Rhetorical Epistemologies

Part 1: On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic

Robert L. Scott, “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic,” Central States Speech Journal 18 (1967): 1-19.

In 1967, Robert L. Scott published “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic,” which advanced the thesis that rhetoric creates social reality.  Rhetorical scholars were obliged to move toward a conception of rhetoric as the moment-by-moment creation of truth. In subsequent articles, Scott and others borrowed the philosophical tools of social constructionism to define rhetoric’s generative capacities.  Throughout, Scott maintained that a key virtue of epistemic rhetoric was its novel ethical imperative. As he first noted in 1967, the world-making rhetor should “act with intentions for good consequences, but … accept the responsibilities for all the consequences in so far as they can be known.” Spanning from 1967 to 1990, Scott's article staged a disciplinary conflict over the terms 'rhetoric' and 'truth' that has shaped the contemporary landscape of rhetorical theory and criticism.

The term “epistemic” describes “a way of knowing,” and Scott’s definition broadens the acceptable scope of rhetoric considerably from its roots in public address. The idea of a rhetorical epistemology suggests that rhetoric is a way of knowing the world, and that rhetoric’s ways of knowing constitute a discrete body of knowledge. Scott juxtaposes the philosophical commonplace of Truth and certainty against Toulmin’s theory of argument, which “[rejects] prior and enabling truth as the epistemological basis for a rhetoric.” Instead, “rhetoric may be viewed not as a matter of giving effectiveness to truth but of creating truth.”

Ten years following Scott’s article, rhetorical scholars were dramatically divided between competing epistemic claims. Although he had written that critics should “should … accept the responsibilities for all the consequences in so far as they can be known,” it was clear that the article had produced disruptive and unpredictable consequences.  Either social Truth was the effect of rhetoric, or truth was the pre-existing ‘stuff’ of rhetorical invention. The former, “intersubjectivist” (or consensus) approach to rhetoric, asserted that ‘truth’ was social knowledge created by shared symbolic relationships.  Rhetoric, for the intersubjectivists, was the process of creating commonly shared social knowledge.  Conversely, “objectivists” (or perspectivists) argued that “a world of entities independent of our attitudes, beliefs, and values” preceded rhetorical action.  For this camp, objective truth was a horizon that could only be apprehended by one or another rhetorical perspective or point of view.  Rhetoric was therefore unable to create reality: it was rather “a tool which attempts to maximize the argumentative clash of opposing ideas.”

Thomas B. Farrell, “Knowledge, Consensus, and Rhetorical Theory,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 62 (1976): 1-14.


In the ensuing years, critiques of the objectivist and intersubjectivist camps multiplied. Resembling the intersubjectivist position, Thomas B. Farrell’s theory of social knowledge emphasized the role of consensus in constituting public truths.  But whereas Brummett’s intersubjectivism held that all “human reality always has a meaningful and symbolic substance,” Farrell insisted on a strict separation between “social” and “technical” knowledge. Technical knowledge described matters of certainty that required no deliberation (i.e. whether it is presently raining). Rhetoric was concerned with social knowledge, “knowledge in a state of potential or indeterminance … validated through the reasoned judgment and action of an audience.”  As Farrell put it, “[T]here is something which this art is about. That ‘something’ is a kind of knowledge which is attributed, audience-dependent, potential in state, generative, and normative in implication.”

Celeste M. Condit-Railsback, “Beyond Rhetorical Relativism: A Structural-Material Model of Truth and Objective Reality,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 69 (1983): 351-63.

In 1983, Celeste M. Condit offered a competing position, landing ostensibly more on the side of the objectivists.  Separating “objective truth” from “objective reality,” Condit postulated that reality was a rhetorical constraint that “frequently impinge[s] upon a language network to restrain its still-impressive creative possibilities.”  Condit also contested the intersubjectivist claim that reality is entirely relative to cultural context. There were, in fact, universal constraints that restricted symbolic action; reality was not just a linguistic play. Materiality (neurochemistry and hunger, for instance) placed finite limits on the possibilities for human speech.   The distinction between objective truth and reality also set Condit’s theory apart from other objectivists because she insisted that their characteristically asymptotic metaphors (that critics can ‘approach’ or ‘approximate’ reality) ignored the heterogeneity of possible language structures used to describe matter: [2]

Truth cannot be tied directly to material reality because, although only one material reality may exist (at a given time), millions of possible language structures for describing and interacting with that material reality exist. There is hence not one truth to be discovered and approached, but many temporarily useful characterizations among which we may choose. (357)

The give and take between “objective truth” and “objective reality” finessed a complex intertwining of rhetoric and matter. Objective truth admitted some degree of contingency as language structures fluctuated; but objective reality was a point of determinacy, one that demarcated the true from the false.

