Enlightenment and Modernity

Please note that this is the primary reading for the class and that there are also required secondary readings that are linked in the course syllabus. Please navigate to the course syllabus once you have completed the background reading below.

This graduate survey is often taught under the title "The Rhetorical Tradition: The Modern Era." This, of course, begs the question: what is "the modern"? Where did it come from, and (why) is it different from what preceded it historically? This section of the UnTextbook is intended to provide a background on these questions as routed through three successive authors who defined and re-defined the terms "Enlightenment" and "Modernity": Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, and Jonathan Crary.   What is significant is the movement from each thinker to the next: Foucault comments on Kant, and Crary comments on Foucault. For that reason, they don't just define Enlightenment and Modernity; they perform the transition from one mode of thinking to the next in reflecting on their historical antecedents.

The first part of this section defines "Enlightenment" and "Modernity" and connects these to how rhetoric has been understood through Bender and Wellbery's concept of "rhetoricality." The second part tracks the transition from Enlightenment to Modernity by describing how Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, and Jonathan Crary each define the concepts of "Enlightenment" and Modernity." The second section concludes by placing these three thinkers into conversation. Ultimately, students of rhetoric should gain a more precise understanding of what each of the focal key terms ("Enlightenment" and "Modernity") signify, and what is often at stake when they are invoked.

Part 1: Enlightenment and Modernity, Defined

What is Enlightenment?

  1. The “age of Enlightenment” or “age of Reason” is a title conferred onto the period of history following the death of Louis XIV in 1715 which combined imperatives for public literacy with a cultural shift toward the public use of reason. Pure or “universal” reason is invented to transcend the individual and the present moment, and is linked in a number of ways to themes of Christian morality.
  2. The Enlightenment is often associated with the consequences of the scientific revolution, which introduces a category of objective reason that challenges or is in tension with the received truth of church and state institutions. In that way, “Enlightenment” signifies a release from certain codes through the acceptance of others that open access to knowledge.
  3. The Enlightenment, finally, is frequently tied to the French Revolution and a widespread political upheaval in which many of the traditional structures of governance that had reigned in Europe underwent dramatic changes. In addition to a philosophical and a scientific revolution, it was also a political revolution in the sense that the relationship between governed and government was dramatically recalibrated.

What is Modernity?

  1. Although it begins in the 19th c., Modernity is a cultural, aesthetic, and philosophical response to the horrors of the World Wars. Modernity was seen as a system of thought that could escape nationalist populism and the self-sealing logic of fascism.
  2. Modernity coincides with changing understandings of labor-power and the collapse of identity into one’s utility for the marketplace. (Mumby 2015, source linked above) During the Modern era, industrialism enabled machines and coordinated skilled labor to become shared symbolic resources, which in the 1950s gave way to bureaucratic managerialism with government expansion. With these shifts came the segmentation of commerce, the understanding of the market as a state of nature, and the colonization of leisure as labor.
  3. Modernity’s vision of futurity is largely divested of commitments to racial justice, sexual discrimination, and gender equality. The objective of modernism is not to eschew these categories; more often it props up whiteness. The appeal to universal reason also becomes available as a legitimate mode of critique of an asymmetrical status quo, leveraged on general claims to “equality,” for instance.

Rhetoric as a Feature of Enlightenment and Modernity

In the pre-Enlightenment era, rhetoric conventionally took the following forms:

  1. The discipline of rhetoric (originally) consisted of “the compilation of instructional synopses often entitled “The Art of Rhetoric.” (6)
  2. Rhetoric began as a codification of oratorical usage and worked to account for behavior in the realm of human dialogue. (6)
  3. Rhetoric adheres to power and property because it is a specialized system of knowledge acquired, through formal education, in order to maintain property and negotiate social interaction. (7) [This resembles Hannah Arendt’s conception of modernity)
  4. Rhetoric is an art of positionality in address relative to an audience characterized by status, age, temperament, education, and so forth. (7) (This is also why I call Kant’s “What is Enlightenment” a rhetorical document, and this in spite of Kant’s own dismissal of rhetoric, see below).

