Tushar Irani, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of letters, recently published an essay titled “What is good rhetoric?” for Aeon, a digital magazine for culture and ideas. Related to his current book, Plato on the Value of Philosophy, the essay calls on the public to consider the civic good that rhetoric serves in democratic politics, and the effect it may have on our ability to engage in independent thought.
The essay discusses the difference between good and bad political rhetoric. By drawing on Plato’s understanding of persuasive speech, Irani draws a distinction between flattering rhetoric and “self-moving” rhetoric. The problem with conventional rhetoric, according to this view, is not with persuasive speech itself or the fact that people use it. It is with the ability of a persuasive speaker “to subvert or short-circuit an audience’s power of independent thought.” Good rhetoric, while it is still persuasive, invites the listener to think independently about what the speaker is saying, creating an opportunity to “have our desire to understand enlisted.” Irani refers to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as an example of this type of rhetoric.
Aeon is a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. Irani’s essay can be read online.
Courtney Fullilove and Tushar Irani.
At its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history, and Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters and philosophy. Additional tenure announcements may be made after the May meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below.
Courtney Fullilove is a historian of 19th century U.S. social history. Her research interests in state building, agriculture, medicine and law are united by an engagement with the politics of development, particularly in the areas of sustainable development, biodiversity, intellectual property law and cultural heritage. Her book, The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture (University of Chicago Press, 2017), characterizes U.S. agricultural expansion in the 19th century as a complex appropriation and reconfiguration of local knowledge and resources. She teaches courses on the history of science and technology in the United States, as viewed from a global perspective.
Tushar Irani’s research focuses on ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. In addition to his scholarship on Plato, he works on questions of philosophical method, the history and practice of rhetoric, and the history of ethics. His recent book, Plato on the Value of Philosophy: The Art of Argument in the Gorgias and Phaedrus (Cambridge University Press, 2017), provides an innovative reading of Plato’s views on the role and purpose of argument in civic life. He offers courses on the philosophy, literature and history of the ancient world, the history and practice of civil disobedience, and virtue ethics.