Cynics, spaces, and subjects: Toward a tactical ethics of rhetoric

1997 1997

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Abstract (summary)

Cynics, Spaces, and Subjects: Toward a Tactical Ethics of Rhetoric explores the problem of ethics within the postmodern, a moment, as well as a theoretical posture, that leaves questions of transformative subjectivity and agency to be answered by an ethical "anything goes." In response to the often destabilizing tendencies of postmodern ethical theory, my dissertation is a rhetorical response to claims that there are no foundations for ethical thought and action. I argue that rhetorical theory is well-suited for this task because of its emphasis on action and discourse. At the same time, however, I borrow some of the insights and strategies of postmodern theory--its penchant for space and its emphasis on the local, contingent, and tactical uses of discourse--to create tactical rhetorics that can help to meet the problem of ethics in the postmodern. These strategies are important for negotiating what is essentially an either/or dichotomy in ethical theory: on one hand, we encounter the radical skepticism of postmodern ethical theory, and on the other, the foundational tenets of universalist positions.

As I argue in Chapter One, there is a "space-between" the rather strategic use of this dichotomy in the rhetorical concept of kairos (timing). Kairos combines contingencies of context with an ethic of action. A kairotic ethics is, then, one of several rhetorical strategies employed to meet the problem of ethics in the postmodern. Chapters Two and Three are dedicated to excavating the rhetorical repertoire of the ancient Cynics, a roving band of philosophers who were committed to living and speaking their ethical stances. The tactics of parrhesia, diatribe, and exile are explored for their ethical and political contributions for contemporary rhetorical theory. I then examine the field of rhetoric and composition to trace historically how ethics gradually disappeared from college writing curricula as training for business and professions became vital to emerging American industry. In response to what I see as the field's continued ambivalence toward ethics, I conclude my dissertation with a pedagogical project that serves to revive critical ethics in the classroom.

Indexing (details)

0681: Rhetoric
0681: Composition
0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Language, literature and linguistics; ethics; kairos; postmodern
Cynics, spaces, and subjects: Toward a tactical ethics of rhetoric
Kennedy, Kristen Francis
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 59/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780591840803, 0591840804
Reynold, Nedra
University of Rhode Island
University location
United States -- Rhode Island
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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