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The Rhetoric of Reason
Writing and the Attractions of Argument
James Crosswhite

Rhetoric of the Human Sciences


A call for reasoning, writing, and rhetoric in higher education

"A work of art, conceptually and stylistically. What Crosswhite has attempted is quite remarkable. A major contribution."
—David Kaufer, Carnegie Mellon


Responding to skeptics within higher education and critics without, James Crosswhite argues powerfully that the core of a college education should be learning to write a reasoned argument. A trained philosopher and director of a university-wide composition program, Crosswhite challenges his readers—teachers of writing and communication, philosophers, critical theorists, and educational administrators—to reestablish the traditional role of rhetoric in education.

To those who have lost faith in the abilities of people to reach reasoned mutual agreements, and to others who have attacked the right-or-wrong model of formal logic, this book offers the reminder that the rhetorical tradition has always viewed argumentation as a dialogue, a response to changing situations, an exchange of persuading, listening, and understanding. Crosswhite's aim is to give new purpose to writing instruction and to students' writing, to reinvest both with the deep ethical interests of the rhetorical tradition. In laying out the elements of argumentation, for example, he shows that claiming, questioning, and giving reasons are not simple elements of formal logic, but communicative acts with complicated ethical features. Students must learn not only how to construct an argument, but the purposes, responsibilities, and consequences of engaging in one.

Crosswhite supports his aims through a rhetorical reconstruction of reason, offering new interpretations of Plato and Aristotle and of the concepts of reflection and dialogue from early modernity through Hegel to Gadamer. And, in his conclusion, he ties these theoretical and historical underpinnings to current problems of higher education, the definition of the liberal arts, and, especially, the teaching of written communication.

James Crosswhite was, at the time this book was published, associate professor of English at the University of Oregon. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and has directed writing programs at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Oregon. He has published many articles on rhetoric and argumentation.

To schedule an interview with the author or to request a review copy of the book, contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email: publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu



February 1996
LC: 95-044286 BC
344 pp.   6 x 9  

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The Rhetoric of Reason will be a delight to hand my graduate students, many of whom have learned sophisticated objections to argumentative models of discourse. The book meets these concerns in a creative way. The teaching of effective writing must be a critical part of what we in the liberal arts do, and, of course, we should all be teaching good reasoning."
—John Lyne, University of Iowa, series editor

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