(Author’s note: I apologize if this post isn’t as funny as it should have been. My entire post disappeared when I moved an image and WP swears it doesn’t exist anymore. That and I just showered and the blue hair I was so proud of is now gone and I’m pissed, so please, bear with me (addendum: I watched a load of cat and dog rescue videos, so it should improve near the bottom.)
Agent Dale Cooper is my spirit animal. He doesn’t have anything to do with Rhetoric, at least not in this context, other than sharing a last name with one of the authors. But he and I have a lot in common. He is trying to solve the murder of a girl and I’m just trying to understand what it is I was suppose to have read. Academic reading is not my strong suit, it never had been and most likely never will be. How we’re similar in this endeavor is that he is going up against aliens, demonic spirits, and… magic, I think. I’m just trying to understand further theories on Rhetoric; but both parties approach their situations with a naive, whimsical, but still serious outlook. With everything I’ve learned so far, I’m sure I’ll be finding myself in a chevron tiled room surrounded by red velvet curtains and full of the spirits of… lost people? (Honestly, I’ve seen this show so many times through and half the time it’s like they are throwing whatever plot they can at the proverbial wall and seeing what sticks. Still, it is an amazing show and I recommend it if you haven’t watched it already).
My favorite part about the Fisher piece (I would have had a gif set for Fisher, because there is a character named that in The Mentalist, but she apparently just doesn’t have fun gifs) was the approach Fisher has on the public moral argument. The initial example he gives is about nuclear warfare and how, even though not everyone is qualified, everyone has an opinion on why it shouldn’t happen.
Though I can argue that this is more of a biological response than a moral one because biologically humans are meant to continue their race (though not on the same level as say, The Handmaid’s Tale). But Fisher also mentions that abortion is in the realm of public moral argument, which I think is very interesting as I don’t think there has been any growth in the argument for/against abortion and the entire thing has just become shouting at each other; rhetoric is no longer the game. Persuasion is no longer the desired outcome. The desired outcome for one is to allow women the choice and, for the other, to bring children into the world regardless of choice (but let me not get overtly political here). These are important because every one member of the public has a right to an opinion.
Fisher does explain that to him a public moral argument is moral in the sense that it is founded on ultimate questions (life/death), of how persons should be defined and treated, and of preferred patterns of living. But, also, that public moral argument refers to clear cut inferential structures, in the rational world paradigm, and to “good reasons” in the narrative paradigm (389). Applying these definitions to these types of conversations helps me understand what it is that they are defining. Even if I don’t think that Aristotle’s definition of Rhetoric applies to any of these ‘arguments’ anymore, looking at the examples helps me further how I think about Rhetoric; or it just adds more forest before me.
That does bring us to Cooper and, no, not my spirit animal. Cooper I had a much harder time with and that could be because I feel it’s more a philosophy piece or just that it’s a thick steak to chew through. Cooper is the one who inspired this gif set, especially throwing the word ‘agency’ into the mix. My brain puts two and two together and I get Special Agent Cooper. But, even if I had a hard time understanding where Cooper was going in the beginning of the text, I started to pick up when she was talking about President Obama’s speech. I was in high school when Obama first ran for office and I remember how well he delivered his addresses. Something about it inspired hope in a lot of kids my age and it was what we had needed as an icebreaker for our first election (may be dating myself here, just a tiny bit). I do find myself seeing where Cooper is investigating agency through the speech that Obama gave. Obama is a very strong rhetor, even his most recent speech resonated with people who may have previously been against him. That is rhetoric at work. Obama may not have persuaded people to join his side of the argument, but his words may have been able to spark something in them that they wouldn’t have otherwise known. The more we talk about Rhetoric as a thing, the more we begin to forget that it’s not always apparent and it’s those subtleties that we’ve lost in the modern day of things like Twitter. When you’re too busy shouting, people stop listening.
That is the conclusion for today. I’ll let Agent Cooper sign us off.
Well, apparently he’s running late…
Good day everyone!
5 thoughts on “Diane, 7:30 am, February twenty-fourth. Entering town of Twin Peaks.”
I also struggled with the readings–particularly Cooper’s–and I agree that the piece felt very philosophical. I didn’t take to the idea that effective agents are more often than not unconscious of their actions because I felt the way she phrased it made it seem like an agent cannot create conscious change–which I absolutely do not agree with. I’ve always defined agent as someone who can create change. I can adopt the idea of unconscious agency, but I don’t think we should devalue the idea of conscious agency. I was able to better understand Cooper’s ideas when she began talking about Obama’s speech, but I still don’t agree with all of her ideas.
I much preferred Fisher’s text because, while it was philosophical, it also addressed the idea of public/social knowledge. Public/social knowledge has a large effect on the population that I think academia and/or the “people in power” like to pretend doesn’t exist. Especially in the age of technology where information circulates at an ever increasing pace, public/social information can drastically affect the outcome of many different things (what products people buy, what politicians people elect). Word of mouth is becoming a large force in our world and by validating public/social knowledge, power structures may shift in the future in favor of the general public.
Your blog is kicking ass! But anyways, I enjoyed how you used Twin Peaks as a metaphor for Fisher’s piece. I’m curious if that was challenging— it seems like. it worked very well for you. When you start talking about public moral argument, I thought that you raised some very good questions. One of the things that I noticed you seemed to dwell on was public moral argument, and how, naturally, the act is a moral action. But you seemed to explore the possibilities of what it means for a public to have its own sense of morality; like basically, every public sphere is different and will have their own set of beliefs about what is right and wrong.
I also agree that the more I “learn” about rhetoric, the more I feel that the discussion goes on and on before me! Looking forward to reading more.
Hey Kas! Love how you weaved in Twin Peaks (thank you David Lynch) to explore the Fisher and Cooper pieces. Some of the questions you generate while addressing and dissecting the essays have brought many opportunities for thought on my end. I appreciated how you spent a paragraph defining your terms i.e. public moral argument, and explained how effective term-defining is in the world of rhetorical understanding. Like Cassidy said above, I too wrestled with the Cooper piece but mostly took away definitions of agency and how the individual exists and functions to create meaning in their own actions, for the sake of identifying their own rhetorical actions. I keep running back to Burke, like every time, and I’m just thinking of man as a “symbol-using” being that finds meaning for things through the attachment of symbols. How does this relate to Cooper you may ask? Yes. Yes, I have an answer. I’m thinking that in Cooper’s terms, agency is a symbol, something we pin meaning to, ourselves as rhetorical actors. I’m not sure how much steam I have with this theory, but perhaps with some time to think, I’ll have something we can discuss in class. Very entertaining post! See you tomorrow!
Don’t go Burke’n my heart, Matthew. I hope you’ve good convo!
I agree with Jason that your discussion of Public Moral argument stood out. It seems to call to mind- well every single episode of Dr. Who because other cultures “norms” are often brought up and discussed. For some alien cultures, it might be custom to hit one another or step on each others tails as a greeting, and no one gets mad that they get punched as long as it is an agreed upon social norm. As long as “most” of us agree, then things are regarded as “morally right.” On another note, I really enjoyed your use of gifs and have never thought about watching Twin Peaks, but I probably will now.