^ a b c Ceccarelli, Leah (2001). Shaping Science with Rhetoric: The Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrödinger, and Wilson. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226099067. OCLC 45276826.
  13. ^ Herndl, Carl (2000). Rhetoric of Science as Non-Modern Practice. Professing Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 2000 Rhetoric Society of America Conference. pp. 215–222.
  14. ^ Lynch and Rivers, Eds. (2015). Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition. Southern Illinois University Press.
  15. ^ Graham & Herndl. "Multiple Ontologies in Pain Management: Towards a Postplural Rhetoric of Science". Technical Communication Quarterly. 22: 103–125.
  16. ^ a b c d Dilip Gaonkar (1997) "The Idea of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric of Science." In Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science. Eds. Alan G. Gross and William M. Keith, State University of New York Press
  17. ^ Graham, S. Scott (2015). The Politics of Pain Medicine: A Rhetorical-Ontological Inquiry. University of Chicago Press.

Works cited

  • Baake, Ken. Metaphor and Knowledge: The Challenges of Writing Science. Albany: The State University of New York Press, 2003.
  • Bazerman, Charles and René Agustin De los Santos. "Measuring Incommensurability: Are toxicology and ecotoxicology blind to what the other sees?" 9 January 2006. [1].
  • Bazerman, Charles. "Reporting the Experiment: The Changing Account of Scientific Doings in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1665-1800." In Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies. Ed. Randy Allen Harris. Mahwah: Hermagoras Press, 1997.
  • Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
  • Campbell, John Angus. "Scientific Discovery and Rhetorical Invention." In The Rhetorical Turn: Inventions and Persuasion in the Conduct of Inquiry. Ed. Herbert W. Simons. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
  • Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989.
  • Fahnestock, Jeanne. Rhetorical Figures in Science. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
  • Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge. London: Verso, 1975.
  • Gross, Alan G. "On the Shoulders of Giants: Seventeenth-Century Optics as an Argument Field." In Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies. Ed. Randy Allen Harris. Mahwah: Hermagoras Press, 1997.
  • Gross, Alan G., Starring The Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2006.
  • Gross, Alan G. "The Origin of Species: Evolutionary Taxonomy as an Example of the Rhetoric of Science". In The Rhetorical Turn: Invention and Persuasion in the Conduct of Inquiry. Ed. Herbert W. Simons. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
  • Gross A., and William M. Keith. Eds. "Introduction." Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
  • Harris, Randy Allen. "Knowing, Rhetoric, Science." In Visions and Revisions: Continuity and Change in Rhetoric and Composition. Ed. James D. Williams. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002.
  • Jasinski, James. "Introduction." Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2001.
  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Maturana, Humberto R., and Varela, Francisco J. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1987.
  • Toulmin, S. "The Uses of Argument." In The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed. Eds. Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: Bedford, 1990.
  • Zamora Bonilla, J., "Rhetoric, Induction, and the Free Speech Dilemma", Philosophy of Science, 73, 175-193, 2006.

Further reading

  • Bazerman, Charles. Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. [2] (online version). "Reporting the Experiment: The Changing Account of Scientific Doings in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1665-1800" by Charles Bazerman in Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science is found in chapter 3 of that text.
  • Campbell, John Angus. "Scientific Revolution and the Grammar of Culture: The Case of Darwin's Origin." Quarterly Journal of Speech 72 (1986):351-376. doi:10.1080/00335638609383782
  • Gaonkar, Dilip Parameshwar. "Rhetoric and Its Double: Reflections on the Rhetorical Turn in the Human Sciences." In The Rhetorical Turn: Invention and Persuasion in the Conduct of Inquiry. Ed. Herbert W. Simons. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
  • Halloran, S. Michael and Annette Norris Bradford. "Figures of Speech in the Rhetoric of Science and Technology." Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse. Ed. Robert J. Connors et al. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.
  • Harris, Randy Allen. Ed. Rhetoric and Incommensurability. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2005.
  • Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979.
  • Leff, Michael. "The Idea of Rhetoric as Interpretative Practice: A Humanist Response to Gaonkar." The Southern Communication Journal 58 (1993): 296-300. doi:10.1080/10417949309372910
  • Miller, Carolyn. "Genre as Social Action." Quarterly Journal of Speech 70: 151-57. doi:10.1080/00335638409383686
  • Schryer, Catherine F. "Genre Theory, Health-Care Discourse, and Professional Identity Formation." Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005):249-278.
  • Scott, R. L. "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic." Central States Speech Journal (1967) 18:9-16. doi:10.1080/10510976709362856
  • Simpson, Thomas K. Figures of Thought: A Literary Appreciation of Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, 2005, Green Lion Press, ISBN 1-888009-31-4
  • Stark, Ryan. Rhetoric, Science, and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009.
  • Waddell, Craig. "The Role of Pathos in the Decision-Making Process: A Study in the Rhetoric of Science Policy." Quarterly Journal of Speech 76 (1990): 381-400. doi:10.1080/00335639009383932
  • Wander, Philip C. and Dennis Jaehne. "Prospects for 'a rhetoric of science.'" Social Epistemology 14.2/3 (2000): 211-233. 30 December. 2005. [3] (PDF file)
  • Ziman, John (2000). Real Science: what it is, and what it means. Cambridge, Uk: Cambridge University Press.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism

