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Visiting professor receives top paper award

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spencer Harris, visiting assistant professor of communication at Missouri State University, received the Top Student Paper Award from the Argumentation and Forensic Division of the National Communication Association.

The paper, titled “Predicting the Singularity: A Transcendent Form of Argument,” argues that the success of predictive arguments involving the future relies on two concepts: the enthymeme and entelechy. Enthymeme is a form of reasoning which requires the audience to fill in gaps left by omitted information, sometimes even the conclusion. Entelechy, on the other hand, is a process of giving a thing meaning by emphasizing its end-state or conclusion.

“The paper attempts to illuminate the internal logic of predictive arguments by framing them in the discussion of the Aristotelian concepts of the enthymeme and entelechy, and offers the reader a formal vocabulary for understanding the success of predictive claims,” said Harris “While the paper analyzes a particular strain of discourse, the Singularity, the theory the paper suggests speaks more broadly to the type of predictive arguments audiences encounter in a variety of situations including religious, scientific and social discourses.”

Harris’ paper also cites the discourse of Ray Kurzweil and how he uses these concepts to convince others that we are on the verge of a techno-revolution and that we should prepare for the transition. Kurzweil is a prominent entrepreneur and Singulitarian, or a techno-enthusiast who believes that hyper-intelligent technology will transform what it means to be human.

The Top Student Paper Award is only given once a year nationally, making it extremely competitive. Harris, a student of argumentation and forensics who is currently finishing his dissertation with the University of Kansas, spent over two years researching the topic.

“It feels wonderful to have my hard work recognized by my peers,” said Harris. “I was certainly very fortunate to have won.”

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Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive metropolitan system with a statewide mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons. The university’s identity is distinguished by its public affairs mission, which entails a campus-wide commitment to foster expertise and responsibility in ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.

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