Re-igniting the Epistemic Debate

In 1990, the Quarterly Journal of Speech published a forum on “The Reported Demise of Epistemic Rhetoric,” hosting a dialogue between many of its major contributors.  Citing the decline of scholarship devoted to epistemic rhetoric in the previous decade, Barry Brummett speculated that the movement had “burned itself out” (69-72). By contrast, Richard A. Cherwitz and James W. Hikins denied outright that epistemic rhetoric was dead (73-77). Alan G. Gross boldly titled his contribution “The Rhetoric of Science IS Epistemic Rhetoric” (69).  Taking stock of the debate, Thomas Farrell noted that the confusion over what rhetoric meant set a dangerous precedent for future scholarship:

If we equate rhetoric with symbols generally, we will conflate meaning and knowledge and find rhetorical texts everywhere: from wallpaper to wallflowers; from fables to (I know some of our discipline’s serious scholars will find this hard to swallow) food. Of course, because of our own diluted sense of what rhetoric is, we won’t be able to do much with these texts, once we find them. But find them we will. We will have texts galore, but no code. If we think of rhetoric as linguisticality generally, or perhaps the intentionality of perception, we will have similar problems. We will have – if you will – “so much to study, so little to say.” (82)

According to Farrell, untethering rhetoric from its epistemic backing would multiply rhetorical texts at the expense of a coherent and well-defined discipline. Just two years after the Quarterly Journal of Speech forum, new theoretical agendas for rhetorical scholarship reignited the old conflict. Edward Schiappa’s 1992 vision to renew rhetorical theory adopted a critical Foucauldian vocabulary to argue that the fifth-century invention of the term ‘rhêtorikê’ functioned as an “institution of knowledge” that defined “the scope of permissible objects and objectives” of Athenian political oratory. [2] Any serious rhetorical theory would have to grapple first with rhetoric’s linguistic emergence as a meta-discourse, the first systematic philosophy of speech.  Soon after Schiappa’s article appeared in print, Steve Whitson and John Poulakos published “Nietzsche and the Aesthetics of Rhetoric.” Offering a “discursive lifeboat for those who had abandoned the ship of epistemics,” Whitson and Poulakos argued that the study of rhetoric had force because it insisted on the impermanence of all meta-discourse. Truth was a purely aesthetic performance, an alluring illusion created by signs, affect, and experience. Once again, rhetoric would either be conceptually indebted to the notion that history was objective, verifiable and visible or the ideological and aesthetic effect of rhetorical artistry.

Part 2: Rhetoric's Politics: What can Criticism Know?

Methods of Rhetorical Criticism

This week’s reading dealt with the method of rhetorical criticism as a response to scientific precision of thought, clarity of expression, and refinement in methodology, and the enigmas that exist in more artistic forms of methods. Black argues that science’s focus is on studying natural phenomena while rhetorical criticism is concerned with interpreting humanistic activities. While it may seem far fetched, both require a systematic procedure, which is what Black is trying to describe in what he means when we do rhetorical criticism.

There are many interpretations of what criticism may be. It sounds like a common action since most professions have some sort of critique within their methodological processes - even science. However, where they differ is the scope of focus being stimulated by the object and not necessarily focused on the object itself. Criticism can be conceived as the investigative processes of the activities and products of men for the purpose of understanding humans (p. 9). And while there is a close relationship to science, its difference lies mainly in the lack of uniformity that humans possess due to environmental influences which may change the direction of actions.

In practice, rhetorical discourse is the study of discourses regardless of what medium and how it’s disseminated as long as it is persuasive. Persuasive as it refers to the intent but not the accomplishment. These discourses which aim to influence its auditors may be designed in such a way but they can also have an effect not intended. There are three major ways in which we can see rhetorical criticism functioning:

  • The movement study - which the critic focuses on the total dispute over a single program or policy, from the genesis of persuasion on the issue to the time when public discussion of it finally ends;
  • The psychological study - which the critic traces the pattern of influence between a rhetor’s inner life and his rhetorical activities; and,
  • Neo-Aristotelian Criticism - which the critic applies to rhetorical discourse canons derived from classical rhetoric, particularly the Rhetoric of Aristotle.

