Rae-Dupree in the story “Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike,” and Carey in “You’re Bored, But Your Brain is Tuned in” have successfully used rhetorical techniques to establish inversions to the ordinary forms of thinking. Some of the rhetorical devices employed for this objective include sarcasm, paradox, repetition, and contrast.
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Rae-Dupree, for instance, makes use of the device of paradox to challenge established traditions that instill standardized systems of knowledge, which leave little room for alternative thoughts. The phrase, “The curse of knowledge,” is a paradox that inverts the connotations of progress and other positive attributes associated with knowledge. The substance of this paradox is to present a negative association with established schools of knowledge.
The author’s intention through this paradox is to discourage the tendency of experts to rely exclusively on their knowledge and encourage them to open up to other possibilities outside their areas of professionalism. In other words, the author seeks to decentralize the system of thinking by strengthening other alternatives. Rae-Dupree also uses contrast by creating a system of difference between the flexible thinking habits of “Renaissance thinkers,” Rae-Dupree versus the fixed forms of thinking as practiced by most modern experts.
The intention of this contrast is to support the underlying thematic concern of this argument that the creation of new knowledge is a process that relies on the creative and determined departure from fixed knowledge as presented by experts. To reinforce this argument, the author also makes use of the rhetoric device of sarcasm through the argument that sometimes scientists only create knowledge that only benefits fellow scientists.
Carey, in her story, celebrates the value of boredom as a supple terrain that is most conducive for the growth of new knowledge. Sarcasm and paradox are used to showcase how moments of boredom must be accepted as normal and even useful processes in the cognitive development of humans. The paradox is captured in the very title of the article in the words “bored but your brain is tuned in.” It is a paradox to imagine how a bored brain might be tuned in. The element of sarcasm is illustrated in the placing of boredom at the most official and formal of settings for instance in Prime Ministers sitting “with frozen smiles through interminable state events”. Another instance of sarcasm is in the author’s imaginative illustration of bored scientists poring through “meaningless data”.
The device of paradox has been employed in the explanation that boredom is a useful neural process that can be used constructively in learning and creativity. The aspect of deriving interest by looking at mud can be classified as both sarcasm and paradox, in the sense that it evokes some sense of amusement and mystery. The essence of sarcasm and paradox is the creating of new forms of imagination. The intention is to highlight some positive value in ordinary phenomena.
The value of these kinds of information lies in their power to disable conventions and create room for alternative systems of cognition. The device of rhetoric invites the reader to have a fresh examination of the universe and develop a critical appraisal of ordinary reality. These forms of information are also useful in the sense in which they help in the development of existing schools of thought. This results from the alternative forms of perspective that prod scholars, experts, and other creators of knowledge into revising and modifying traditional assumptions and methods.
Carey, Benedict. You’re Bored but Your Brain in Tuned In. New York Times. 2008. p.1.
Rae-Dupree, Janet. Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike. New York Times. 2007. p.1.