How Intellectuals Create a Public

I just skimmed this Chronicle of Higher Education Review article from 22 January. It makes a decent introduction to the purpose of intellectual argument. Might use it with FYS. Perhaps after this wonderful extended metaphor by Kenneth Burke:

You come late.  When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about.  In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar.  Someone answers; you answer her; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance.  However, the discussion is interminable.  The hour grows late, you must depart.  And you do depart. with the discussion still vigorously in progress.  (Burke 110-11)

Burke, Kenneth. The Philosophy of Literary Form. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1941

Although the two discuss different styles and purposes of scholarly essays, I think they are both important for students to understand. Burke begins from the assumption that argument is purely rational discussion among scholars, whereas Corey Robin in the Chronicle Review focuses on the argument in the world and extols the virtues of empathy and the emotional imagination.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s