Arguing over Incommensurable Values: The Case of Machiavelli

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | Philosophy | Rhetoric | Rhetoric and Composition


“Machiavelli, in both The Prince and the Discourses on Livy, presents and teaches strategies for living in a world of plural final ends. I propose to focus on Machiavelli’s strategies for forcing the reader to act in such a world, and for preventing a reader from evading the demands that multiple final goods present. I have elsewhere described those strategies in detail as they emerge from the arguments of those texts; here I want to present the strategies and explore their implications for the rhetoric of the human sciences.”

Book Description:
We have only recently started to challenge the notion that "serious" inquiry can be free of rhetoric, that it can rely exclusively on "hard" fact and "cold" logic in support of its claims. Increasingly, scholars are shifting their attention from methods of proof to the heuristic methods of debate and discussion—the art of rhetoric—to examine how scholarly discourse is shaped by tropes and figures, by the naming and framing of issues, and by the need to adapt arguments to ends, audiences, and circumstances. This important collection of essays provides evidence that the new movement referred to as the rhetorical turn offers a rigorous way to look within and across the disciplines. The Rhetorical Turn moves from biology to politics via excursions into the rhetorics of psychoanalysis, decision science, and conversational analysis. Topics explored include how rhetorical invention guides scientific invention, how rhetoric assists political judgment, and how it integrates varying approaches to meta-theory. Concluding with four philosophical essays, this volume of case studies demonstrates how the inventive and persuasive dimensions of scholarly discourse point the way to forms of argument appropriate to our postmodern age.