Richard McKeon

This document is mainly for my own use.

There's already a small but worthwhile literature of secondary sources on McKeon (1900-1985). William Swenson reports that McKeon published 158 essays. Thanks to Don Levine for putting me on the right track and suggesting these starting points. See Levine's chapter on McKeon in his forthcoming Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning.
     Adam Kissel  -- ARCHIVAL SOURCES FOR ME

Selected Bibliography (warning: I chose these a long time ago, and now would choose somewhat differently)


McKeon, Richard. "New Rhetoric as an Architectonic and Productive Art." Center Magazine 13:2 (1980), 41-53.

______________. "Pluralism of Interpretations and Pluralism of Objects, Actions, and Statements Interpreted." Critical Inquiry 12:3 (1986), 576-96.

______________. "The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts." In Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown, eds., Professing the New Rhetoric (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1994), 126-44.

Philosophy and democratic action

______________. "Discussion and Resolution in Political Conflicts." Ethics 54 (1944), 235-62.

______________. "Democracy, Scientific Method, and Action." Ethics 55 (1945), 235-86.

______________. "A Philosophy for UNESCO." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 8 (1948), 573-86.

______________. "Conflicts of Values in a Community of Cultures." Journal of Philosophy 47 (1950), 197-209.

______________. "Philosophic Differences and the Issues of Freedom." Ethics 61 (1951), 105-35.

______________. "Philosophy and Method." Journal of Philosophy 48 (1951), 653-81.

______________. "Philosophy and Action." Ethics 62 (1952), 79-100.

______________. "Dialectic and Political Thought and Action." Ethics 65 (1954), 1-33.

______________. "Dialogue and Controversy in Philosophy." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 17 (1956), 143-63.

______________. "Mankind: The Relation of Reason to Action." Ethics 74 (1964), 174-85.

______________. "Philosophy as a Humanism." Philosophy Today 9 (1965), 151-67.

______________. "Character and the Arts and Disciplines." Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy 78 (1968), 109-23.

______________. "Discourse, Demonstration, Verification, and Justification." Logique et Analyse 11 (1968), 37-94.

______________. "Facts, Values, and Actions." In Selected Writings, 436-46. Orig. 1971.

______________. "World Order in Evolution and Revolution in Arts, Associations, and Sciences." Philosophy Forum 11 (1972), 221-42.

______________. "Philosophy As an Agent of Civilization." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 41 (1981), 419-36.


______________. Rhetoric: Essays in Invention and Discovery. Edited by M. Backman. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1987. (Nine essays.)

______________. Freedom and History and Other Essays: An Introduction to the Thought of Richard McKeon. Edited by Zahava K. McKeon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. ("Freedom and History: The Semantics of Philosophical Controversies and Ideological Conflicts" and seven other essays.)

______________. Selected Writings of Richard McKeon, Volume 1: Philosophy, Science, and Culture. Edited by Zahava K. McKeon and William G. Swenson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. (Twenty-two essays.)

______________. Miscellaneous publications, 2 vols. Main stacks, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Other relevant works by Richard McKeon

______________. Thought, Action, and Passion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

______________. The Philosophy of Aristotle. Typescript, 102 leaves (Chicago, 1951). (This is the expanded form of his introduction to The Basic Works of Aristotle, listed below.)

UNESCO. Democracy in a World of Tensions. Edited by Richard McKeon with Stein Rokkan. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969. (Includes "a selected bibliography of texts on democracy and its role in ideological conflicts.")

Works about Richard McKeon

Garver, Eugene, and Richard Buchanan, eds. Pluralism in Theory and Practice: Richard McKeon and American Philosophy. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2000.

Hauser, Gerard, and Donald Cushman. "McKeon's Philosophy of Communication: The Architectonic and Interdisciplinary Arts." Philosophy and Rhetoric 6 (1973), 211-34.

Harvanek, Robert. "Historical Semantics: A Discussion of the Recent Work of Richard McKeon." New Scholasticism 30 (1956), 257-85.

Levine, Donald. "Richard McKeon: Architecton of Human Powers." In Habits of the Mind: The Chicago Tradition of Liberal Learning (unpublished manuscript).

Mitchell, Douglas. "Richard McKeon's Conception of Rhetoric and the Philosophy of Culture." Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 6:4 (1988), 395-414.

Plochmann, George. Richard McKeon: A Study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Students and Friends, eds. Richard McKeon: A Bibliography of His Published Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Watson, Walter. "McKeon's Semantic Schema." Philosophy and Rhetoric 27:2 (1994), 85-103.

Works on pluralism, understanding, and action that use McKeon's perspective

Booth, Wayne. Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. (Also, other works of Booth.)

Buchanan, Richard. "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking." Design Issues 8:2 (Spring 1992), 5-21.

