Sophistic/ated Rhetorics: Fishing for Action

One: What I am after here, successful or not, is a useful metaphor for articulating/envisioning/raising a concept of Sophistic Rhetorics—as distinct from a Platonic rhetoric.

Two: The first-come-second move in this metaphor is to abandon the distinction, to abaondon Plato's never-has-been dichotomic legacy of subdjugation and neglect. There are only Rhetorics (which is, of course, not to say that Every Thing is only Rhetorics but that among Every Thing there are Rhetorics, not a rhetoric).

Some more: Let us imagine Rhetorics as the act/ive/ly of fishing; salt or freshwater, whichever is easier for you to articulate/envision/raise. It is the activ/ity of fishing—as the verb—that gives us our first valuable connection: it helps impart the obvious action quality of fishing (as in, one cannot "go fishing" without actually doing fishing) to the less than obvious action qualities of Rhetorics. Rhetorics are always a doing; ways of doing: mental, physical, metaphysical.

'Ways' makes our next connection. As many ways as there are to fish (to go fishing)—which is to say, as many fish as there are in all the waters in all the world—there are also Rhetorics. Each fish in each square-centimeter of water in each body of water in the world can require its own method of fishing, its own particular permutation of required acts that might cause it to succumb to the angler. So too do the endless permutations of instances (intersections of times/places/things) require their own unique Rhetoric to negotiate (in the sense of navigations and inta-actions). Just as the endless sorts of fish that refuse the single lure, the unceasing plurality of instances and their possibly associated Rhetorics deny the singular—refuse the one-size-fits-all.

This brings us to a paradox that is not a paradox: how one may come to engage in Rhetorics which are endlessly plural and seemingly unknowable.

While Aristotle gave us lists of Topoi to organize our knowledge so that we may build our perfect/ly complete enthymeme, we acknowledge that the infinitude of instances highlights the futility of a rhetoric based on limits (of our lists, our Topoi, the depth or complexity of our enthymemes). Too many fish, too little time.

Yet fishing demonstrates to us how the endless plurality Rhetorics may be engaged. Proir to the act of fishing, one can learn about the act: investigate multitudes of fishing techniques, review the fishing quality of fishing equipment, study countless charts and graphs related to fishing (tides, moon phases, water temperature and oxygen levels, weather patterns and forecasts), read the stories of success and failure from other anglers. However, when the act of fishing begins, success or failure does not depend on the ability to recall said information in its pure form and order but to apply that information in the specific context of the instance at hand: For X fish, I might need Y technique with Z equipment in W conditions like I read about from what's-their-name. Yet, the paradox remains: trying to know what cannot be known (infinity). The paradox is extinguished, however, as soon as we remember our first fishing/Rhetorics linkage: action. The only way to fish better—to catch more fish—is to fish more: this is basic bait-shop dogma. Only through continuous practice—repeated (endlessly?) action—can knowledge be applied to the act. While the infinite plurality of Rhetorics cannot be known, they can be practiced; and in that practice, refined; and in that refinement more successfully negotiated.

Our final linkage between fishing and Rhetorics is a result: as in, each act carries with it a desired outcome, a result. For fishing the result is obvious: to catch a fish. Successful fishing entails obtaining fish by the action of fishing. For Rhetorics the result less obvious: action. Successful Rhetorics result in action. Just as fishing should beget fish, actions (Rhetorics) should beget action. While this may seem like nothing more than a slight play on words, it is an important distinction in that it allows us to preserve the vast potentiality of Rhetorics by refusing a singular result. Just as there are a great many ways to fish, there are a great many Rhetorics to bring about an equally great many actions.

And so, for now, I think our metaphoric connection is complete: Act/ivity to plurality to action and back to plurality. Wheels within wheels. Sophistic/ated Rhetorics are ways of fishing for action.