Neo-Aristotelian study

In summary, the movement study treats the discourse as an element in a complex historical forces that shape public opinion and public policy. The psychological study reports gards the discourse as a symptom or consequence of the personal history of the rhetor, and as an element in a social configuration. And the neo-Aristotelian treats rhetorical discourses as discrete communication in specific contexts designed for specific purposes (p. 35). Since most of the readings for this week follow the neo-Aristotelian method, a further explanation is needed.

In neo-Aristotelian criticism, the critic identifies the classification of rhetorical discourses - forensic, deliberative, or epideictic - and then proofs, or means of persuasion - logical, pathetical, and ethical. Then, it assesses the discourse through categories of invention, arrangement, delivery, and style. But beyond the technical parameters of rhetoric, it also identifies the reception of the discourse by the audience. This is based on several capacities by human to judge information as such to elicit a response.

Black delineates judgement used by Aristotle through its many interpretations but sees it as being a kind of conclusion derived from the merits of competing traits. It is a procedural norm that adheres to the standard norms set forth by a process of speech. And while it may seem to imply that judgement is a reasonable and rational approach of the act of judging discourse by an audience, Black lets us know that judgement is not immune to the emotions of humans. There are standards within our judgement that are assessed by simply accepting or negating (good and bad) the discourse, but the most complex assessments of judgements that are emotionally charged are those affected by prejudices and predispositions that inhibit rationalization.

Opinions, doxa, play a major role in assessing the process of judging. This is because it is concerned with what is true or false based on the premise that is constructed by the rhetor. And while the mind is able to make an opinion of anything, its basis upon opinions are constructed through convictions, pistis, of the mind. There is a passage that Black cites where Plato asks Socrates, “And persuading them is making have an opinion, is it not?” (p. 110). This statement signifies that in order to persuade, one needs to reach and motivate the conviction of man making the pair of doxa and pistis inseparable in the act of persuasion.

Black further complicates this process of understanding audiences’ conviction by presenting it as a belief that is not an act but a state. There is no systematic process from which we come to have a belief, which differs from judgement as we can describe the process in a step-like procedure. Each belief is created through different value systems. Those value systems can be construed by the prejudices and predispositions which make us react. Black describes them as the ready application of response that allow us to make a decision before judgement (p. 115).

Black presents an audience that falls outside the purview of Aristotle's rhetoric - the enthymeme. This is defined as the “linguistic management of an audience’s common store values” (125). By understanding that an audience is composed of a set of values and expectations, the rhetor can use those beliefs as premises that can sanction conclusions. This is because those cohesive values among an audience bind the group together and use to build a persuasive discourse. Essentially, the enthymeme is the substance from which rhetorical persuasion needs to be analyzed.

Hill and Campbell

Hill’s essay is a rhetorical analysis of Nixon’s address to the nation on November 3, 1969 using neo-Aristotelian method of analysis. He looks exclusively at the method to make an argument against other critiques that Hill describes as inadequate at using a strict neo-Aristotelian approach. He delineates his method by establishing parameters of what a critic should do. First, he must outline the situation, then specify the group of auditors and define the kind of decision they are to make, and finally, reveal the choice and disposition of three intertwined persuasive factors - logical, psychological, and characterological.

As mentioned above, the situation is one that cannot be understated as it is a constructed situation from which the population can hear the President address the nation. The State of the Union is no ordinary address to the nation. It is prime time event with an upwards reach of hundreds of millions of adults from heterogeneous backgrounds and opinions. Of particular importance is the context of the address as it primarily describes the current state of affairs regarding the Vietnam war. To Hill, the primary target for the address were those “Americans not driven by a clearly defined ideological commitment to oppose or support the war at any cost” (375). This group is targeted because Hill describes them as decision-makers concerning the future outcome of policies that will deliberate two major tenets of Nixon’s argument: war and peace.

Hill’s understands the speech in two premises: value and prediction. Nixon constructs an argument where the security of life and freedom are highly dependent on the outcome of the war. This incites fear on the primary target audience providing a future where freedom and liberty of men is at risk by America’s enemies that oppose the ideals it represents and are ready to attack at any moment of weakness. By emphasizing the values of that the war has, it is also making speculative predictions of what it may lead to if the actions of today do not reflect the values that America wants to continue to have. Hill then justifies this argument through the understanding that there is no political gains at prolonging war but only by committing to the higher values of what the war represents can they overcome and decrease the chances of having other wars.