The Enlightenment inaugurated a predominantly anti-rhetorical attitude that sought to refine an objective (rather than a persuasive) point of view that is “conceived as neutral, nonpositional, and transparent.” (7-8) Scientists imagined their discourse to be independent of “the array of relative power positions that characterizes a stratified or hierarchal social structure,” and worked as and in service of “mankind in general, a neutral or abstracted subject.” (8)  The authors provide examples of Galileo,  Descartes, and Locke.

The Enlightenment signified a release un-reason as much as it signaled a release from rhetoric. Its most influential representatives equated rhetoric with the forces that kept a lack of free understanding, as the status quo. As Bender and Wellbery argue, the “a-rhetorical tendencies in science, philosophy, religion and law … bespeak a general movement toward representational neutrality that could be traced as well in such domains as theory of government, historiography, and psychology.” (13) Kant “makes the obsolescence of rhetoric explicit, banishing it in a famous paragraph of his Critique of Judgement not only from poetry but also from the legal courts, the chambers of government, and the pulpits of the church.” (18) Ultimately, this was realized in the theory of the nation-state not as rhetorical or “a sphere of face-to-face encounter,” but instead as “an ideal entity to which one relates abstractly through the internalization of its laws and concretely through its various bureaucratic apparatuses.” (22)

So what happens to rhetoric in modernity? Bender and Wellbery argue that the Modernist tradition “explodes the cultural predominance of these five tendencies” (23). Each of these represent a norm cultivated by the Enlightenment or Romanticism:

  1. ‘Transparency’ and ‘neutrality’ emerged as the leading values of theoretical and practical discourse -- scientific discourse became anchored in ‘objectivity’. In response, “Modernism no longer possesses a reliable standard of representational transparency; even so-called observation sentences are recognized as theory-laded; and the history of science itself has come to be viewed less as a progressive discovery of the facts than as a series of constructions … .“ (23)
  2. The values of ‘authorship’ and ‘individual expression’ came to define the literary domain -- imaginative discourse became anchored in ‘subjectivity’. In response, “Far from forming a world out of itself, the modernist subject, as Heidegger suggests, is ‘thrown’ into the world, split by an alterity that can never be recuperated into a homgenous and sovereign self-mastery.” (24)
  3. Liberal political discourse emerged as the language of communal exchange. In response, “in both the modern political arena and the modern marketplace rhetorical manipulation becomes the rule. Advertising, marketing, propaganda, and public relations stir the cauldron of public opinion … .” (24)
  4. The oratorical model of communication was replaced by print and publishing -- Europe was alphabetized. In response, “Print has given way to film and television, to phonographic reproduction and to the various forms of communication. Literacy, far from being the sole access to culture, is merely one form of information processing, and a highly restricted one to bat.“ (24)
  5. The nation-state became the central political unit, and standardized national languages emerged as the linguistic sphere of reference for cultural production and understanding. In response, “Modernism has destroyed the model of a national language, which had served as the supervening form of Enlightenment and Romantic cultural production and self-understanding. … Modernism fosters an inrush of the archaic into the scene of culture, the shattering of the idea of national uniqueness and of an individual national history.” (24)


According to Bender and Wellbery, modernity also changed the understanding and importance of rhetoric. This shift consists in the change from rhetoric to “rhetoricality.” To illustrate this shift, they describe the ways that rhetoric has changed across historical epochs, first in terms of the way the Enlightenment denied that rhetoric had any epistemological value (i.e. rhetoric does not allow us to know the world, but is a distortion of it).

Bender and Wellbery define rhetoricality as “a generalized rhetoric that penetrates to the deepest levels of human experience” that is “bound to no specific set of institutions” and “allows for no explanatory metadiscourse (discourse that explains discourse) that is not itself rhetorical.” (25) This is not to say that discourse and rhetoric are identical, but rather that it has become increasingly difficult to separate discourse from its already-persuasive and always-unstable character. As they argue, rhetoricality does not describe “a specialized technique of instrumental communication,” but instead “a general condition of human experience and action.” (38) They also state that “there can be no single contemporary rhetorical theory.” (ibid) To describe this transformation in/ multiplication of rhetoric, Bender and Wellbery separate their discussion of rhetoricality into the following categories:

