I am going to use parts of Gene Garver's thoughtful analysis' to frame these remarks, as it did much of the conversation at the symposium, but without much concern about the troublesome distinction between epideictic and deliberative rhetoric. As long as it is understood that epideictic rhetoric, like deliberative, is within the art of persuasion-it is in the particular form of getting an audience to see its object of praise or blame in a new light for, as Aristotle says, quoting Socrates, "it is not difficult to praise Athenians in Athens"3-I do not think I need to be very concerned with this distinction.
Garver tells us that we have created a world we think we control, and because we think we control it, we also think someone is subject to blame for everything bad that happens in it. (Our constant denials of responsibility are but the opposing side of this). This exercise of will that knows no bounds is not just an American phenomenon. Consider, for example, the fact that "[tihe Italian government is trying seven seismologists for manslaughter because they didn't predict an earthquake in 2009 that killed over 300 people," as reported in First Things.4 So we are, we think, in control, and yet it seems to me we are also incapable of the deliberation such control would require, for we have seen too clearly the fiduciary character of all knowledge, including scientific knowledge.' Because it is in part the uncertainty of being human from which we are trying to escape through our control, we no longer trust a knowledge that rests upon the same uncertainty.6 We yearn to calculate, you might say, but can find few subjects that now lend themselves completely to calculation. They are all all-too-human. In this world in which we are doomed to constant condemnations, and here I just hope you will agree with me, there is a hubristically-inspired misunderstanding of who "we," the political "we," are-one long in the making.
Sammons, Jack L.
"Some Concluding Reflections—Recovering the Political: The Problem with Our Politicial Conversations,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 63
, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol63/iss3/9