Another major tenet in the argument by Hill is the way he sees Nixon’s ethos constructed. He equates the value premises chosen for the argument with Nixon’s ethos as he continues to glorify his poised demeanor at choosing the right way and not the easy way to speak to his target audience. The implication created by HIll is one mirroring Woodrow Wilson where the goal is to win a peace that will avoid any future wars in creating a tasteful appeal to patriotism and on the verge of a “peroration of real eloquence” (p. 384). However, in this particular assessment by Hill is where Campbell’s views conflict.

Campbell refutes the “true faith” upon which Hill sees Nixon’s ethos. One particular instance was the truth and ethical assessments and his treatment of the target audience. According to Aristotle himself, truth and justice are the essential foundation upon which a speech must abide by. This puts the argument posited by Hill at odds with Aristotle's rhetoric as Hill remarks, “neo-Aristotelian criticism does not warrant us to estimate the truth of Nixon’s statements or the reality of the values he assumes” (p. 385).

Hill disregards whether or not Nixon’s speech is truthful, and considers this to be inconsequential to the general analysis he provides. However, Campbell sees Hill’s argument as being one of “truth and acceptability of the major premises while recognizing the deception central to the logos of his address” (p. 452). This is a moral dilemma since rhetorical criticism values the skillful art of deception and concealment from the rhetor which is essentially what Hill argues for which Campbell argues against.

In Campbell’s assessment of the target audience dilemma, she finds Nixon’s argument as divisive. She sees the presidency as a symbolic institution for all citizens in a republic-democracy. This poses a problem since Nixon by implying the “silent majority” as the decision-makers in this debate and targeting them as the audience who he is speaking to. This dismisses the democratic symbolism of the presidency as for the people by the people. Instead it juxtaposes two groups which creates a form of disunity and calls for the “silent majority” to dissent from the “vocal minority” who are more visibly vocal, as the term describes. Campbell sees this as a threat to the political process because it negates the democratic principles of “liberty to dissent from policy without being labeled in terms that suggest that dissent is subversive, if not traitorous (p. 454).

Lastly, the critique of the methodological criticism by Campbell that is presented by Hill is one that tries to overtly describe neo-Aristotelian criticism as objective in order for it to be a legitimate methodology. Campbell differs in her interpretation since the conception of objectivity that Hill strives to “requires the criic to remain entirely within the closed universe of discourse and the ideology or point of view it presents” (p. 453). It dismisses the historical context that Campbell assesses in her own critique as being the truthful representation of the origins of war and not a superficial one that benefits a political ideology. Campbell continues by suggesting that criticism is also conceived as rhetoric since “its impulse is epideictic - to praise and blame; its method is forensic - reason giving. But ultimately it enters into the deliberative realm in which choices must be made” (p. 454). While Hill’s analysis of Nixon’s speech is legitimated understood through its explication of the process and results, the fact is that it is a methodological position that is chosen and argued for, making his criticism subject to question.

Political epistemology, Motivated Reasoning, and Trust

This weeks reading had as its binding theme political epistemology. One could understand this as being how political discourses are constructed in a political domain. Hill provides an analysis of Nixon’s State of the Union speech contradicting several key factors that Campbell and Black touch on in their descriptions of the method. That is the objectivity of analysis and implication of speech in an audience and the truthful representation of information. Campbell’s focus on the lack of clarity in Nixon’s speech when portraying the Vietnam War risks creating an environment that recent research has deemed as the cause of extreme polarized values. This is, motivated reasoning.

Audiences are at risk at rationalizing self-serving behavior by rhetors due to exigencies caused by predispositions inherited by values. What motivated reasoning does is the conformity of that information being displayed by the rhetor regardless of its truthfulness because it aligns to some internal motivation (Kahan, 2016). In terms of political motivated reasoning, it layers on top identity to the motivated reasoning from which affinity groups unite to accept discourses that in other contexts would seem unfeasible. Kahan identifies this as the non-truth-convergent information processing mechanism by assessing how it confirms certain biases derived from certain convictions and beliefs.

