The Rhetoric of Intention in Human Affairs

Overview

The Rhetoric of Intention in Human Affairs is an insightful account of the rhetorical and psychological habits we exhibit when we must explain the reasons others act. The assumption that we can know what motivates another person is fed by more hope than certainty, and yet it is evidence of a very human impulse. Beginning with a clear template for defining various tiers of motives-talk, this innovative and accessible study moves through a series of chapters exploring the unique demands imposed by different ...

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The Rhetoric of Intention in Human Affairs

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Overview

The Rhetoric of Intention in Human Affairs is an insightful account of the rhetorical and psychological habits we exhibit when we must explain the reasons others act. The assumption that we can know what motivates another person is fed by more hope than certainty, and yet it is evidence of a very human impulse. Beginning with a clear template for defining various tiers of motives-talk, this innovative and accessible study moves through a series of chapters exploring the unique demands imposed by different circumstances. These sections cut a wide swath of analysis across a diverse range of human actors including: conspiracy theorists who find the designs of coordinated agents behind random events, theater performers creating “backstories” for their characters, journalists grasping to name the motives of newsmakers, prosecutors who must establish another’s intent in order to prove a criminal act, and the devout who grapple with what divine intervention can mean in a cruel world. Readers will recognize themselves in these pages, gaining an appreciation for the rhetorical analysis of human behavior.

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Editorial Reviews

Raymie McKerrow
This is a richly textured analysis of the myriad ways in which we establish and explain our understanding of both our intentions and the intentions of others. Naming our intentions, and deciphering our motives for belief and action, as well as naming and at times critiquing those of others is explored through various everyday contexts. The stories that are recounted give eloquent testimony to the brilliance or folly of our attributions as we engage others rhetorically.
CHOICE
Timely and important, this book focuses on the rhetorical and psychological habits of intention–an approach rarely taken. More often the subject of philosophy, intention is analyzed here as rhetoric and as part of lived experience offering an immediacy and a self-revelatory dimension that is outside the purview of a philosophical analysis. Woodward also elucidates the enigmas, paradoxes, and fantasies that expressing intention–one's own, others', and 'representations of intentions'–create about what one can and cannot know. Woodward draws on a wide variety of disciplines, scrutinizing their discourse in light of intention: e.g., motivation in theater, attribution in journalism, liability and culpability in law, and 'reading' God in religion. He proposes that 'intention talk is frequently anchored by discourse referencing internal states, external states, a role template, and a model of moral worth.' He demonstrates that rhetorical acts concerning human intention perpetrate follies as well as truths, but he argues that it is human nature that leads one to grapple with intention. This is a fine resource for those interested in rhetoric, communication, law, politics, or psychology. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.
Sonja K. Foss
Finally! A work that takes a sophisticated approach to the problem of intention in rhetoric, which, except for Burke’s pentad, is largely ignored by rhetorical scholars. Woodward’s location of the rhetorical act of the assignment of intentionality in the interpreter is brilliant and supplies a much-needed explication of how intention works in rhetorical contexts ranging from the theatre to law to journalism to religion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739179048
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 9/12/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary C. Woodward is a professor, rhetorician, and former chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies at The College of New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: How We Know What We Can’t
Chapter 2: Them: Conspiracies, Disasters and Presumed Culpability
Chapter 3: Theater, Acting, and the Sources of Motivation
Chapter 4: The Telepathic Journalist
Chapter 5: Legal Benchmarks for Establishing Intent
Chapter 6: God’s Plan: Agency, and the Quandary of Divine Intention

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