Posted by: glue | December 2, 2008


The 2008 Presidential campaign provided a workshop on political rhetoric (deliberative reason).  Aristotle lists two primary means of persuasion for deliberation:  the enthymeme and the example.  A prototype of an exemplum is “Joe the Plumber,” used by John McCain to argue his case in the last debate with Barack Obama.



The function and even the possibility of the example as device of persuasion must be updated for electracy and the dromosphere.  The point of departure for this revision is the fact that in an Internet public sphere avatar appropriates the function of exemplum.  In electrate deliberation, coming to a decision about what action to take in the future, based on past experience in the midst of present contingent circumstances, the position of example is “live.”  An electrate Joe Wurzelbacher will avatar, that is, will inhabit his example.  Or rather, the position of example, avatared, is distributed.  Anyone may be exemplum (for fifteen minutes).

There is no time for fact-checks, network vetting and the like in the dromosphere.  All the information that eventually came to light regarding the “real” Joe is synchronously manifest.  The first consequence of exemplum avatars may be that all examples expand automatically into fables (see Irene E. Harvey, Labyrinths of Exemplarity ). The fable includes the enthymeme (the covering rule or concept), the particular illustration of the rule, and the maxim, that makes explicit the path between general and particular, thus packaging the incident for deliberative application.  Is there an Aesop of Now, ready to construe the full scenario of Joe the Plumber as fable?  Avatars are their own Aesops.

As Harvey points out, the rhetorical example assumes a worldview committed to a circular theory of time: that believes that the past repeats itself in the future and provides a legitimate ground for judgment.  This holistic grasp of the functioning of deliberation relative to an apparatus may be identified as a point of heuretic intervention, since time (itself) has changed.

Instruction:  revise exemplum to function by means of conduction (not induction), within a nonlinear (neither line nor circle) temporality.


  1. Here’s an alternative Joe the Plumber story:

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