Campbell recognizes this effect and Hill dismisses it in Nixon’s speech. However, when Nixon calls upon the silent majority we can assume that not everyone falls in this spectrum of politically motivated reasoning, more empirical tests should generalize this. But in terms of what Nixon is doing in his speech is creating dual identity, one that he himself identifies with and the other that opposes him. He rhetorically constructs positions from which audiences can identify with through his speech. He is deemed credible, not because he is in a position of power, but he creates uncertainties upon which action is necessitated to avoid those uncertainties and gives you the option to choose a certain path, “silent majority” (certainty) or the “vocal minority” (uncertainty).

Nixon artificially constructs trust among his auditors through this act. To understand how, we must understand how trust functions in a social environment. In simplistic terms, trust is the reduction of social complexities (Luhmann, 1979). The contexts from which the speech is given is the state of the union which is a symbol of power and conformity where a democratic nation can know where they stand. Given the social uproar due to the Vietnam War, we can assume that there is uncertainty and in conditions of increasing social complexity society must develop more effective ways of reducing that complexity if we are to decide on a future (Luhmann, 1979).

However, as a society we have become interdependent where individualistic thought is still valued but world changes independently of our actions making time important in this assessment. Sztompka (1999) identifies trust “as being intimately linked with the uncertainty of the future, as long as that uncertainty is of human and not purely natural provenance” (p. 20). Therefore, NIxon is reducing those complexities of an uncertain future by having two options from which if one does not see them self, then the decision, theoretically, should be straightforward.

We know that people are not dualistic beings that can choose one path - it is more complex than that. But the procedure that is created by Nixon is one that aligns with neo-Aristotelian processes of judgement. Where the premises are created from the values and convictions from which people form an opinion and act on it. Campbell states that the speech’s target audience were those in the “silent majority”, but in retrospect, the speech is significant to all because it puts trust at the forefront. Democracy is not built on trust; it is built upon the understanding of distrust. Therefore, Nixon’s ethos is not credibility of character but trust as predicated on the lack of evidence to distrust him. His speech is one that exemplifies what Black describes Aristotle’s Rhetoric to be. Nixon tapped into the conviction of its auditors to reduce the social (external) complexities and provide a solution.
While this was done under mischievous circumstances and misinforming the public of truthful facts, the theme of this week’s readings was of political epistemologies and not of moral discourses. What we can conclude is that political epistemology is founded on the ability to induce a certain conviction, which is not the same throughout time. Rhetorical criticism is a way in which we can identify the ethical challenges of such speeches but in terms of what political epistemology is, we are left to only understand it to be the self-serving behavior of rhetors either by internal (convictions) or external (social circumstances) exigencies.

Part 3: Article Summaries

Edwin Black (1965) Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method.

Edwin Black argues that neo-aristotelian criticism, which is predominant within the discipline of rhetorical criticism around this time (1950s-1970s) cannot account for the effectiveness/success of a speech or piece of oratory, given better historical and cultural hindsight. Rhetorical criticism is redefined not just as the components of analyzing a speech within a traditional Neo-Aristotelian sense, but also the how and why a speech moves within a given contextual discourse (discourse being greater than the specific exchange between speaker and audience). The larger purpose of rhetorical criticism is to situate a text within a larger history and context in order to evaluate its success outside of its immediate effects. Black is also very concerned about evaluating the “goodness” of a speech.

One of the central criticisms of neo-Aristotelian critics is that they defer to the goals of the rhetor (speaker-centered) without evaluating them.  He critiques Hitchcock’s formulaic evaluation of Jonathan Edward’s speech (a criticism organized in terms of organization, ethical proofs, logical proofs, and style) and argues that even at its best neo-Aristotelianism is unable to account for speeches that fall outside neo-Aristotelian categories and even truncates those speeches that do. He demonstrates the inherent limitations of the neo-Aristotelian approach in the case study of John Jay Chapman’s “Coatesville Address”:

Moving as it is, moving enough so that the bare calculation of its immediate effects is insufficient to account for it, moving enough so that the contemporary reader cannot feel its power as having been spent on that audience of three. The speech is not a cold marble monument. It lives. But to see its life, we must find its proper context. The context of the Coatesville address is not the vacant grocery store in 1912. Rather, the discourse must be understood as joining the dialogue participated in by Jefferson, Toqueville, Lincoln, Melville, Henry Adams, Samuel Clemens, Santyana, and Faulkner -- a dialogue on the moral dimension of the American experience. (83-84)

