In An Uncertain World, We Are NOT Uncertain Alone

Upon starting to read my assignment, which I left until the last possible moment to do and instead made both mac-n-cheese and bacon for dinner before completing, I’ve found myself fully comforted by Booth’s statement: “My first problem lies of course in the very word ‘rhetoric.’ I was tempted, as I have often been in the past, to define that slippery term once and for all, but i have resisted, even though to grapple with its ambiguities would illustrated beautifully Ryerson lecturers are notoriously nervous nellies.”

Not only does Booth demonstrate a tone and particular feeling of resistance that I adore and connect to, but also brings into the conversation the worst fear of the more I know about rhetoric, the less I feel like I know about rhetoric. Every time someone’s first rhetorical analysis comes in at work I feel a little bit like this.

However, from Katie’s post on the interdisciplinary understanding of rhetoric and the use of rhetoric makes me think of my struggle with writing for popular audiences in Science Writing last semester and how thankful I am for the people I know who completely appear skilled in understanding things they aren’t experts. These people are incredible, but completely realistically, Booth continues to explain that there are very, very few people who are experts in more than one field (look to 232, second paragraph). This basic, “master of all trades” style idea.

“If we know and understand only what we can prove–with empirical observation, or with statistics, or with rigorous logical deduction– we will never know whether a colleague is woth listening to or promoting, unless we ourselves can follow his or her proofs, in detail, and then replicate them. All else is dubious, all else is guesswork, all else is blind faith.” Gross. These lines alone make me think about the struggle of “logic versus emotion” we discussed last semester. Why do we keep pulling on things and pretending we can remove emotion from them? We are emotional people.

Booth tries to simply the different rhetorics he discussing it into three separate pieces:

Rhetoric 1: “Hard proof” (Booth says if that will make you feel better about it).

Rhetoric 2: “General rhetoric”

Rhetoric 3: “Academic rhetoric”

I list these here because the article lost me in some places and I don’t know if that’s because I got lost somewhere beneath drinking caffeine that I never really feels like it makes me “more awake” or if it’s because of the exhaustion I somehow already feel at this point in the semester because of my need to do nothing but run away and visit my best friend who lives too far away in this weather to get to. But I’m sorry that this couldn’t be more well thought out of a response to the text we’re reading that I would otherwise be thrilled to read.

I’m more than certain that I will be able to better at looking at this article more in depth once tomorrow hits… Hopefully.

Universities run on rhetorics- The idea of a university as seen by a Rhetorician


This post is based on book chapter ‘The idea of a university- As seen by a Rhetorician’ written by Wayne C. Booth.

I am a graduate student in Plant Science and specialized in Weed Science. Weed, when you hear this word, Marijuana comes in your mind, right? But in Plant Science, weeds are any unwanted plants, growing out of place and need to be managed as they interfere with normal growing practices. It may a jargon for you guys-specialists in Writing, but not for Plant Science students, and non-specialist farmers. However, a Writing student who has no knowledge in Weed Science still can pass a fair judgement on my piece of work. I, recently wrote a cover letter for a research position in Weed Science and it was reviewed by two Writing students and got significant feedback. On the other hand, a Plant Science specialist may fails to give an accurate judgement. How these happen? Well, rhetoric works here. The Writing students used “rhetoric-3” or “academy-rhetoric” to pass the judgement on my piece of writing, remote field writing. Similarly, a Plant Science specialist uses “rhetoric-1”, or “special topic rhetoric” and may fail to pass an accurate judgement, because “rhetoric-1” is “highly fallible”.

I don’t fully understand the other sub-divisions of Plant Science. In Plant Science department at MSU, we attend a series of seminars every week presented by our fellow students. Most of the topics are different than our specialized fields, but we are needed to evaluate all of those based on the quality of content and way of presentation. Here, I need to explore all three kind of rhetorics as defined by Booth to make the purpose of evaluation worthful. First, “rhetoric-1” to understand the topics of my own specialized field and to make wise conclusions. Second, “general rhetoric” to take decisive action on more generalized topics by exploiting resources available in the undefined, surrounding environment. Third, academic “rhetoric” to judge the topics beyond my specialty or periphery of my specialized field.

Whether we confess or not, we are highly ignorant in our colleagues work, hence we need to understand their work by use of rhetorics. Since-as Booth stated-“all rhetorics are highly fallible”, we need more and more understanding of rhetorics to make our judgement more accurate. It is not as hard to understand as to be a specialist of other’s field even in sub-division of your specialized field.



Bullcrap of the Day: Synergy


Katie Kelly

A buzzword that has become corporate gold when discussing strategy and advancement of a company’s objectives. Synergy. It’s a really cool word with a few y’s that is just a synonym for “cooperation” and “teamwork”. The literal definition of synergy is:


The idea of different parts coming together to work as a unit greater than themselves is not a new concept, just the word. However, under this new movement, we see a great difference in how we discuss the same topics. A topic recognized as powerful and heading towards the forefront of innovation. Its utter crap but we will go along with it for the sake of discussing the ideas of special topic rhetoric, general rhetoric, and academy rhetoric developed by Wayne Booth in The Idea of a University – As Seen by a Rhetorician.

As an industrial engineer, we discuss engineering management to a great length in the curriculum. Entering into modern theologies the idea of synergy among work team or present in the office environment is almost a passing statement. It’s benefits are never fully stated nor how to develop such a state of synergy. Never in four years of study and three internships had a teacher or manager been able to point to a situation and show us the ‘synergy’ that was happening. This is not say a concept or principle can be abstract, there are plenty of concepts that cannot be held or touched or seen. In this case, something that is occurring in real time should be able to be witnessed and to this day I still have no idea what synergy looks like in person. I would assume it looks very close to a well-oiled machine of a group working towards completion of a project or a department functioning seamlessly to achieve quarterly goals. Nevertheless, if I am relying on experts in my field to define synergy, I still have yet to grasp the concept completely.

Now, how does this relate to various forms of rhetoric you may ask? Simple, I am one of the frauds that Booth mentions that can float by on general and academy rhetoric when it comes to synergy. However, I will assert that I am not alone and that the majority of people who use the word ‘synergy’ are also frauds. The front line work on synergy that would exist to distinguish the experts is clouded and unbounded as other concepts under study are, meaning demonstrating synergy exclusively is rarely done. There is little demonstration of synergy differing from teamwork and cooperation. This leaves the door wide open for companies to post values and goals involving synergy when no one has an expert understand of a recently developed concept. There is a general understanding that synergy is good, innovative, supportive, etc. So using this public understanding it’s pretty simple to shape one’s experiences in the frame and mindset of synergy and thus tap into academy rhetoric to seem like an experienced and competent participant in synergy. I attribute several good interviews concluding with a job offer by throwing in the sentence “I enjoy the synergy of everyday work life and long term projects”.

In respect to the relation model offered by Booth to link the understanding of various fields to other fields of study, synergy is a great demonstration of a pathway. Even if synergy is an amorphous term that isn’t concretely demonstrated and reproduced, the general strive towards achieving it looks relatively the same in engineering, management, vocational paths, academics, writers, editors, and collaborators and so on. It is one of the metaphorical tentacles reaching out to touch all the scales of different disciplines, which will help enable the collaboration of disciplines in groups for understanding of technical information into usable application. While synergy itself is full of crap as a practice, it as a tool only compliments Booth’s model as an attempt to understand and communicate between disciplines.