14.0420 rhetorical encoding & mechanical methods

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/27/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 420.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 09:04:33 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: rhetorical nitpicking
    I find myself provoked and stimulated by Wendell, who in a recent posting,
    suggests that rhetoric may be a type of "encoding" by way of a
    categorizing of "what works".
    But first, allow me to reference Osher's little paean to "traps" and
    apologize to Wendell, Randall and any others for my poor prose embedded in
    the peroration found in Humanist 14.0387 "primitives, argumentation,
    Wendell invites folks to answer the question: "do certain patterns of
    presenting arguments and evidence have an impact on the perceived
    feasibility and desirability of mechanizing methods?" Randall picks up the
    same question. Wendell does cite the original construction with its
    plethora of "ors":
    Which leads me to pick up one of Willard's themes : the nature of evidence
    and its connection to argumentation and to wonder if Willard or other
    subscribers might muse online about the relation of pursuit of primitives
    to forms of argumentation and the construction/discovery of evidence. Or
    to reverse the order: do certain patterns of presenting arguments and
    evidence have an impact on the perceived feasibility and desirability of
    mechanizing methods?
    Wendell's invocation of "encoding" in conjunction with "rhetoric" has led
    me to ask myself who would, in parsing the above passage, read a single
    question with two versions or two questions (i.e. just how symmetrical is
    the reversed order?) and to ask who would in a subsequent reading identify
    and be able to maintain in a cogent discourse both possibilities?
    Based on this example and other experience, I would venture to say that
    both encoding to create a machine-readable text and rhetorical study of a
    text slow-down the reading process. Let me be quite clear. I am not
    stating that the reading of an encoded text (or any text for that matter)
    is slower. I am attempting to link "rhetoric" to "encoding" through the
    trope of "writing".
    What happens in slowing down a habitual activity?
    (I open a parenthesis to quickly skip over a digression on non sequiturs,
    to hop happily around the thorny ontological question of the difference
    between a pointing procedure and a pointer as such, and finally, to jump
    via the topos of links to a simple claim...
    Most subscribers to Humanist will recognise the trivium of dialectic,
    grammar and rhetoric in modern garb of syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
    The work of Hans Burkhardt on Leibniz opens a charming window upon the
    niceties of modal logic where "it becomes clear that inferring has to do
    with referring, i.e. that certain inferences are possible or impossible
    because of the referring relations of the terms in the relevant
    sentences." [Burkhardt, "The Leibnizian _characteristica universalis_ as
    link between grammar and logic" in _Speculative Grammar, universal
    grammar, and philosophical analysis of language_ (Amsterdam, 1987), 51]
    .... and now to close the parenthesis with a link to a G. Moore posting to
    Humanist (Vol 9, No. 657) where the reliable machine was contrasted with
    the resilient human in order to suggest an alignment such that reliable is
    to referential as resilient is to inferential. And that the border
    represented by this ratio is the communicative domain of pragmatics.)
    Partial non sequitur follows:
    If in the world of multimedia we speak of graceful degradation of images,
    acceptable levels of noise in sound reproduction, structures of
    interconnecting links...
    Geoffrey Nunberg, in _The Future of the Book_, does link semiosis with
    perception which is perhaps a place to begin not only to address Geoffrey
    Rockwell's question about the place of multimedia in Humanities Computing
    but also perhaps a place from which to begin to turn to an understanding
    of why certain people begin with the goal of resilience and others with
    that of reliability. I would venture that those that are propelled by the
    pursuit of primitives value reliability above resilience and those keen on
    the argument and the evidence steer a different course towards the ever
    evasive primitive.
    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project

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