A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism is a two-volume treatise on electromagnetism written by James Clerk Maxwell in 1873. Maxwell was revising the Treatise for a second edition when he died in 1879. The revision was completed by William Davidson Niven for publication in 1881. A third edition was prepared by J. J. Thomson for publication in 1892.

According to one historian,

The Treatise was notoriously hard to read; it teemed with ideas but lacked the clear focus and orderly presentation that might have enabled it to win converts more readily. Rather than simply expounding his own system, Maxwell had set out to write a comprehensive treatise on electrical science, and so he had allowed his own new distinctive ideas, notably that of the displacement current, to be almost buried under long accounts of miscellaneous phenomena discussed from several points of view. Except for a fuller treatment of the Faraday effect (in which he again invoked the molecular vortices), Maxwell added little to his earlier work on the electromagnetic theory of light; he said nothing, for example, about how electromagnetic waves might be generated, nor did he attempt to derive laws governing reflection and refraction.Maxwell introduced the use of vector fields, and his labels have been perpetuated:

A (vector potential), B (magnetic induction), C (electric current), D (displacement), E (electric field – Maxwell's electromotive intensity), F (mechanical force), H (magnetic field – Maxwell's magnetic force).Maxwell's work is considered an exemplar of rhetoric of science:

Lagrange's equations appear in the Treatise as the culmination of a long series of rhetorical moves, including (among others) Green's theorem, Gauss's potential theory and Faraday's lines of force – all of which have prepared the reader for the Lagrangian vision of a natural world that is whole and connected: a veritable sea change from Newton's vision.

Alan G. Gross

Alan G. Gross (born 1936) is a Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has written a number of books, perhaps most well-known being The Rhetoric of Science (Harvard University Press, 1990 and 1996). This book was reviewed by the historian and philosopher of science Joseph Agassi. Gross received his Ph.D. in 1962 from Princeton University.

Argumentation theory

Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be reached through logical reasoning; that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises. It includes the arts and sciences of civil debate, dialogue, conversation, and persuasion. It studies rules of inference, logic, and procedural rules in both artificial and real world settings.Argumentation includes deliberation and negotiation which are concerned with collaborative decision-making procedures. It also encompasses eristic dialog, the branch of social debate in which victory over an opponent is the primary goal. This art and science is often the means by which people protect their beliefs or self-interests—or choose to change them—in rational dialogue, in common parlance, and during the process of arguing.

Argumentation is used in law, for example in trials, in preparing an argument to be presented to a court, and in testing the validity of certain kinds of evidence. Also, argumentation scholars study the post hoc rationalizations by which organizational actors try to justify decisions they have made irrationally.

Argumentation is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with exposition, description, and narration.

Charles Bazerman

Charles Bazerman (born 1945) is an American educator and scholar. He was born and raised in New York. He has contributed significantly to the establishment of writing as a research field. Best known for his work on genre studies and the rhetoric of science, he is a Professor of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also served as Chair of the Program in Education for eight years.

He served as Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, delivering the 2009 CCCC Chair's Address, "The Wonders of Writing," in San Francisco, CA.

