David and Brian Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah,
N.J.: Earlbaum, 1996.
Interested in the "betterment of rhetoric" (305), Kaufer and Butler spell out
an involved model for a modularized verbal rhetoric. They seek to
distinguish (and recuperate) rhetoric understood as a design art
from more pejorative designations (i.e., rhetoric of antirhetoric and
rhetoric as a practical art (23), menial, or simple). In arguing for this
particular understanding of rhetoric, Kaufer and Butler frame written argument
as an original design art. Given an explicit focus on verbal rhetoric (words
alone (9)–grounded in Austin and speech acts), it’s not clear where they stand
on materiality (^things are designed in language).
Rhetoric, for them, involves the design of abstractions (9), and the
"design art" reorientation opens rhetoric to a complexity beyond
handbooks and procedurally reductive how-tos.
While the structure of their model seems rigidly executed at times, holding
apart, for example, the rhetor from the environment (58), Kaufer
and Butler emphasize its suggestive quality rather than pitching it as a
prescriptive serum to perfect all rhetorical encounters. They describe the model
as diagnostic at one point (305; diagnostic because of modularity),
but it is equally useful as a set of heuristics which can be deployed to
stabilize public, civic discourse (the application throughout
Rhet/Arts of Design is the Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates). In pursuit
of coherence, Kaufer and Butler characterize the model as asituational
(i.e., portable, generalizable).
The second half of the book, chapters 5-9, is devoted to explaining and
applying each of the modules: 5. Goals, 6. Structure, 7. Plans, 8. Tactics, and
9. Events. Goals and Structure are higher order modules, while Plans, Tactics,
and Events manifest in the design space. Tactics tend to be opponent-directed
and combative; Events are audience-directed and cooperative (67). Further, each
of the modules is coordinated with other modules (including the Strategic module
(268) and Presentation module (273)). The modules are, in effect, alive; they
are rather like Latour’s hybrids to a degree. Kaufer and Butler explain that
they partially anthropomorphic (dynamic, agentic conditions). Also called
"experts," the modules are entangled in a symbiotic orchestration.
^materiality, role of genre, rationalism.
Rhetoric: "Let us define rhetoric as the control of events for an
audience. To be more specific, let’s say that rhetoric is the strategic
organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a
situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making" (12).
Design arts: "Design arts highlight a distinction between an agent’s
naked intention, the goals outside of and motivating the design, and the goals
of the designer, that reside in the design. The goals of the design (e.g., fame,
wealth, glory, power) and the goals in the design (e.g., balance,
symmetry, restraint) coevolve. The defining conditions of a design art are that
(1) the goals of the design are perceptually distinct from the goals in it; (2)
the artifact produced by the design depends on the coevolution and convergence
of these systems of goals; and as an unavoidable consequence, (3) the actor
requires considerable effort and skill to bring about this evolution and
Key terms: probability (xv), antirhetoric (2), novelty (3), absence (3),
archivability (3), boundedness (4), speed (4), axiomatic science (7), design
knowledge (7), verbal rhetoric (8), audience and opponent (10), event and
situation (12), canonical event-telling (14), noncanonical event-telling (16),
rhetorical situation (19), ancillary events (20), practical arts (23),
dialectical argument as contrasted with rhetoric (26), material and symbolic
artifacts (33), quasi-real (33), module (37, 39), topics/topoi (49),
goals (59), structure (61), knowledge representation (61), public space (64),
predictiveness and adaptiveness (76-77), public (95, 124), entity classes (109),
modeling a public (129), experts (267), strategic module (268), presentational
module (273), media (296).
"The cultural stereotype for rocket science applies, in more muted and modest
shades, to the arts in the family of arts we associate with design–engineering,
architecture, graphics, musical composition. The principal argument of this
book is that rhetoric belongs in this family of arts as well" (xiii).
