Date of Award

5-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Advisor

Jacobi, Martin J

Committee Member

Hilligoss , Susan

Committee Member

Ding , Huiling

Abstract

This thesis examines a central question that human beings face in an antifoundational world: If discourse communities create not only vocabularies but competing ways of seeing, how might we in general and professional communicators in particular act in a reasonable way? It suggests answers to this question by discussing Rorty's theory of language and truth. Rorty sets aside the foundationalist notion of metaphysical certainty with consensus beliefs achieved through conversation, which determines the utility of those beliefs to the community. Thus, Rorty changes the focus from what is right to what is helpful and changes the focus from what can be 'proven' to what 'works.' In case conversation becomes less useful, in Rorty's scheme, poetic redescription can offer new alternatives (vocabularies) to solve the problems that the existing vocabulary fails to overcome. The validity of the new vocabularies lies not in their correspondence to reality, but in their utility to point us towards reducing human suffering and immiseration, thereby building human solidarity. Hence, the use of Rorty provides a useful way of responding to the choices we confront in our lives and jobs because his emphasis on utility when considering differing 'perceptions' and his emphasis on conversation, poetic redescription, and solidarity provides means of understanding and operating in the world. If the triad of conversation, poetic redescription, and solidarity can help us in general navigate the postmodern world, then this triad should also be able to help us as professional communication professionals. The thesis concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of Rorty's ideas for professional communication theory and practice.

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