He is the author of over 18 books, and over 20 edited collections including: Traditions of Writing Research, Genre in a Changing World, Textual Dynamics of the Profession, Writing Selves/Writing Societies, What Writing Does and How it Does It, and the Handbook of Research on Writing.

Commonwealth of Learning

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation of The Commonwealth headquartered in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Working collaboratively with governmental and nongovernmental organizations and other institutions in the Commonwealth, as well as with international development agencies, COL has the mandate to promote the use of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. The Board of Governors is chaired by Linda Sissons, a former Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand's Wellington Institute of Technology.


A controversia is an exercise in rhetoric; a form of declamation in which the student speaks for one side in a notional legal case such as treason or poisoning. The facts of the matter and relevant law are presented in a persuasive manner, in the style of a legal counsel.

Demarcation problem

The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science and epistemology is about how to distinguish between science and non-science, including between science, pseudoscience, and other products of human activity, like art and literature, and beliefs. The debate continues after over two millennia of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields, and despite broad agreement on the basics of scientific method.

Diane Fordney

Diane Sharon Fordney (born 1940) is an American physician and sex therapist best known for her work on sexual function and dysfunction. She has also published professionally as Diane S. Fordney-Settlage.

Dilip P. Gaonkar

Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar (born 1945) is a Professor in Rhetoric and Public Culture and the Director of Center for Global Culture and Communication at Northwestern University. He is also the Director of Center for Transcultural Studies, an independent scholarly research network concerned with global issues based in Chicago and New York. Gaonkar was closely associated with the influential journal Public Culture from the early 1990s serving in various editorial capacities: associate editor (1992-2000), executive editor (2000-2009), and editor (2009-2011).

Gaonkar has two sets of scholarly interests: rhetoric as an intellectual tradition, both its ancient roots and its contemporary mutations; and, global modernities and their impact on the political. He has published numerous essays on rhetoric, including "The Idea of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric of Science" that was published along with ten critical responses to the essay in a book, Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science, edited by Alan G. Gross and William Keith (1996). Gaonkar has edited a series books on global cultural politics: Globaizing American Studies (with Brian Edwards, 2010), Alternative Modernities (2001), and Disciplinarity and Dissent in Cultural Studies (1995). He has also edited several special issues of journals: Laclau's On Populist Reason (with Robert Hariman, for Cultural Studies, 2012), Cultures of Democracy (for Public Culture, 2007), Commitments in a Post-Foundational World (with Keith Topper, 2005), Technologies of Public Persuasion (with Elizabeth Povinelli, 2003), and New Imaginaries (with Benjamin Lee, 2002). He is currently working on two edited volumes: Oxford Handbook on Rhetoric and Political Theory (with Keith Topper) and Distribution of the Sensible: Ranciere on Politics and Aesthetics (with Scott Durham); and, on a book manuscript on Modernity, Democracy and the Politics of Disorder.

Dilip Gaonkar hails from the Ankola region in Karwar district (south of Goa). He is a grandson of SAPA. Gaonkar and Venkanna H. Naik. Gaonkar is married to Sally Ewing, the Associate Dean of Advising and Student Affairs at Northwestern University's School of Communication.

Hans Sloane

Sir Hans Sloane, 1st Baronet (16 April 1660 – 11 January 1753), was an Irish physician, naturalist and collector noted for bequeathing his collection of 71,000 items to the British nation, thus providing the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum, London. He was elected to the Royal Society at the age of 24. Sloane traveled to the Caribbean in 1687 and documented his travels and findings with extensive publishings years later. Sloane was a renowned medical doctor among the aristocracy and was elected to the Royal College of Physicians by age 27. He is credited with creating drinking chocolate.His name was later used for streets and places such as Hans Place, Hans Crescent, and Sloane Square in and around Chelsea, London – the area of his final residence – and also for Sir Hans Sloane Square in his birthplace in Ireland, Killyleagh.

Information infrastructure

An information infrastructure is defined by Ole Hanseth (2002) as "a shared, evolving, open, standardized, and heterogeneous installed base" and by Pironti (2006) as all of the people, processes, procedures, tools, facilities, and technology which supports the creation, use, transport, storage, and destruction of information.The notion of information infrastructures, introduced in the 1990s and refined during the following decade, has proven quite fruitful to the information systems (IS) field. It changed the perspective from organizations to networks and from systems to infrastructure, allowing for a global and emergent perspective on information systems. Information infrastructure is a technical structure of an organizational form, an analytical perspective or a semantic network.

The concept of information infrastructure (II) was introduced in the early 1990s, first as a political initiative (Gore, 1993 & Bangemann, 1994), later as a more specific concept in IS research. For the IS research community an important inspiration was Hughes′ (1983) accounts of large technical systems, analyzed as socio-technical power structures (Bygstad, 2008).Information infrastructure, as a theory, has been used to frame a number of extensive case studies (Star and Ruhleder 1996; Ciborra 2000; Hanseth and Ciborra 2007), and in particular to develop an alternative approach to IS design: "Infrastructures should rather be built by establishing working local solutions supporting local practices which subsequently are linked together rather than by defining universal standards and subsequently implementing them" (Ciborra and Hanseth 1998). It has later been developed into a full design theory, focusing on the growth of an installed base (Hanseth and Lyytinen 2008).

Information infrastructures include the Internet, health systems and corporate systems. It is also consistent to include innovations such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace as excellent examples (Bygstad, 2008).

Bowker has described several key terms and concepts that are enormously helpful for analyzing information infrastructure: imbrication, bootstrapping, figure/ground, and a short discussion of infrastructural inversion. "Imbrication" is an analytic concept that helps to ask questions about historical data. "Bootstrapping" is the idea that infrastructure must already exist in order to exist (2011).

Lawrence J. Prelli

Lawrence J. Prelli is Professor and Chair of the Communications Department at the University of New Hampshire. He is known for his book on rhetoric of science, A Rhetoric of Science: Inventing Scientific Discourse (1990), which has been well-reviewed and cited.

Rhetoric of health and medicine

The rhetoric of health and medicine (or medical rhetoric) is an academic discipline concerning language and symbols in health and medicine. Rhetoric most commonly refers to the persuasive element in human interactions and is often best studied in the specific situations in which it occurs. As a subfield of rhetoric, medical rhetoric specifically analyzes and evaluates the structure, delivery, and intention of communications messages in medicine- and health-related contexts. Primary topics of focus includes patient-physician communication, health literacy, language that constructs disease knowledge, and pharmaceutical advertising (including both direct-to-consumer and direct-to-physician advertising). The general research areas are described below. Medical rhetoric is a more focused subfield of the rhetoric of science.

Practitioners from the medical rhetoric field hail from a variety of disciplines, including English studies, communication studies, and health humanities. Through methods such as content analysis, survey methodology, and usability testing, researchers in this sphere recognize the importance of communication to successful healthcare.Several communication journals, including Communication Design Quarterly, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, and Present Tense, have published special issues on themes related to medical rhetoric. The majority of research in the field is indexed in the academic database EBSCO Communication & Mass Media Complete. In 2013, scholars in the field also began a biennial symposium, Discourses of Health and Medicine.

Rhetoric of technology

The rhetoric of technology is both an object and field of study. It refers to the ways in which makers and consumers of technology talk about and make decisions regarding technology and also the influence that technology has on discourse. Studies of the rhetoric of technology are interdisciplinary. Scholars in communication, media ecology, and science studies research the rhetoric of technology. Technical communication scholars are also concerned with the rhetoric of technology.The phrase "rhetoric of technology" gained prominence with rhetoricians in the 1970s, and the study developed in conjunction with interest in the rhetoric of science. However, scholars have worked to maintain a distinction between the two fields. Rhetoric of technology criticism addresses several issues related to technology and employs many concepts, including several from the canon of classical rhetoric, for example ethos, but the field has also adopted contemporary approaches, such as new materialism.

Science studies

Science studies is an interdisciplinary research area that seeks to situate scientific expertise in broad social, historical, and philosophical contexts. It uses various methods to analyze the production, representation and reception of scientific knowledge and its epistemic and semiotic role.

Similarly to cultural studies, science studies are defined by the subject of their research and encompass a large range of different theoretical and methodological perspectives and practices. The interdisciplinary approach may include and borrow methods from the humanities, natural and formal sciences, from scientometrics to ethnomethodology or cognitive science. Science studies have a certain importance for evaluation and science policy. Overlapping with the field of science, technology and society, practitioners study the relationship between science and technology, and the interaction of expert and lay knowledge in the public realm.


