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Sophistication: Rhetoric and the Rise of Self-Consciousness

Mark Backman

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ISBN 10: 0918024919 / ISBN 13: 9780918024916
Published by Ox Bow Pr, 1991
New Condition: New Hardcover
From Ergodebooks (RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Sophistication: Rhetoric and the Rise of ...

Publisher: Ox Bow Pr

Publication Date: 1991

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

About this title


The years since its publication in 1991 have proven this book's central thesis--that our digitized, technological culture is controlled by five principles of language and reality that were first enunciated during the fifth century BCE in the city-states of Greece as the basis of the art of rhetoric:

  • Words are tools
  • Images are real
  • Information is power
  • Change is inevitable
  • Truth is relative
These rhetorical principles have enlivened Western Culture ever since, and they flow into our time in the guise of conflicting concepts of history, politics, education, ethics and aesthetics. These principles shape our innermost thoughts about living well in a world that depends on technological innovation and the embodiment of theory in products as well as in practice. They invest our art and literature with the archetypal themes and symbols by which we portray the most rudimentary emotions. They control the processes of decision-making by which we choose the goods we consume, the leaders we follow, the things we study, and the opinions we believe or doubt. They give rise to the fundamental concepts and methods of our political, cultural, and educational institutions. Most important, as recent history demonstrates, the sophistication of our culture is a Faustian bargain of epic proportions that is played out in all the realms of self-consciousness, self-expression, and self-realization that are defined by rhetoric.

From the Author:

When I set out to write this book in 1990, I intended to investigate "sophistication" as an organizing concept of culture that accounted for the flowering of the Greek Enlightenment in the fifth century BCE and the emergence of the mass-communicating, technology-driven world culture of the late 20th century. In the process, I ended up revealing the central paradox of both ages: on one hand, sophistication makes possible great material wealth and profound individual enrichment by emphasizing novelty, criticism, and reorganization. On the other hand, it undercuts the very basis of community and fellowship by imperiling stability, common values, and traditional beliefs. Now, well into the second decade of the 21st century, we are only just beginning to appreciate the costs and consequences of our paradoxical sophistication. Anyone interested in exploring further the nature, scope, and impact of the developments discussed in this book might consult the collection of essays on rhetoric by Richard McKeon I edited and introduced, Rhetoric: Essays in Invention & Discovery, available on Amazon. And the truly adventurous reader will find these themes amplified and explored at greater length in Ghost Writ: The Desert Wells Dialogues of Gilmartin Jacobsen, written for private circulation and available at Lulu. com and ghostwrit. net.

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