Toward a reassessment of Kant’s notion of rhetoric. On Kant’s theory and practice of popularity according to Ercolini and Santos

Studia Kantiana 2 (18):109-119 (2020)
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Abstract

According to a common misconception, Kant rejects rhetoric as worthy of no respect and neglects popularity as a dispensable accessory. Two recent publications on the communicative dimension of Kant’s conception and practice of philosophy represent a very solid rebuttal of such criticism. The books in question are Kant’s Philosophy of Communication by G. L. Ercolini and A linguagem em Kant. A linguagem de Kant edited by Monique Hulshof and Ubirajara Rancan de Azevedo Marques, especially in light of the long chapter “Kant e a Questão da Popularidade e da Linguagem da Filosofia” by Leonel Ribeiro dos Santos (pp. 17- 69). What Ercolini’s monograph and Santos’ chapter have in common, is that they both argue that Kant does indeed value and practice both rhetoric and popularity. However, they differ from each other in that Ercolini lets Kant’s reflection on popularity derive from occasional factors, while Santos locates its origin at the heart of Kant’s critical project. In order fully to appreciate their novelty, these two contributions call for an overview of the state of research on the subject of Kant’s conception of rhetoric. Thus, before closely examining them, I will briefly outline the relevant scholarship by dividing it into the three classes of those who interpret Kant (a) as a skillful rhetorician, (b) as dismissive of rhetoric, and finally (c) as according rhetoric a moral function.

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Roberta Pasquarè
Karl Franzens University

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