Scientism is an ideology that promotes science as the purportedly objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values. The term scientism is generally used critically, pointing to the cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations not amenable to application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards.

In the philosophy of science, the term scientism frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek, philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, and philosophers such as Hilary Putnam and Tzvetan Todorov to describe (for example) the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measured or confirmatory.More generally, scientism is often interpreted as science applied "in excess". The term scientism has two senses:

The improper usage of science or scientific claims. This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply, such as when the topic is perceived as beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. It includes an excessive deference to the claims of scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific. This can be a counterargument to appeals to scientific authority. It can also address the attempt to apply "hard science" methodology and claims of certainty to the social sciences, which Friedrich Hayek described in The Counter-Revolution of Science (1952) as being impossible, because that methodology involves attempting to eliminate the "human factor", while social sciences (including his own field of economics) center almost purely on human action.

"The belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry", or that "science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective" with a concomitant "elimination of the psychological [and spiritual] dimensions of experience". Tom Sorell provides this definition: "Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture." Philosophers such as Alexander Rosenberg have also adopted "scientism" as a name for the view that science is the only reliable source of knowledge.It is also sometimes used to describe universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or the most valuable part of human learning—to the complete exclusion of other viewpoints, such as historical, philosophical, economic or cultural worldviews. It has been defined as "the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society". The term scientism is also used by historians, philosophers, and cultural critics to highlight the possible dangers of lapses towards excessive reductionism in all fields of human knowledge.For social theorists in the tradition of Max Weber, such as Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer, the concept of scientism relates significantly to the philosophy of positivism, but also to the cultural rationalization for modern Western civilization. British writer Sara Maitland has called scientism a "myth as pernicious as any sort of fundamentalism."

Selling Sickness

Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us All into Patients is a 2005 book by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels about unnecessary health care.

Stuart A. Kirk

Stuart A. Kirk holds the Marjorie Crump Chair in Social Welfare at UCLA and is a former psychiatric social worker. His research interests include mental health issues, particularly the creation and use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Kirk has authored, co-authored and edited many books, including most recently Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs (2013). He was former chief editor of the Social Work Research journal.

Syntactic Structures

Syntactic Structures is a major work in linguistics by American linguist Noam Chomsky. It was first published in 1957. It introduced the idea of transformational generative grammar. This approach to syntax (the study of sentence structures) was fully formal (based on symbols and rules). At its base, this method uses phrase structure rules. These rules break down sentences into smaller parts. Chomsky then combines these with a new kind of rules called "transformations". This procedure gives rise to different sentence structures. Using this limited set of rules, Chomsky aimed to "generate" all and only the grammatical sentences of a given language, which are unlimited in number.Syntactic Structures is Chomsky's first book. It is a short monograph of about a hundred pages, written for specialists in linguistics. Chomsky based it on the lecture notes he had prepared for his students at MIT. In it, he mentioned the now-famous sentence "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." Even though this sentence has no clear meaning, grammar-wise it still seems instinctively correct to a native English speaker. For Chomsky, the study of syntax is thus independent of semantics (the study of meaning).Chomsky wrote Syntactic Structures when he was still an unknown scholar. Mouton, a small Dutch publisher, released the book. Still, this dense technical work was well received in the beginning. It was even considered a welcome addition to the existing tradition of language study. Yet, established older linguists soon began criticizing it for its bold new views. Unlike them, younger linguists were eager to adopt Chomsky's way of doing research. And so linguistics changed course in the second half of the 20th century. It became normal to build more formal theories with syntax at their center. This way of study valued language's place in the mind over language behavior.Syntactic Structures has influenced fields outside linguistics. It had a big impact on the study of knowledge, mind and mental processes. It also had a smaller effect on the research on computers and brain. Some specialists have questioned Chomsky's theory. They think it is wrong to describe language as an ideal system. They also say it gives less value to the gathering and testing of data. Still, going into the 21st century, linguists and non-linguists alike praised the book. They recognized it as one of the most important studies of the 20th century.


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