Rhetoric teems with ecologically inclined thoughts. This article's interest in “ecology” arises from the circumstance of rhetoric's multiple ontologies. We revise three commonplaces of theory to support discussions that follow from understanding rhetoric's ontology as an emergent, materially diverse phenomenon, shifting the emphasis from agency to capacity, from violence to vulnerability, and from recalcitrance to resilience. The proposed commonplaces treat ecology as an orientation to patterns and relationships in the world, not as a science. The article is organized by these three interrelated transitions. The first transition defines capacity more fully in contrast to symbol use as human agency. The second moves from thinking of rhetorical force as imposition, which is tied to violence, to understanding it as a distributed sense of capacity derived from mutual vulnerabilities between entities. The third suggests that the persistence of rhetorical capacities stems from systemic adaptability and sustainability (resilience) rather than individuated abilities to resist (recalcitrance).

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