This article examines the meaning of the subjective in rhetorical modes of inquiry in contrast to the other-oriented nature of social critique. I reopen the problem of consciousness for interpretation by examining challenges to scientific authority in the 1930s, specifically how Kenneth Burke and Alfred North Whitehead respond to a “crisis in mathematics” born out of Whitehead's attempt, with Bertrand Russell, to reconcile logic and mathematics. Whitehead uses Russell's paradox to demonstrate the necessary return of subjective inquiry as a legitimate mode of knowledge. Burke's Permanence and Change develops Whitehead's arguments to justify interpretative approaches to knowledge. Examining their arguments reveals an analogous “crisis in the humanities” in which language or culture is substituted for the examination of subjectivity. Such misplaced concreteness risks omitting interpretive aspects of rhetorical inquiry in favor of the social or political when such social aspects only emerge within the field of subjective experience.

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