The Rhetorics of Vipassanā Meditation

Tyler J Carter, Purdue University


This dissertation builds a bridge between the non-Western rhetorics of vipassanā meditation and contemporary rhetorical theory, shedding light on Eastern and Western rhetorical traditions, as well as the hybrid and interconnected nature of global rhetorics. In it, I argue that vipassanā poses an ontological and epistemological alternative to the rhetorics of Cartesian modernism. Further, I argue that vipassanā offers a means to discuss non-discursive rhetorical appeals such as pathos, how perceptions are shaped by an individual’s moment-to-moment experience of phenomena, and how knowledge is intricately linked to what transpires in the physical world. These understandings lend insight into decision making, persuasion, and rhetorical invention. To make this argument I use comparative rhetoric as my primary methodological framework, employing various rhetorical, theoretical, and sociocultural analyses to discuss Theravāda Buddhist epistemology, the origins of vipassanā meditation in British occupied Burma during the late 19th Century, and how the West has adapted vipassanā for its own ends. These historical and contemporary considerations in mind, I expand on this comparative methodology by producing a phenomenological understanding of vipassanā meditation that can be used in service to Western rhetorical theory. In the end, I propose that vipassanā meditation can form the basis of a “holistic rhetoric,” with applications for rhetorical analysis, learning, new materialist theory, and the writing classroom.




Rickert, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Comparative religion|Rhetoric

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