ERIC Number: ED220861
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Mar
Reference Count: 0
Rhetoric, Alchemy and Heuristic Procedures: Some Epistemological Questions.
Edwards, Bruce L., Jr.
Although composition theorists have rejected the "alchemy" of the traditional, impressionistic, unscientific view of composition as product in favor of a process oriented approach, they have as yet failed to reach a consensus about the epistemological bases that undergird this shift. An examination of parallel developments in literary theory and of their effects on composition theory reveals that composition theorists are faced with two emerging epistemological alternatives: an epistemic view of the composing act or a heuristic one. The epistemic view embraces a relativistic stance that rejects a mimetic view of discourse and liberates the rhetor from constraints of an overbearing "objective reality." Rejecting empirical and rationalistic science, this paradigm remystifies the composing act, replacing the old compostion alchemy with a new one that denies the possibility of discovering truth. In place of epistemic relativism, a heuristic view offers a self-confessed but controlled subjectivism that has truth as its goal while denying to know absolute truth self-evidently. Symptomatic of our current epistemological problem, tagmemics, the best developed composition heuristic, is avoided precisely because it acknowledges the complexity of reality and takes seriously its inquiry into it; nevertheless, such a heuristic view is needed to reinvigorate the teaching of writing and to keep the writing act meaningful in a technological society. (JL)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (33rd, San Francisco, CA, March 18-20, 1982).