Subject/Object Split

I never realized how philosophical rhetoric is.  The subject-object relationship, or ontological condition, continues to present itself through our survey of readings from the vast field of rhetorical studies.  This time, it comes from Crosswhite’s book The Rhetoric of Reason.  His survey of the influence of Derrida and Heidegger on contemporary philosophy was a wonderful starting point for me – someone who has always been interested in poststructuralist thought, but never chosen to take the time to meaningfully engage the primary sources.  I’ve mostly steered away from Heidegger and Derrida due to the frustration I’ve felt with their lack of applicability to the present moment.  It almost appears that they intend to not be applied.

However, I’ve seen more and more who the act of writing itself, and more specifically the context of writing/composition studies opens up a practical avenue for exploring the seemingly inaccessible and needlessly tedious writings of these superstar academics.  I’m swayed by Crosswhite’s call for a more philosophically centered theoretical grounding on the part of writing instructors, and I appreciate his admission that the reason that this has not been the case is in part due to the adjunctification of the academy.  Precarious work conditions don’t usually call for a rigorously formed philosophical framework on the part of writing instructors.  But the stakes are high, and our students need a practical grounding to address the epistemological basis of social, economic and political problems we all face in the world. In short, I’m excited to read the rest of this book as I am beginning to put together the pieces of how philosophy forms the basis of writing pedagogies.  The way our students write are not simply transmission belts of objective information; at best, they should be knowledge productions that go back into the world and shape it, as quality discourse should.

I’m intrigued by the similarities I’m seeing between two seemingly opposed figures – Heidegger and Marx.  On the one hand, their philosophical antecedents are pretty fundamentally at odds.  Nietzsche and Hegel are both of German descent, but their philosophical systems (or lack of systems) are not immediately reconcilable.  However, Heidegger’s notion of “being-in-time” and the famous one-page-long treatise by Marx called the Theses on Feuerbach.

In the Theses, Marx makes statements like the following: “All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”

This sounds very similar to Crosswhite’s focus on “communication-as-act” and calls for pragmatism.  But it also sounds similar to Heidegger’s notion that “language is the articulation of being-in-the-world” (22.)  We make the world through our discourse, and we find out what “truths” are through our practice in the world.  If thought and talk are forms of practice (in other words, communication-as-act,) then thought and talk also constitute means of determining truth.

I’m not sure if I’m getting this right, but if I am then I am excited to see Crosswhite’s argument unfold.  His friendliness toward the insights of deconstruction and Heideggerian thought excite me given that he’s situating them within a new rhetorical/philosophical context.

Now, I want to echo Patricia Bizzell and ask, why is Marx left out of this (so far, at least)?  I’ll leave this for you to explore if you’re interested, but it appears to me that the Theses on Feuerbach represent a break with the Cartesian objectivist dualism of subjectivity/objectivity.  Why ignore them, Crosswhite?

PS.  I just googled “Marx Theses on Feuerbach Heidegger” and found some interesting stuff.  Excited to follow these links. (<— this one has a vide of Heidegger engaging Marx’s Theses . . . interesting?)


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