_______________. "Design and the New Rhetoric: Productive Arts in the Philosophy of Culture." Philosophy and Rhetoric 34:3 (2001), 183-206.

Buchanan, Richard, and Victor Margolin, eds. Discovering Design: Explorations in Design Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Ford, J.E. "Systematic Pluralism: Introduction to an Issue." Monist 73:3 (1990), 335-49.

Holmberg, C. "Dialectical Rhetoric and Rhetorical Rhetoric." Philosophy and Rhetoric 10:4 (1977), 232-43.

__________. "The Pedagogy of Invention As the Architectonic Production of Communication And of Humanness." Communication Education 30:3 (1981), 229-37.

Levine, Donald. Visions of the Sociological Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. (Also other works of Levine.)

McGill, V.J. "Conflicting Theories of Freedom." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 20:4 (1960), 437-52.

Owen, David. "Interpreting Texts: The Structure of Ideas." Educational Theory 39 (1989), 231-46.

Plochmann, G. "A Theory of Systems: A Rough Sketch." Review of Metaphysics 13:1 (1959), 45-59.

Ronnick, Michele. "Substructural Elements of Architectonic Rhetoric and Philosophical Thought in Fronto's Epistles." In William J. Dominik, ed., Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature (New York: Routledge, 1997).

Schwab, Joseph J. Several works.

Watson, Walter. "Types of Pluralism." Monist 73:3 (1990), 350-66.

_____________. The Architectonics of Meaning: Foundations of the New Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Archival Sources

Dell, George William. Oral history interviews, 1958-1978. Archives Collection, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Committee to Frame a World Constitution. Records, 1945-1951. Manuscripts Collection, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

McKeon, Richard. Papers, 1918-1985. Archives Collection, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Some essays I read early on that got me into McKeon:

Some Reading Notes (intended more for me than for the general reader):

1971. "The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts." In Rhetoric: Essays in Invention & Discovery. (Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1987), 1-24.

Rhetoric in its broadest sense navigates among the various kinds of arts and sciences and interrelates them, which provides an opportunity to creatively set ends that make use of all of them and all our collective experience as well. As our technological age produces new data and experiences, we require a new, expanded rhetoric--including a logos of techne--that may permit us to develop whole new fields of arts and sciences. McKeon borrows traditional terms to outline the principles (topoi) of the new rhetoric (creativity/invention; fact/judgment; sequence/consequence; objectivity/intersubjectivity) and then points toward brighter vistas for the new rhetoric by enlarging Aristotle's traditional rhetorical categories (epideictic, judicial, deliberative) and by reintegrating philosophical dialectic.


I. Development of rhetoric's schemata

R is really about "producing schemata to guide the uses of the productive arts in transforming circumstances" (2).

The Architecton commands the art of doing, by ordering all the other arts & sciences. Architectonic rhetoric is necessary to navigate among them. AR's materials for doing this are the topoi, the schemata. Philosophy/wisdom/science within each of the arts is rejoined with ways of knowing via R (cf. Aristotle's four questions, p. 5).

Aristotle's schema of sciences: theoretical, practical, productive. R makes use of all three (6) and therefore resists such a division. (see below)

Cicero's goal: "reunite eloquence and wisdom in action" (7) via R in the broad sense. A very similar goal in the Renaissance., but this era focused most on the 'productive' side of R (8 f).

In the Renaissance, science/nature gets separated from the productive arts & letters (9), and the gulf widens until later moderns cleave the humanities from the sciences, and leave a truncated R situated in the former (cf. Aristotle, p. 13). Many more recent writers show that the sciences themselves cannot be productive without reincorporating R; they can only be analytic otherwise (9).

Kant's CPR provides pure reason as an ultimate topos, 10. Common-sense language builds especially on experience and provides a widely-used set of topoi, 11.

technology = techne + logos. Our age has progressed far in techne but has not yet found a logos (much less a common ethos) to help make sense of it: we are looking for rhetorical schemata that apply to our technological age.


II. the new R

The new R must be universal; it must be an "enlarged objective rhetoric" (13); it should reformulate the structure and program of [merely] verbal rhetoric and its [verbal] subjects. Its applications, though, must be focused on the particular Now. Again, we need a logos of techne for our technological age.


A. Methods and Principles required of the New Rhetoric

Aristotle distinguished between arts and sciences. Sciences have produced new things, but we now need "organizing methods and principles" for them (13).

1.         Creativity/Invention

R takes discoveries, then uses its interdisciplinary perspective (the more general or abstract topoi) to create inventions.