Black, in other words, argues that under a neo-Aristotelian approach the speech would be evaluated as ineffective because it did not make an immediate impact. He states we must “reiterate that the speech still lives,” that “it may be that Chapman’s Coatesville Address is only just now finding its understanding audience, and it may be that that audience will grow larger and more attentive with every passing day.” (88) Black also highlights how “the speech preserves a morally significant event; it makes it permanent in history -- timeless.” (89)

The book attends to the way that time/timing, namely how a piece ‘stands the test of time’ given larger historical contexts and the immediate context of the speech/text. It is a direct response to Neo-Aristotelian criticism as being limited in scope and warrants rhetorical analyses of lesser known texts, and was widely adopted among Rhetoric scholars. In his conclusion, An Alternate Frame of Reference, Black advances three factors for rhetorical criticism:

  • Rhetorical situations. First, we must assume that there is a limited number of situations in which a rhetor can find himself [sic]. (p. 133)
  • Rhetorical strategies. Second, we must assume that there is a limited number of ways in which a rhetor can and will respond rhetorically to any given situational type. (p. 133)
  • Audience effects. Third, we must assume that the recurrence of a given situational type through history will provide the critic with information on the rhetorical responses available in that situation, and with this information the critic can better understand and evaluate any specific rhetorical discourse in which he [sic] may be interested. (p. 133)

Forbes Hill (1972) “Conventional Wisdom – Traditional Form – The President’s Message of November 3, 1969.” 58, 373-386.

Hill offers a neo-Aristotelian analysis of Nixon’s Nov. 3, 1969 address that follows the spirit of Aristotle’s rhetoric uncovers the logical, psychological, and contextual underpinnings of the rhetorical event, although it does not necessarily implicate the critic’s political participation in passing judgment on that oratorical/rhetorical act. Hill claims that it is wrongheaded to “espouse a theory of criticism that requires [the critic] to commit herself at all.” Rather, Nixon’s speech ought to be analyzed in the context of responding to a particular audience at a particular time.
According to Hill, rhetoric is the faculty of observing the available means of persuasion, specifically logical (enthymematic) and psychological (pathos, with special attention to fear and confidence (381). It is also inclusive of considerations of situation and audience and oriented toward strengthening the ethos of the speaker. Within the framework of neo-aristotelian criticism, rhetorical criticism identifies the choices made in order to manufacture logical, emotional, and character based appeals. Rhetorical criticism also investigates the particular situational demands upon which rhetoric must elect one or another course of action. Neo-Aristotelian criticism in particular is claimed to be apolitical: it engages the situational, logical, and psychological elements of oratory while leaving the critic unattached to demystifying this rhetoric, and refuses to provide a metaphysical truth claim about the work in question. The essay attends to the rhetorical elements of ethos (disinterestedness) pathos (fear and confidence) and logos (enthymeme and major/minor premises), form (proem) stylistics, and context.

Hill addresses both previous critics of Nixon’s oratory (Campbell, Stelzner, and Newman) as well as the practice of neo-Aristotelian criticism as proper to rhetoric more generally. The larger conversation also seems to be addressed toward the function of the rhetorical critic as an intellectual mediatory for policy and politics. In Hill’s estimation, an analysis of Nixon’s oratory demonstrates how fidelity to the canonical texts of rhetoric is preferable to partisan accounts of the text. The Aristotelian framework appears in the use of the following terms:

  • Proem: An Aristotelian structure of oratory that includes “narrative, proofs both constructive and refutative, and epilogue.”
  • Enthymeme: An abbreviated syllogistic form whereby the minor premise is concealed by the major premise/conclusion set.

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (1972) “‘Conventional Wisdom – Traditional Form’: A Rejoinder,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 58: 451-454.

Campbell seeks to respond because Hill openly derides other methodologies, and this gets to important issues for the purpose of rhetorical criticism. Hill is concerned with the exclusion of truth and ethics from criticism, and cites Aristotle to say that “rhetoric is valuable because truth and justice are by nature more powerful than their opposites.” Advocating a moral-ethical stance toward criticism that is at Odds with Hill’s claim that neo-Aristotelian criticism doesn’t allow for truth and ethical claims. Campbell demonstrates that Hill acts unethically as a critic because he recognizes that Nixon’s speech was deceptive.“As a critic,” writes Campbell, “that is a bitter pill I cannot swallow.” In his reply, Forbes Hill (mis)characterizes Campbell’s position as holding Nixon accountable for distributing a “message [that] perpetuates myths about American values instead of scrutinizing the real values of America,” and thereby avoids accepting responsibility for the subjects of his criticism.