  1. The New Rhetoric of Science. Rhetorical analysis targets scientific “procedures of legitimation, its institutional context, its dependence on overriding convictions or presuppositions on the part of its practitioners.” (28) (Major representatives: Kuhn, Feyerabend, Hacking, Goodman, White (Hayden), Geertz).
  2. Rhetoric and Modern Linguistics. Structural linguistics resuscitates and re-theorizes the vocabulary of trope (continguity/analogy; metonymy/metaphor) as major axes (substitution/combination) of human expression. “What such analyses show is that … terms such as ‘metaphor’ or ‘synecdoche’ designate not at all simple and homogeneous operations, but rather bundles of phonological, syntactical, and semantic processes so complex in their intertwining that they must be deemed inaccessible to the reflective manipulation of the speaker.” (30) (Major representatives: Jakobson, Chomsky)
  3. Rhetoric and Psychoanalysis. “In psychoanalysis the mechanisms of an otherwise hidden mental world are revealed in the figurations of langauge. Verbal patterns, metaphors, replacements, and similar tropes that classical rhetoric might have described in terms of surface ornamentation  and effect upon an audience become outward, consciously unintended manifestations of wishes and fears, desires and terrors that have been driven inward.” (31) (Major representatives: Lacan, Laplanche, Abraham and Torok)
  4. Rhetoric and Mass Communication. “The fixed traits of celebrity replace the classical orator’s varied impersonations. Metonymic substitution and juxtaposition supplant that limitation of the logical connectedness of philosophical discourse so central to Aristotle’s conception of rhetoric.” (32) “[The] performative force of presidential elocution lies not with the seeming individual who happens to be in office but with the impersonal corporate state.” (33)
  5. Rhetoric and Pragmatics. “Figures of language can no longer be treated as a specialized domain, as a limited set of elocutionary options. Rather, they make up the very fiber of every communicative transaction.” (34) (Major representatives: Goffmann, Sperber and Wilson, Lakoff and Johnson)
  6. Rhetoric and Literary Criticism. The shift from “localized irony” of the new criticism movement of the early 20th century has been replaced with “the deep-structural irony” of post-structural thinkers. “Irony is no longer a figure of speech or an educated habit of mind; it is the fundamental condition of language production. Sincere there is no such thing as a first, original, or direct statement, they view every utterance as intrinsically figural, unstable, and haunted by implications that militate against its overt claims.” (36) (Major representatives: De Man, Derrida; Burke, Kristeva, Bakhtin)

Part 2: Kant, Foucault, and Crary on Enlightenment/Modernity

Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?”

Immanuel Kant’s “What is Enlightenment” is a newspaper editorial published in 1784, and a deeply rhetorical document in the sense that it is evidently prepared for multiple, curated audiences. The editorial argues for the independence of the understanding, or the ability for individuals whose primary identifications were with government (nation/monarch) and religion (pastors/church) to reason for themselves. The lack of independence in reasoning is nonage, and Kant links the inability to move beyond it to a morally flawed character (i.e. attributed to ‘laziness’ and ‘cowardice”) early on. Nonage is also an upper-class phenomenon cultivated by the supervisory class of physicians and pastors who, for the proper price, can ensure that independent reason remains stunted. Such supervisors are inclined to prevent the independence of the understanding, moreover, because the mental frailty of those they advise allowed them to hoard influence by intimidating their supervisees into believing that they are incapable of unassisted reasoning. Although the lack of habituation to reason can become comfortable, freedom is the antidote to nonage, and yields both a “reasonable appreciation of man’s value” as well as “the freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters.” As Bender and Welberry note, this amounts to a rejection of rhetoric as a mode of relating and a system of knowledge.

Kant juxtaposes Public use against private use, and each of these has a very specific meaning. Public use is the use “a scholar” makes of reason before a reading public. The demand for publicity or public use of reason by individuals is therefore also a call for public literacy. Private use is “the use of reason in a civic post that has been entrusted to him [sic].” Private use is a necessity of hierarchical government. For the system to function, one must obey and arguing (the use of reason) against the principles of the institution as its representative is not allowed. Kant uses the analogy of ‘levies’ or ‘taxes’: There is a difference between refusing to do one’s civic duty (e.g. not paying taxes) and disputing what one’s civic duty ought to be (e.g. no taxation without representation). Acting in one’s private role as a citizen requires obedience to the larger Civitas of which that individual is a part. Acting in one’s public role as a “scholar,” however, the individual should be allowed to apply their reason with impunity (without fear of punishment).