"As rhetoric has tried to prove itself in the modern academy, it has
had to reshape itself to look more like an organized body of analytical
knowledge and less like a form of productive knowledge, the latter
considered more craft-like and heuristical than principled and lawfully
regular. Yet as rhetoric has ‘succeeded’ in remaking itself to fit the modern
standard, it has lost its bearing as an art of production" (xvi).
"Through these three material properties [archivability,
boundedness, speed], print made it possible to foreground novelty
as a new paradigm for the cultural dissemination of ideas" (4).
"Work in the rhetoric of inquiry and writing in the specialized
disciplines tries to show, in sum, how rhetoric, assumed to be a loosely
knit and relatively unstructured bundle of practices, finds its way into
disciplines considered too highly structured to need rhetoric" (6).
"We argue that rhetoric has remained institutionally unstable
as an indigenous knowledge because the academy has failed to place it where it
deserves to be placed–in the family of the design arts" (7).
"Design knowledge is the knowledge associated with the architect,
engineer, and computer specialist. It is standardly described as
(a) modular, able to be broken down into parts; (b) cohesive,
allowing the parts to be related back into a working whole; and (c)
problem-focused, allowing persons with the knowledge to apply it to do so
for pragmatic ends. Our thesis is that rhetorical knowledge, whether
practiced in civic communities or by schooled professionals, is a type of
design knowledge" (7).
"Within a construction of consciousness, the past, present, and future
are integrated as overlapping horizons of time that unite intention,
action, and reflection. This gives each event in a noncanonical presentation the
look, not of a semantic island, but of a dispersed mass spread across
sentences and paragraphs with no clear boundaries" (18).
"It has been difficult to reconcile the dignified universals of the
humanities with the interestedness, practicality, and localness of
"Given the local, tactical, and applied nature of rhetorical
knowledge, it was and has remained impossible to defend rhetoric against the
earliest charges made by philosophy that rhetoric has no intrinsic interest in
the universals of truth and morality" (22).
"An ethical consideration more intrinsic to rhetoric is whether the
audience is empowered to see the design behind the events constructed" (30).
"To summarize, for an adequate conceptualization of rhetoric, we contend that
it is necessary to leave behind the practical arts and associate rhetoric
with the arts of design" (35).
"A central contention of this book is that rhetorical design exists as
an entity much larger and more encompassing than the textual implementation
of rhetorical discourse" (45).
"The Tactics module presupposes a viewpoint different from Plans.
Although Plans only knows about truth and falsehood in the social world, Tactics
knows only about a world of gaming between a speaker and live opponents in a
specific rhetorical situation. Plans knows nothing about the particulars of
rhetorical situations. Plans stays somewhat aloof from the actual details
of any specific situation of rhetoric. Tactics and Events are the
modules that actually ‘forage’ rhetorical situations, modules that
directly manipulate situational inputs that can change with design structure"
"[The Events module] forms the basis of language we call rhetorical
performatives, like adaptations, nondeclaratives, indirection, emotives, and
reflexives like wit, humor, and irony" (67).
"We acknowledge a partial anthropomorphizing, that is,
anthropomorphizing within a module. Within a module, we have relied on an
anthropomorphic intelligence to provide the mechanism by which a specific
module, within the limits of its own knowledge and action potential,
‘decides’ or ‘does’ something" (263).
"Plans, Tactics, and Events operate concurrently, as independent ‘experts‘
that look for opportunities to change a design as the state of the design
"Conservatively, training in the studio arts is anywhere from 5 to 20 times
more expensive per student than training in the humanities. To avoid the
expense, it is easy to keep rhetoric the lowly practical skill of the
humanities, taught to freshman as a rite to passage to the college
curriculum. But that is to reduce rhetoric to freshman composition
and to miss rhetoric’s potential as a member in good standing with the arts of
"We have argued that the complexity of rhetoric evinced by these debates
shows rhetoric to be much more than a practical art, an art comprehended or
captured by a handbook tradition. It is rather a modular art of design,
fulfilling all the essential definitions of such an art" (305).
- Related sources:
- Simon, Herbert. The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, Mass.:
MIT Press, 1996.