Reading Question 3/13

On pages 54-55, Sousanis outlines Decartes’ and Plato’s mistrust of visuals due to its dependence on perception. As logical positivism became the reigning ziegeist of the time, visual thinking was not the only thing that lost its credibility–rhetoric, in large part, was dismissed as well.

What are the parallels between discrediting visual thinking and rhetorical thought?


  1. It is interesting to think about rhetoric and visuals as similar in this way. Although Sousanis discusses the dependence on perception to visuals, I’m not sure that logical positivism takes the same stance. Visuals in the modern world, as Rose discusses in her article, largely describe new kinds of information and knowledge creation. Now, although positivism does not believe in knowledge-making through constructivist thought, quantifiable information is often displayed through visuals. Take Tufte, for example, in his books and arguments for the “right” way to visualize information. Although postmodern theorists take a claim in visual knowledge-making and perception, positivism also has its hands in visual knowing. In this sense, then, we cannot treat rhetoric the same as visual design. The entities, although similar, do not have the same societal misconceptions. Visual knowing is often assumed to be “True” knowing. I think it’s important that we separate these two terms, because rhetoric and visual thinking have not had the same reception in contemporary society.

    1. So true Lauren! I suppose my question is more about the societal distrust of the time, but I certainly agree that visuals are used as proof of knowledge in a modern society.

  2. This is a hard question! There’s much to consider here. But among the first points to notice–from my perspective(!)–is that both visual phenomena and rhetoric operate with an edge of uncertainty and contingency. They are inexact, perspectival, subjective in that the human factor complicates them and pluralizes them. As such, pure rationality gets impatient with them. But so too does pure rationality have difficulty explaining humans, what moves them, what motivates them, what changes their minds, and so on.

    1. Love this. I understand modernists’ concerns with the dangers of human perception, but the backlash (like every artistic or intellectual movement in history) was sure to come around and embrace the subjective and contextually based world we live in. Go fight win team rhetoric!!

  3. Descarte and Plato seemed more inclined to want to find that “one truth” for whatever they were looking at, and when it comes to things like visuals and rhetoric, the “truth” is somewhat more flexible depending on the situational context and the view point a person has based on their own life experience, what angle they are coming at the topic, etc.

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