Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Meredith W. Zoetewey

Keywords

empathy, Levinas, mirror neuron, neurosciences, philosophy, rhetoric

Abstract

This piece makes the claim that rhetoric is first philosophy--before philosophy, epistemology, ontology, or any other field--or that rhetoric is, at the least, on equal footing as these fields because:

empathy--and thusly the impulse for communication--is physiologically hardwired into humans; special distinctions between human and animal are largely artificial constructions, as is evidenced by neurosciences; "hard" science, in the form of neurosciences, is providing entrance points & opportunities for rhetoric to raise its status within the academy; and said neurosciences, in addition to empathy studies, have shown strong evidence supporting linguistic and evolutionary links between humans and other species, thereby supporting a "preoriginary rhetoricity," in Diane Davis's terms. Davis's Inessential Solidarity... serves as a stepping stone for this piece in the sense that the ethical relation as derived from the work of Levinas, originary rhetoricity, and rhetorics of the saying or of the address require the utmost attention for rhetorical scholars right now. I show how neuroscience research might help Davis's project--in which she is far from alone--move forward by providing connections between rhetoric and current neuroscience work.

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