It is also important to recall the role of the church and state as institutions in the life of the individuals Kant is attempting to ‘liberate,’ as well as to take stock of the importance of theorizing an outside to both of these institutional spaces that also encompassed both of them. For that reason, we can’t say that “What is Enlightenment” is addressed to a public. Instead, it theorizes the public as a shared social, moral, and political space of reason independent of the institutions that dominate social life. This is why Kant, a devout Christian, answers “No!” to the question of whether guardianship of humankind can be entrusted to the Church. Even so, Kant devotes space to its unshakeable authority (independence of understanding does not mean a questioning of religion) and is deferent to the “monarch,” going so far as to say that it is “the century of Fredrick the Great.” Enlightenment is in the interest of these institutions, Kant implies, because to continue the path of nonage would “trample on the sacred rights of man” and undermines the monarch’s ability to “unite the will of the people within his own.” As an architect and philosophical mainstay of “the Enlightenment,” then, Kant’s writing describes a revolution in reason that sought to widen the range of a universal, free, and public reason from within the bounds of dynastic monarchy and theocratic advisership.

Foucault & the Modern Epoch

Most often, Enlightenment and Modernity are described as separate ages with opposed principles and core values. Within that narrative, Modern attitudes are supposed to have followed and replaced Enlightenment dogmatism. Michel Foucault’s reading of “What is Enlightenment” challenges this traditional way of thinking by offering a selective but important reading of documents and history. In his words, Kant’s Was Ist Aufklärung “is the first time that a philosopher has connected in this way, closely and from the inside, the significance of his work with respect to knowledge, a reflection on history and a particular analysis of the specific moment at which he is writing and because of which he is writing.” (38) In other words, “What is Enlightenment” is not an Enlightenment artifact, but a document that inaugurates a certain modern attitude. For that reason, Kant’s text is not just an inspection of the present, but opens up a new way of thinking about the present as a site of intellectual commentary. Foucault’s telling of history is rhetorical because it suggests that philosophical reflection on the present moment is a modern phenomenon that continues to impose specific historical and ethical limits on the critic.

Michel Foucault’s analysis is (a) a reading of and commentary upon Kant’s document (b) a demonstration of Foucault’s method of reading for historical breaks and (c) a treatise about the role of modern philosophy in politics. It opens by drawing attention to the moment at which Kant was writing, and its subsequent influence upon influential modernist philosophers. Foucault argues that “Was ist Aufklarung” resonates in the question “What is Modern Philosophy,” -- thereby linking Enlightenment with Modernity, making them continuous, rather than marking a definitive break between them.  with a detailed four-part analysis of Kant’s 1784 editorial in the Berlinische Monatsschrift periodical.

So, what steps does Foucault take in his analysis of Kant’s editorial?

  1. Foucault first compares the document to a prior editorial by Mendelssohn in the same periodical that argues for the shared destiny of Jewish and German philosophical thought, and draws our attention to this document as relevant in light of the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust. It shouldn’t be lost on us that the document that allegedly defines Enlightenment elevates Christian thought over Judaic thought.
  2. Next, Foucault draws attention to the way Kant departs from available generic conventions by summarizing three influential textual counterparts (Plato’s The Statesman, Augustine’s ‘s “historical hermeneutics,” and Giambattista Vico’s La Scienza Nuova) that anticipate but are notably different from Was Ist Aufklarung. Kant’s essay is different from all of these traditional commentaries upon the present.
  3. (Plato) The present as an era of the world, distinct because of inherent characteristics or a dramatic event.
  4. (Augustine) The present heralds a certain kind of future, foreshadowing an event.
  5. (Vico) The present is the dawning of a new kind of world.

The difference of Kant’s approach is that Enlightenment/Aufklarung is an exit, a way out, or a difference of today with respect to what has come before.

