Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



In this paper, I tie four concepts together to form a defense both of videogames as art, and of rhetoric as a value-neutral tool of expression, that can be both positive and useful for society. (1) In the first chapter, I explain the Platonic view of rhetoric as an “empty knack” and how it differs from other accounts of rhetoric, ancient and modern. (2) In the second chapter I present a nuanced understanding of the role emotion plays in practical moral reasoning under a computational model of the mind, as described by Antonio Damasio’s neurological somatic marker theory in Descartes’ Error. (3) I will argue in the third chapter that the strong relationship between rhetoric, emotion and reasoning explains rhetoric’s success in human societies throughout history, and allows modern artists to express ideas in powerful new ways. (4) In the fourth chapter I give an account of rhetoric in videogames and how narrative, visual, and procedural rhetoric are all used in videogame design. (5) Finally, in the fifth chapter I use the concepts established in the previous chapters to defend the value of the expressive power of rhetoric through a thorough analysis of the various kinds of rhetoric used in Bioshock to explore these very issues in a philosophically significant way, and what we can learn from it.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Cogburn, Jon