Rhetoric and Incommensurability

SKU: 1-932559-49-3

Edited and Introduced by Randy Allen Harris

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1-932559-49-3 (paperback, $34.00; £19.00); © 2005 by Parlor Press; 596 pages, with index, notes, and bibliography

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Rhetoric and Incommensurability examines the complex relationships among rhetoric, philosophy, and science as they converge on the question of incommensurability, the notion jointly (though not collaboratively) introduced to science studies in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. The incommensurability thesis represents the most profound problem facing argumentation and dialogue—in science, surely, but in any symbolic encounter, any attempt to cooperate, find common ground, get along, make better knowledge, and build better societies. This volume brings rhetoric, the chief discipline that studies argumentation and dialogue, to bear on that problem, finding it much more tractable than have most philosophical accounts.


What people are saying about Rhetoric and Incommensurability . . .

Harris’s book is especially strong for its reminder to rhetoricians that Kuhn’s notion of the paradigm is not the only source of incommensurability theory. In tracing the history of incommensurability in both Feyerabend and in Kuhn’s evolving theory, Rhetoric and Incommensurability helps to create a productive space of interaction between rhetoric and incommensurability studies more broadly conceived. Although Rhetoric and Incommensurability probably will not be the final word on rhetoric of science and incommensurability studies, it does an excellent job of summing up recent rhetorically based incommensurability scholarship. Finally, it expertly integrates research from the allied humanist and social studies of science while continuously keeping the focus on the rhetorical issues involved.
—S. Scott Graham, in Rhetoric Society Quarterly 38.2 (2008): 233.

Readers of this journal, chiefly interested in incommensurability as a philosophical topic, will be most attracted to Parts 1 and 2 of the book, where the essays are more theoretical. It is on these that this review is focused, particularly Harris’s booklength introduction which impresses me as a real tour de force. The book is worth buying for this essay alone for the revealing way it disentangles themes in the literature on incommensurability, including discussion of rhetoric and ways of dealing with incommensurability.
—Struan Jacobs, in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22.1 (2008): 100.

Rhetoric and Incommensurability should attract attention from almost anyone interested in rhetoric. The incommensurability issue has implications that encompass all flavors of rhetoric, and the book seems well designed both to engage the rhetoric of science specialists and the more general audience of rhetoricians.
—Michael C. Leff, editor of Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice and NCA Distinguished Scholar

Rhetoric and Incommensurability will be of interest to rhetoricians, students of scientific rhetoric, and a range of scholars in various arenas of science studies. It will also be of interest to philosophers of science, and to philosophers interested in rhetoric. It will make an important interdisciplinary contribution to the study of incommensurability.
—Harvey Siegel, author of Relativism Refuted: A Critique of Contemporary Epistemological Relativism and Rationality and Judgment


The introduction charts the many variations of incommensurability in scholarly literatures, anchoring them in Kuhn’s and Feyerabend’s work; probes the implications of seeing incommensurability as a rhetorical phenomenon; and introduces the ten chapters from prominent scholars in the rhetoric, history, and philosophy of science, including Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Alan G. Gross, Thomas M. Lessl, Herbert W. Simons, Leah Ceccarelli, Lawrence J. Prelli, John Angus Campbell, Jeanne Fahnestock, Charles Bazerman, René Agustín De los Santos, and Carolyn R. Miller.

About the Editor

Randy Allen Harris is Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Design in the Department of English at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of The Linguistics Wars (Oxford) and the editor of Landmark Essays in Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies (Hermagoras), in addition to other books and articles on the rhetoric of science, communication design, and linguistics.


Part I: Incommensurability, Rhetoric

1 Introduction
Randy Allen Harris

2 Three Biographies: Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Incommensurability
Paul Hoyningen-Huene

Part II: Issues

3 Kuhn’s Incommensurability
Alan G. Gross

4 Incommensurate Boundaries: Positivism and Darwinism in Victorian Biology
Thomas M. Lessl

5 The Rhetoric of Philosophical Incommensurability
Herbert W. Simons

Part III: Cases

6 Science and Civil Debate: The Case of Sociobiology
Leah Ceccarelli

7 Stasis and the Problem of Incommensurate Communication: The Case of Spousal Violence Research
Lawrence J. Prelli

8 The ‘Anxiety of Influence’—Hermeneutic Rhetoric and the Triumph of Darwin’s Invention over Incommensurability
John Angus Campbell

9 Cell and Membrane: The Rhetorical Strategies of a Marginalized View
Jeanne Fahnestock

10 Measuring Incommensurability: Are Toxicology and Ecotoxicology Blind to What the Other Sees?
Charles Bazerman René Agustín De los Santos

11 Novelty and Heresy in the Debate on Nonthermal Effects of Electromagnetic Fields
Carolyn R. Miller


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