  1. Finally, Foucalt asks four questions about how Kant raises the philosophical question of the present day:
  2. The ‘way out’ is a process that releases us from immaturity.
  3. Enlightenment is ambiguously characterized as both a collective process and a courageous individual act.
  4. Mankind is ambiguously characterized as “all of humanity” and “a change affecting what counts as humanity.”
  5. Enlightenment must finally be conceived as a political problem in which “Kant … proposes … a sort of contract -- what might be called the contract of rational despotism with free reason: the public and free use of autonomous reason that will be the best guarantee of obedience, on condition, however, that the political principle that must be obeyed itself be in conformity with universal reason.” (37)

The endpoint of this analysis is a different interpretation of Kant’s newspaper editorial: i.e the document is less an Enlightenment artifact than a first representative of the modern attitude, which is especially fixated on the problem of the present. Kant’s “What is Enlightenment” is, in other words, “a point of departure” or “the outline of what one might call the attitude of modernity.” (38) This argument is important because it contradicts the conventional explanation that Kant explains the core attitude of the Enlightenment.

The second half of Foucault’s essay describes “the attitude of modernity” and offers a schematic of the method he calls genealogy. Attitude is defined as ...

  • “a mode of relating to contemporary reality,”
  • “a voluntary choice made by certain people,”
  • “a way of thinking and feeling”
  • “a way of acting and behaving that at one and the same time marks a relation of belonging and presents itself as a task.”

Taking Baudelaire as his exemplar of the modern attitude, he then describes modernity.

  1. Modernity adopts an attitude with respect to the perpetual movement of time that “consists in recapturing something eternal that is not beyond the present instant, nor behind it, but within it.” (39) (Hannah Arendt, for instance, proposes “a reconsideration of the human condition from the vantage point of our newest experiences and our most recent fears.” (5) This would be a quintessentially modern attitude.)
  2. Modernity adopts an attitude in which “the high value of the present is indissociable from a desperate eagerness to imagine it, to imagine it otherwise than it is, and to transform it not by destroying it but by grasping it in what it is.” (41) Here he uses the example of the flaneur and the art of Constantin Guys.
  3. Adopting an attitude in which the primary task is to make oneself and to compel the individual “to face the task of producing himself.” Here he uses the example of dandysme.

Finally, Foucault seeks to describe a separate attitude that links us with the Enlightenment, and that he specifically labels as an ethos. This ethos “could be described as a permanent critique of our historical era.” Ultimately, this can be understood as the baggage of “What is Enlightenment” for a continuing paradigm of historical criticism. It may also be read as crib-notes to the method Foucault has used to conduct his critique of Kant. Ultimately, “the critical ontology of ourselves … has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.” This ontology is, according to Foucault, both "negative" and "positive".

Under the “negative” heading, Foucault explains that this ethos “refuses the ‘blackmail’ of the Enlightenment” because it refuses to fall into its binary logic (“you either accept the Enlightenment and remain within the tradition of its rationalism … or else you criticize the Enlightenment and then try to escape from its principles of rationality.”)

Under the “positive” heading, Foucault explains that this ethos encourages “a historical ontology of ourselves” which he aligns with the practice of genealogy. This historical ontology of ourselves has several sub-components.

  • First, it assumes a “limit attitude” that is focused upon the interrelationship between the singular and the universal: “In what is given to us as universal … what place is occupied by whatever is singular?” (45)
  • Second, it is “a historico-practical test of the limits that we may go beyond, and thus as work carried out by ourselves as free beings.” (47)
  • Third, “we have to give up hope of ever acceding to a point of view that could give us access to any complete and definitive knowledge of what may constitute our historical limits.” (46)

Even if the historical ontology of ourselves would seem to commit us to endless historical relativism, Foucault argues that there are some regular features to the kind of historical work that can be done. He describes these features using four keywords: the stakes of historical work, the identification of homogeneities across a given historical moment, the description of systematicity, and finally, the mythic force of generality:

  • First, the stakes are such that the “growth of capabilities” (such as ‘reason’) are already connected to “the intensification of power” (such as the church and Fredrick II) and the task must be to disconnect them.
  • Second, homogeneity refers to the “practical systems” that limit freedom in advance (e.g. the freedom to use reason) by “acting within … practical systems, reacting to what others do, [and] modifying the rules of the game, up to a certain point.”
  • Third, systematicity refers to power relations along three axes: knowledge (“relations of control over things”) power (“relations of action upon others”) and ethics (“relations with oneself”).
  • Finally, generality describes how the apparent permanence of the present is “nothing but determined historical figures,” which is revealed through the analysis of knowledge, power, and ethics.

