One of my friends asked a provocative question over facebook this morning. Those familiar with this blog's history will likely know its source. But it is a great question. My answer might be a little "blue," but I think it is pretty direct.
Here's the question (edited a bit):
I'm still sort of unclear about the process "Rhetoricians" (y'know, Sophists, etc.) practice *before* they get to arguing. That is, how do they decide which side of the debate they'll take?
Here's my response:
Somewhat in my Kairos piece, and explicitly in a few other things I am trying to finish, I argue that rhetoric _should_ take the side of the less empowered other. Rhetoric becomes a tool for identifying and combatting hegemony. Of course, we can't universally back the other, because sometimes the other is bat shit crazy. So part of the rhetorical process that I inherit from Levinas calls for us to compare the other and the neighbor. The basis of the comparison concerns which is more attentive to the other's respons-ability. Who acts in a gesture of welcome? Who seeks to totalize and control? An ethical rhetoric, I argue, always view control, disembodiment, Idealism, etc. skeptically.