What's Cognitive About Rhetoric? (Chapter 1 of the Rhetorical Mind)
Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science
December 4, 2008
This is a draft of chapter 1 of the Rhetorical Mind, a book project providing an answer to the question: What does it mean to say that Homo sapiens are "rhetorical beings"? Its method is to approach an answer by addressing several related questions, the first of which, and the topic of this working paper, is "What is cognitive about rhetoric?" In this paper, I present two stories, the first one charts the phylogeny of Homo rhetoricus; the second the ontogeny of a singular rhetorical being.
The principal argument emerging from these two stories is that cultures are products of cognition and, more controversially, that hominid cultures cause language to emerge rather than language causing cultures to emerge. Symbols and "webs of symbols" by themselves are not what turned Homo sapiens into H. rhetoricus, or what turn one particular baby into a great orator. It is conscious experiences in perception and action, joint attention, episodic memory, mental imagery, metacognition, pretense, and empathy -- all processes facilitated by greater executive control over body movement and expression, leading to greater interest in other minds that makes us rhetorical beings. Our capacity for mimesis -- the capacity to represent experiences and states-of-affairs in iconic and indexical formats under strict bodily control -- molds later symbolic thought and action. Culture is not the initial product of language, language is the product of a particular manifestation of Mimetic Culture that eventually gives rise to Rhetorical Culture, or cultures defined by symbolic action and social ontology.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: Rhetoric, Cognition, Mimesis, Imitation, Kenneth Burke, Communication, Gesture, Simulationworking papers series
Date posted: December 4, 2008
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo7 in 0.328 seconds