Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

Document Type



Aimed at core problems of contemporary moral rhetoric - pluralistic argument, incommensurable disagreement on ordering terms, and a theoretical move away from essence to relativism - this study is an attempt to restore rhetoric as an art capable of investigating and positing terms of order and being. This restoration relies upon viewing rhetoric as a practice of epistemic mediation between the experiential and language-based knowledge of the local, and the perfected knowledge of the Absolute. I propose characteristically Socratic notions of contingency and ignorance as the bases for this mediated approach. As a recognition of what is unknown and uncertain in relation to the Absolute, contingency and ignorance promote rhetoric as “genuine dialogue,” an other-recognizing, inclusive, and open-ended practice carried out in the local but aimed at the Perfect. Genuine dialogue allows agents to relationally enact virtue, collapsing virtue and rhetoric together as a craft or techne. The study is structured as an argument against immanent notions of contingency (in historical and political utopianism and progressivism), and a-discursive notions of ignorance, which are demonstrated to violate basic values of dialogue. Concluding remarks focus on the praxis of contingent, ignorant dialogue as enacted in actual policy settings, as well as focusing on future directions and applications.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Andrew A. King