Todd V. Oakley
The Human Rhetorical Potential
Written Communication 16. 1 (1999): 94-130

This essay explores the possible grounds for a research program in cognitive rhetoric which aims to forge a tight link between the structures of meaning and structures of brain, body, and world. In section one, I outline a theory of human meaning making in terms of pragmatic, epistemic, and symbolic actions as they relate to the principles of intentionality, projection, publicity, and materiality. In section two, I consider recent global theories of mind and brain in order to assess the theory's neurological plausibility. The common link between these two sections is the phrase, tombstone technology, taken from the voice-over narration from a television show about plane crashes. I first analyze this construction in terms of its effects on attention, value, categorization, and memory; I then use it to speculate on the neurophysiological processes subtending our ability to use symbolic resources to make inferences and decisions. I conclude with some suggestions for future research in discourse production and comprehension.





Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles