Today in class we answered a question about whether google makes us stupid. It was based on an article by Nicholas Carr that we read in preparation for class. Personally, I think that google makes us lazy but it doesn’t make us stupid. Google is an outlet, a tool, a method for finding information. We are responsible for what we then choose to do with that information. We are who decides how we interpret it, use it, and distribute it to others. The platform itself, google, simply allows for an unlimited access to information across endless subjects and fields. The key is that once the information is searched or found, it then falls to the individuals to decide how to use it or whether to use it at all.
For example, if someone googled how to treat a disease they would get a ton of results and it could be true that some of them could be wrong. Again, the platform presents you with a breadth of information, multiple pages worth, of diverse information that you have to sort through. The reason for this specific example is that may would argue that since a number of results may come up with wrong information or might highlight a certain answer, that doesn’t make the search engine responsible for your deduction. Furthermore, if you get your results, it is then your responsibility to sit down and comb through the credible and less than credible sites and information. You use the platform to gain access to information, but then you form your own opinion, own deduction based off of it. On any given topic, especially one of great importance where you need accuracy, you should do research and extensive examining of the topic. One should not simply search something take the first answer they see and then blame the search engine for being wrong. Ignorance is no excuse.
Yesterday in class we discussed the latest chapter in Herrick regarding the rhetoric of science. It was said that sciences, which are primarily constructed of data and numbers, are presented as facts. Facts, that we then assume are implicitly true, which are actually theories. We debated over whether or not the receiving audience is also to blame for blindly accepting the truths and failing to question the principles taught. Another topic of discussion was the differences of interpretation between the humanities and the sciences. For example we said that english majors are interpretive in the sense that texts could be read and interpreted multiple ways, whereas the sciences typically deal with data which is taken at face-value.
It was also mentioned that there is a gap between the two disciplines. We talked about how jargon plays a role in the sciences and makes it difficult for people outside the discipline to understand. Also, we talked about how due to this very difficulty there are careers to help convey information to everyone, one of which is technical writers. So we debated for some time about whether this gap between the disciplines is due to scientific illiteracy or ignorance of the masses. Most scientists, we concluded, write solely to their coworkers because that is who they are speaking to and when doing this they neglect their secondary and tertiary audiences. They assume that anyone reading their work would have a basic knowledge of the content, which is vague in itself because who is to determine what ‘basic’ knowledge is, and this ostracizes a magnitude of people.
Today in class, we briefly discussed observations we’ve encountered from Florence that relate to the text. One really great example given was about preaching in medieval times. It was explained that preaching was one of the three arts of medieval rhetoric and was prosperous due to the large nature of individuals at this point in time being highly illiterate and uneducated. So, preaching became a method in which to teach large uneducated masses of people about religion, faith, and the importance of spirituality. Indeed, art in the medieval period served a similar purpose. It was also discussed in class today that medieval art served as propagation of faith for the church due to the vast visual outreach art had to the same uneducated and illiterate masses. It was explained that these individuals would learn concepts about religion in masses at church where preaching would take place and then those concepts would later be reinforced and continued through the visual ‘reading’ of medieval art.
A great example of this would be Dante’s Divine Comedy and “The Comedy Illuminating Florence”. Dante’s book was read in the church and taught individuals about the 3 states after death, inferno (hell), purgatory, and paradise (heaven). This text was also illustrated in the painting “The Comedy Illuminating Florence”, which hangs in the Duomo in central Florence. This particular painting illustrates Dante’s three states and portrays Florence as Paradise. Other works in the medieval period, all commissioned by the church, were intended to propagate the faith taught within churches throughout communities. Individuals would constantly encounter mosaics, frescoes, altarpieces and other forms of art that inspired constant contact with their faith, devotion, and spirituality. Art became the way to teach a society that could not read or write to understand on their own.
Chapter 2’s discussion of The Sophists and Plato really solidified and complimented some of my previous rhetorical education. Sophist, stems from the Greek word ‘Sophos”, literally meaning knowledge or wisdom. The Sophists were thought to be a class of teachers of rhetoric. Herrick talks about how the Sophists offer services (teaching rhetoric) but charge a fee in exchange. He claims their purpose was to promise things such as social advancement and higher education and claimed that the truth was subjective and constantly changing between individuals. However, later in the chapter we are encouraged to question the validity of their promises and practices.
Plato is to thank for our question of the Sophists’ validity. He serves as their own personal critic. He claims, according to Herrick, that Sophist rhetoric appeals to basic instinct (i.e. feelings) with no higher cause. Herrick also offers examples of influential Sophists such as Gorgias and Protagoras. Gorgias established the school of rhetoric, poetic language and impromptu speaking and believed that rhetoric was based in the concept of the ideal versus philosophy. He believed in finding the truth from false rhetoric and that rhetoric was a technique, not an art. Protagoras believed that “man is the measure of all things” and spearheaded the fundamental principle of the Sophist movement that absolute truth is unknowable.