2.         Fact/Judgment

We need an art of judgment that takes facts/experiences and relates them to broader formulations of knowledge and attitudes, as well as to our store of past experience (which generate the knowledge and attitudes in the first place, in part)

3.         Sequence/Consequence

How do we connect various discrete elements of experience into named aggregates and sequences and cause-effect chains? We do this in law and in literature more easily, but we need a universalized art of doing so, a "generalized architectonic productive art of structures" (17)

4.         Objectivity/Intersubjectivity

Principles, whether objectively or subjectively understood, are the underlying topoi of communication (whether we like that idea or not)


B. Fields and Problems of R nowadays (expanding upon categories in Aristotle)

We reformulate sets of experience into "problems" and then create fields or "subject-matters" to begin to answer them. R helps us figure out how to create these fields, or how to decide which existing fields are appropriate for various data.

As new data provides new problems for rhetoric, we will produce new categories and find new kinds of topoi, on the basis of which we produce new "classifications of knowledge" and "construct new interdisciplinary substantive fields" (18). We may even be able to abandon longstanding classifications such as Aristotle's triad theoretical/practical/productive.

1.         Demonstrative/Epideictic R, and Data

Aristotle distinguished apodeictic, scientific proof, from epideictic, display. Display has more to do with praise/blame. "Demonstration" has become more associated with epideictic. Epideictic nowadays is what promotes value-claims and actions based on them. It can judge of apodeictic's value; it uncovers data. The data it looks for is mostly about experiences in the Now. We need to better understand why demonstration has taken these particular turns.

2.         Judicial R, and Experience

We need a new kind of judgment which better integrates facts and values, a hermeneutics that simultaneously considers knowledge and action. We also need to determine how these judgments can be creative (i.e. move from discovery to invention to establish new ideas/arguments/facts/values), 22.

3. Deliberative R, and Thinking

For Aristotle, this division of rhetoric was primarily about political deliberations, what to do in the future. Since Cicero, we have expanded this category to signify a more general kind of thinking, which spills into the other categories. Next we need a deliberative rhetoric that specifically navigates among the arts and interrelates them. We need to build this "structure of connections" among the arts, in the same way that we already build structures of connections when we use judicial rhetoric to interconnect the facts of experience.

4. Dialectic

Dialectic has traditionally been kept apart from R (Aristotle, Cicero), since D has been considered to be about universals, while R has been considered to be about application of topoi to discrete situations. But we need to (more overtly) incorporate the dialectical tradition of well-reasoned debate and dialogue into the subjective world of the rhetorical tradition.

Conclusion: in the technological age, we have a "vastly increased available means." Older arts and rhetorics, based in part on a scarcity of means, may no longer be as valuable to us. The new rhetoric might creatively find new kinds of ends, to guide technology in service to those ends, in fruitful interrelationship with other arts, rather than to let technology dictate to us the restricted and potentially harmful ends to which they may tend in and of themselves.

1966. "Character and the Arts and Disciplines." In the section "Education for Character: Strategies for Change in Higher Education" at the Seventeenth Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life.

"Education for character is the formation of moral virtues and technical skills adapted to the rational and the right by prudence and art; it is also the formation of intellectual virtues to relate what passes for prudence and art to values and reality and to judge and justify their pertinence to what is the case and to what is desirable. The first treats problems of means which must be faced at all stages of education. The second treats problems of sequence in which general education to produce the virtues and skills needed by all men is distinguished from higher education to produce some men competent to apply science and wisdom to the judgment of what is accepted as true and valuable." (9)

"What is is not what ought to be, but any selection and statement of what is depends on value judgments concerning it as it is and contains indications of what it may become; and any preference and appreciation of values depends on facts of taste and judgment and on facts about what is or about the possibility of changing it." (11)

"The tendency in general education to repair the dichotomy of words and things by treating facts in structures and to deny the dichotomy of facts and values by treating possibilities in actualities is hindered by the separation of problems of character and learning in higher education. If higher education is designed to develop competence in particular fields, even if the fields of scientific inquiry and those of moral and esthetic judgment are conceived to be distinct, competence in very profession and in each field of science, social science, and the humanities is made to consist in mastery of the facts and of the methods of treating the problems of the field; and the problems of attitude and purpose, taste and morality, feeling and will, adjustment and autonomy are separated from the problems of cognition and objective knowledge. Education then is thought to have become primarily intellectual and in need of reform to provide interest and motivation and to take into account the whole man, and the rational processes developed in such education have no direct relation to action or appreciation, responsibility or taste." (19-20)

"Yet the relation of education to character is clearer in higher education than in general education. In general education comprehensive arts and inclusive disciplines are acquired for the formation of individual character. In higher education specialized arts and competence in particular fields are inseparable from character traits essential to mastery of the arts and use of the competences employed in them. The specialized arts and disciplines of higher education are not defined solely by the subject matters on which they are employed: they are arts and disciplines only if they arouse interest and purpose, judgment and insight." (20)

"The art of interpretation is used to make some irrelevant facts relevant and some dubious facts divergent aspects of relevant facts. Disciplined sensitivity is acquired by knowledge of more facts and use of more interpretations." (22)