Affect as epistemic source in a posthuman age

Michael Carlson Kapper, Purdue University


This dissertation examines the role that affect plays in cognition, and thereby in epistemic activities, particularly the epistemic activities inherent in rhetoric and its processes. Following the work of Antonio R. Damasio, Hanna Damasio, Ralph Adophs, and others, affect is shown to be an embodied cognitive process: a process of interaction between mind, brain, and body. The evolutionary accretion of the physical and mental structures implicated in affective cognition is discussed in light of the work of Carl Sagan, Steven Pinker, and Steven Johnson, showing how the human body, brain, and mind developed the capacity for affective thought throughout our evolution. This concern for the connectedness of affective thought to not only mental, but also physical, structures is taken up in the discussion of the posthuman, in which the work of N. Katherine Hayles and Andy Clark argues for the necessity of humanity's (continued) embodiment, against Kevin Warwick, Ray Kurzweil, and others who argue that humanity is nearly prepared to transcend our bodies. Finally, arguing from a position informed by Martin Heidegger's philosophical phenomenology and Barbara Couture's (and others') rhetoric of phenomenology, this project explores the ways in which increased attention to affect can play out in the composition classroom, presenting a method of instruction in rhetoric based in phenomenology and valuing embodiment and affect, then reflects on the successes and failures of courses taught using this method. ^




Major Professor: David Blakesley, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition

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