Reality and Imaginary Interwoven, The Difficulties and Possibilities of Theorization

Interestingly, I read something about the collapse of invention as a rhetorical canon and the rise of empirical science(“A Humanistic Rationale for technical Writing” by Carolyn R. Miller).She talks about the intricate nature of reality and how difficult it is to transmit it accurately. This makes me feel comfortably easy to stand in the shoes of Liu. Having found a research/theoretical gap in the rhetorical term “invention”, which even Plato and Quintilian did not bother to define(55), Liu traces the earliest definition of invention in Ad Herennium—”the devising of matter, true or plausible, that would make the case convincing”(55). Thus, making the three terms he illustrates at the beginning of his argument “later development(s)”(55). Again, when I connect the three words “discovery”, “creation”, and “invention” with the rise of empirical science. BANG! I think Liu and Miller are actually hitting the same point that the advent of science has changed our notions of rhetoric, at least some professionals that are outside of our discipline. then, this is also related to the relationship between science and rhetoric and whether they are mutually exclusive. The whole world is hailing science and technology while neglecting or not paying attention to our field, also the reason why some scholars have been calling for attention to the overemphasis of objective reason and logic without adequate awareness on the subjectiveness and omniscnece of rhetoric.

As I continue to read this piece, I confirmed my direction of thinking because Liu also mentioned the “god-terms” “discovery” and “creation”(55). Moreover, he mentions the “empirical-objectivist model of composition—romanticists’ discursive production”(55). This is exactly what happen when we see back in history in Bacon’s essays. The New Instrument represents what science and technology is, the concrete matter as opposed to our discipline—the abstract, impractical, hard to define and theorize. Bacon even diminishes rhetoric’s invention as a non-inventive action because he does not see our invention discover anything unknown(55). Here is the gap from which science and rhetoric divorced! I don’t like Bacon in this way although I remember his brief, logical, even sophistic essays. How could I not even thought of this issue when me and Mr. Liu both read him?! It is difficult to theorize knowledge, indeed. Is it because he is older than me? Just kidding. I know this gentleman in person, and I respect him a lot for his contribution to comparative and Chinese rhetoric.

Maybe it is always convenient to draw from literature, especially poetry the ultra subjectivity of rhetoric, for poetry represents the most powerful imagination of human beings. Liu’s comparison between Coleridge’s “Creation ex nihilo”(56) and Bacon’s empirical discovery of the (T)truth(s) in nature is, traditionally speaking, just one that reflects the task of scientific disciplines and our discipline. However, Liu is more concerned about their similarity rather than difference, I guess this is because he is someone who does not want them to divorce, one smart and “great” man whom Miller would like to shake hands with. Indeed, Liu’s view that they share the modernist ideal of seeking and trying to get the unknown(56).

In regard to theoretical formation, Liu agrees I. A. Richard’s idea that positioning is of vital importance and that such positioning action is of vital importance in modernism and the beginning stage of postmodernism(56). I cannot agree more with the idea that major social and cultural changes shift our discourse(56), for context has changed. Why we see terminology changes all the time, whereas people are still talking about the same issue? Maybe because we haven’t figure out the mysteries of nature and how to deal with human behaviors holistically? That totality is hard to achieve, but we still want to give it a try?

Even the postmodern deconstructionist Derrida seeks for a totality of “discovery” and “creation”, an “invention” that is both in the imaginative humanity perspective and in the objective and pragmatic technology perspective(59). The parallel and interwoven invention in both science and rhetoric constructs human history and without each of them we cannot move forward. Nevertheless, in each camp there is this intricate invention happening all the time, I guess. And, inside rhetoric, our own field, we have to think and weigh Foucault’s “power” dynamics, to consider different “discourse communities” because we live in the same world and we are a totality.

Liu brings the theorization issue and unfolds its difficulty because late generations will always have to learn their ancestors’ ideas and notions before they could possibly think of their own definitions(60). Nevertheless, the discursive production Liu has made requires us to combine discovery with creation into the “inventiveness” that both “recover or resummon thatwhich we already know” and “discover that which we know not”(60). I think this is just what the postmodern discourse is—interpretation and reinterpretation texts in and out of our own contexts, tolerance to anything that surround us, for everything has its own interpretations. This open-endedness gives us tremendous opportunities to theorize reality with our humanistic mind.


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