Saying the world anew: A philosophical understanding of communication as testimony

Jessica N Sturgess, Purdue University


This study develops a philosophy of communication by investigating the crisis of directionality that follows from the dissolution of foundationalist metaphysics. Drawing from fundamental ontology and philosophical hermeneutics, this project suggests we shift our understanding of communication as a process of information exchange toward communication as an enactment of testimony. This leads to an examination of the rhetorical figure of hyperbole. It is argued that hyperbole offers unique insight into the ground of communication as all communicative acts are, in their ontological structure, hyperbolic. Moreover, this hyperbolic characterization of communication highlights the role of excess, inexpressibility, risk, and extravagance central to communicative praxis. To illustrate this, a reading of three figures in American Transcendentalism—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman—is offered. By thinking communication as testimony, as a making sense in common, the relationship between communication and a radical democracy to come is brought into relief.




Smith, Purdue University.

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