Essay: Knowledge and Rhetoric

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Rhetoric

According to Foucault, discourse creates knowledge ("Michel Foucault on Rhetoric"). In fact, discourse also has the power to create reality. Therefore, the rules that govern discourse play a major role in the content of knowledge, how it is created, and how that knowledge is disseminated. Rhetoric, as a form of discourse, can impact social structures and social norms. Gender norms are among the most pervasive, affecting social hierarchies and access to political power.

The rules of discourse include what topics can and cannot be discussed. For example, many topics of discussion are considered taboo and are banned from public discourse ("Michel Foucault on Rhetoric"). Who is allowed to speak or write also determines a society's body of knowledge ("Michel Foucault on Rhetoric"). Women have been excluded from formal education and therefore had lacked the ability to read and write throughout much of European history. Without access to the means by which to create knowledge, women have been systematically excluded from social and political power.

Feminist philosophers and scholars like Sonja Foss, Cindy Griffin, and Bell Hooks argue that knowledge construction has been a primarily male domain. Their arguments echo those of Michel Foucault, who understood the importance of rhetoric and how rhetoric creates -- and not just reflects -- reality. Foucault argues that the way that knowledge is constructed can have powerful and far-reaching effects on culture. Culture, in turn, impacts the way that knowledge is created. The result is a vicious cycle. Bell Hooks and other feminist philosophers would strongly agree with Foucault that rhetoric creates patriarchy and can therefore also eliminate it. The goal of feminist philosophy is to alter the underlying beliefs that create patriarchal social structures. The structures cannot be dismantled before their foundations are examined and re-created in light of new knowledge.

Sonja Foss and Cindy Griffin also acknowledge the way patriarchal rhetoric is a foundation of sexism. Foss and Griffin point out that a "patriarchal bias...undergirds most… [END OF PREVIEW]

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