Jonathan Crary's Foucault

In his book, Suspensions of Perception, art historian Jonathan Crary actualizes Foucault’s theory of modernity with a genealogical reading of perception that seeks to account for the ways that habits of "image, sound, energy, [and] information consumption" were discursively organized. His focus is the "problem of perception," a recognizable and embodied uncertainty for which the modernist theory of attention was a solution:

[Suspensions of Perception] is not concerned with whether or not there is some empirically identifiable mental or neurological capacity for attention. It is an object for me only in terms of this massive accumulation of statements and concrete social practices during a specific historical period that presumed the existence and importance of such a capacity. I use the term attention not to hypostatize it as a substantive object, but to refer to the field of those statements and practices and to a network of effects which they produced. (23)

In other words, attention is not a biological phenomenon, nor is it a fixed category of human understanding. It is a uniquely historical product of modernity. Crary adopts Foucault’s method to comment upon the development of technology, philosophy, and art in the modern era as ways of constructing, constituting attention as an object of inquiry. Attention is not just historically specific; to become a kind of common sense, it had to be repeatedly represented, studied, and measured. Crary therefore draws upon a wide archive of different elements because, as he argues, art, science, and popular culture “are constitutive elements of the same field of events, … they are original fashionings of related problems.”

One takeaway of Crary’s reading is that it enables us to imagine a world in which “attention” did not have the power to craft reality (because at one time, prior to "modernity," it didn't have that power!). “Attention,” he writes, was the product of dispersed discourses that “attempted to impose a disciplinary regime of attentiveness.” (13) The modern crisis that severed “perception” from “the natural world” cultivated “attention” as a way of making “a social, urban, psychic, and industrial field increasingly saturated with sensory input” navigable. (13)

Of course, as much as attention may be understood as a discursive solution to a general problem, it has also yielded problems of its own “as various systems of thought in which [attention] was positioned became obsolete.” (43)  Without the cultivation of “attention” we would not be able to define a social crisis “metaphorically diagnosed … as a deficiency of attention.” (1,35) Crary understands attention as a discursive strategy developed to cope with the loss of an objective external world, and a symptom of that world’s “precariousness, contingency, and insubstantiality.” (45) More importantly, he adopts a “limit attitude” in which what are today considered natural, cognitive, or biological problems of attention are actually cultivated by discourse, called into being by discourse, and inaugurated at a specific and pin-pointable historical moment.

Conclusion: Modernity, Summarized

Modernity, then, is an attitude that begins with Kant and a period of unique problems, like the uncertainty of perception, which demanded an answer in the form of discourse about attention. Like Kant’s “Enlightenment,” the discourse of attention persists to the present day. Hannah Arendt raises a separate set of stakes associated with modernity, which has lost sight of the human. Modernity is, in Arendt’s estimation, associated with the feeling that the world is getting smaller, less habitable, and more artificial, (2-3; 249) At the same time, all speech has become more political and less effective, (3-4) and “we are confronted with … the prospect of a society of laborers without labor, that is, without the only activity left to them.” (5) This is, Arendt writes, “the modern world” that was  “born with the first atomic explosions.” (7) The central motif of this understanding of modernity is world alienation, which Arendt contrasts with Marx’s self-alienation. (254) World alienation refers to a collective and historical process (rather than an individual one) in which wealth accumulation becomes possible on the basis of an exploitative attitude toward the world. “In other words, the life process and in turn stimulating human life, is possible only if the world and the very worldliness of man are sacrificed.” (256)

Kant, Foucault, and Crary also return us to the three commonplaces of rhetoric introduced in the section "What is Rhetoric?"

  1. Kant's “What is Enlightenment” is a document curated for a specifically German audience in a context of monarchial rule. Rhetoric is here understood as attentiveness to an audience.
  2. Foucault invokes conventional rhetorical terms like “attitude” and “ethos" to suggest that philosophical reflection on the present moment is crafted, and imposes specific historical and ethical limits on the critic. Rhetoric may here be understood as a historically specific mode of knowledge-making.
  3. Finally, Crary argues that textual analysis is a practice of interpretation where “theory” offers us some sense of the bigger picture, as well as discursive coordinates for how that reading is taken up. When we pursue an ontology of ourselves that seeks to understand some naturalized aspect of our being as speaking and symbol-using beings, we are in the register of rhetoric as a general explanation of the systems that determine human reason, motivation, and action.