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Shaping Science with RhetoricThe Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson$
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Leah Ceccarelli

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780226099064

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226099088.001.0001

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A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities

A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities

(p.128) 7 A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities
Shaping Science with Rhetoric
University of Chicago Press

A rhetorical analysis of Wilson's Consilience can offer a new way of understanding why his appeal for interdisciplinarity has not been as successful as he hoped it would be. It suggests that both opponents and supporters are right to a certain degree. This chapter argues that several rhetorical choices made by Wilson negatively influenced the outcome of his appeal for interdisciplinarity. First, Wilson's failure to inspire those who were not already in his camp was largely due to the fact that he employed rhetoric of conquest. Second, Wilson lost many of his readers because of the particular theory he chose to promote in his interdisciplinary appeal. Third, Wilson employed a form of polysemy that did more to damage his own ethos than to smooth tensions between disciplines. Even the biggest supporters of Wilson recognized his rhetorical error in treating the social sciences and the humanities as territories to be conquered, or entities to be cannibalized, by the intellectually superior culture of science.

Keywords:   rhetorical analysis, Wilson's Consilience, polysemy, Interdisciplinarity

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