The Rhetoric of Physics: AN Ethnography of the Research and Writing Processes in a Physics Laboratory.
This dissertation explores the extent to which rhetoric plays a role in the research and writing processes of physicists. It seeks to join the on-going conversation in the rhetoric of inquiry about the ways in which rhetorical forces shape all knowledge systems. Based on data collected during a six-month ethnography in a thin films laboratory, this study argues that these physicists use rhetoric in all stages of the knowledge creation process. After following the experimental process through all its stages from the inception of an experiment through to publication, this study maps out the types of heuristic devices employed by the physicists as they analyzed, interpreted, and presented their research data in a persuasive scientific article. In light of the insights gained from studying the dynamic interactions between physicists, this dissertation also comments on the theoretical and philosophical debates under discussion in the rhetoric of inquiry and the rhetoric of science. It examines current theories of language (as expressed by rhetoricians, critical theorists, and the physicists in this laboratory) to explore the relationship between reality and language, the role that rhetoric plays in knowledge creation in physics, and the ways in which reality and knowledge may be socially constructed. It concludes that these physicists use rhetorical invention strategies to interpret and present their data. It also argues that scientific knowledge is subject to rhetorical forces because it deals with contingent affairs--phenomena about which scientists advance propositions which appear to be true but about which there is no way to gain absolute certainty or truth. Finally, it concludes that rhetoric both is and is not epistemic in the physics research studied here, and it argues that instead of asking "Is rhetoric epistemic?" perhaps we might shift our attention to inquiring "When is rhetoric epistemic?".
- Pub Date:
- January 1992
- Language: General; Speech Communication; Physics: General