David E Romm

Rhetoric 1152W

Oral Presentation 2/13/01

Reconciling Rhretoric and Image in Psychology, Al Cheyne & Donato Tarulli

"Reconciling Rhetoric and Image in Psychology", by Cheyne and Tarulli, sort of meanders around for a long time, and never does actually reconcile rhetoric and image. Along the way they seem to be making valid points, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what they are.

They seem to be saying that some people view rhetoric as a bad thing. Rhetoric has gotten a bad rap, they say, because of how it's been misused in the past. In other words, bad rhetoric is a bad thing. Rhetoric itself -- using language to convey ideas clearly and convincingly -- is a good thing. As they point out, not using Capital-R-Rhetoric is a rhetorical device itself.

They warn specifically about making the science too much an aspect of the scientist. Whenever you see "I" in a scientific paper, some are suspicious, cites the article. And yet, their main example of this is not a scientific paper, but an interview in the magazine Parenting. An interview is, by definition, personal, and Parenting magazine will have different peer reviews than a scientific journal. They seem to be saying that talking about science must be, at all times, clear and pure and unsullied by the presence of the scientist.

The authors get upset that someone has written a manual on how scientists can get published. How one disseminates research is a vastly different set of criteria than the research itself. Their major complaint against this manual is that it encourages bad science by enabling poor science to get published. Their unstated assumption seems to be that bad science written well pushes out good science written badly. This is an indictment of the scientific publishing industry, not on rhetoric itself. What ever happened to peer reviews and editors demanding quality papers to publish?

The article concludes by accusing that the effect of the manual "will be to preserve that image while rejecting its substance". They don't like the very idea of a manual to help people get published.

Questions this article raises: Is good writing a bad thing? Must all scientific discourse be emotionless recitation of research? Are the basic principles of good writing at odds with the science? What is bad scientific writing, and why can't one criticize the science instead of merely the report? And, lastly, can a scientist use different rhetorical devices for different audiences?

Back to main Rhetoric Page

romm.org Portal PageFamily Pictures & e-mail | Avrom Romm obituaries and text files
Picture Galleries | Shockwave Sound Files | Shockwave Home Page