The Promise of Reason

Just returned from a very stimulating and very enriching conference hosted at the University of Oregon on the 50th anniversary of the publication of The New Rhetoric.

What a great conference.  It has furthered my personal commitment to only attend conferences that are about particular questions, books, or limited range interests. I feel like I learned so much from each panel I attended.  And the questions and discussion from my own paper made me push my thinking in a new direction as well.  So thanks to all who attended.

One of the highlights in the panels was to receive a very comprehensive bibliography of French sources on Perelman's thinking. Another highlight was the excellent plenary presentations, which were well balanced, and well designed for plenty of question and discussion time.

Another highlight was hanging out with my good friends who I rarely get a chance to see - it really made the conference click to have that personal dimension of discussion available after hours, or over meals.

Having dinner and drinks with Gordon Mitchell was also awesome, and our discussion ranged from pedagogy of questioning to rhetorical interventions against the upcoming Iran bombing.  One of the big payoffs from that conversation was the realization that if you are bombing targets to "send a message," you are replacing communication with violence.  This is of course the antithesis of argumentation theory and the work that argument scholars do.  However, it opens a nice opportunity - for if this is the equivalency the administration makes, aren't they "negotiating with terrorists?"  If there is a way to convince the public that negotiation with Iran is inevitable, can we then have a debate about types of negotiation, and which cause more violence and which cause less?

And finally a shout-out to the rhetoric of JetBlue, where when we were delayed due to a door failing to properly close, the captain came out and said, "Well the door won't shut, we're an hour late, so we're just going to glue the seal on there and that should get us out of here pretty quick."  I'm sure that wasn't corporate authorized discourse, but certainly smells like reason, doesn't it?