(315) 341-2265
Sept. 26, 2001
CONTACT: Dr. Nola Heidlebaugh, 312-3522
OSWEGO -- By reaching back into the intellectual history of Western civilization two millennia and more, people may find ways out of intractable issues that divide them today, according to Dr. Nola Heidlebaugh, an associate professor of communication studies at SUNY Oswego.
Her new book begins a process that she hopes will recover a practical and creative rhetoric that avoids stalemate. "Judgment, Rhetoric and the Problem of Incommensurability: Recalling Practical Wisdom" was just published by the University of South Carolina Press.
"I would hope we would develop talk that would work better than it does now," she said. "That's my aim. How can we talk better about the issues that divide us?"
In the book, she delves into ancient Greek and Roman rhetorical theory to identify inventive methods that can be resurrected and applied to modern issues. She concludes with examples from the ongoing abortion debate.
"It's been called an incommensurable argument," she said, where one side stands for individual rights while the other holds firm to the sanctity of life from its inception. "They can each argue effectively," she said, but they can't get anywhere.
"For a long time, the study of argumentation has gotten bogged down in perfecting arguments. All that does is perfect the arguments on either side without creating a bridge," she said.
Methods from ancient rhetoric can help move beyond fixed starting points and build that bridge to "something new," she said. "We need to generate new ideas, new positions, new ways of viewing things -- new theoretical structures, even."
The book evolved from her doctoral studies in rhetoric and philosophy at Pennsylvania State University and from her background in mediation, she said. She began working on it after attending a seminar on classical rhetoric in 1989 at Princeton University.
. "Judgment, Rhetoric and the Problem of Incommensurability" is aimed at scholars of ancient rhetoric and moral conflict. It is available for $29.95 from the University of South Carolina Press, where it is part of the Studies in Rhetoric/Communication series.
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