A brief jaunt into some things classical, 4 of 5 (Kinneavy, Raymond)

Almost done with Essays on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Discourse (1984), here are notes on two different and mildly related chapters:

Kinneavy, James L. “Translating Theory into Practice in Teaching Composition: A Historical View and a Contemporary View” (69-81)

In this chapter, Kinneavy situates Aristotle as a synthesizer of Plato (whose school he taught at) and Isocrates (from whom he likely learned rhetoric (75)), and thus a crucial figure for examining the theory/practice debate in rhetorical instruction. (Kinneavy is very much writing at a time when rhetorical theory and criticism is maturing, when there was much debate about how much of those should be “injected into classroom practice“ (69).

Plato is theoria-dominated: “The truth must be known, the type of audience which is addressed must be known, the nature of the soul-types of the audience must be matched to the type of argument used, and so forth” (71). Thus Plato is based on epistemological certainty (that which can be known), from which rhetorical principles are carefully built from inductive analysis. Plato does include kairos in his scheme, however (an important bridge for Aristotle to the contingent rhetoric of the Sophists). The student of discourse must have intellectual theoretical grasp as well as environmental (sensed) knowledge. However, to really know the situation, the student must have (voluminous) knowledge of what is possible (what sorts of men can be persuaded by what sorts of speeches). Kairos isn’t so much contingent here as it is a final touch, the stimuli by which theoria is put into action.

Isocrates is praxis-dominated: “the absolute rules of science, promising certainty, were not a human possibility” (73). For Isocrates and the Sophists, opinion, conjecture, and belief are reliable for getting things done, whereas absolutism only leads to oppositional domination (and the failure of such domination). The student leans kinds of discourse (including rigorous imitation) rather than abstracted principles, focusing on probability and exercise, with natural talent being elevated over study in theoria.

Aristotle synthesizes the two views: “He retained a belief in the certainty of theory in some sciences (such as theology, astronomy, metaphysics, and mathematics). But in the human sciences, which more and more occupied his attention, Aristotle settled for the probable. And these were the areas of praxis (practical thinking) and poeisis (making artifacts)” (76). His Rhetoric (and his ethics and poetics) involve the contingent, the free, rather than the eternal and the predetermined. Aristotle holds on to the importance of principles (and relies on them as arrived-at principles, rather than developing them inductively in the discourse, as Plato does in Phaedrus), but for the teaching of types and limited kinds of discourse–he sides with Isocrates epistemologically and melds Plato and Isocrates pedagogically. At the same time, Aristotle fails (according to Kinneavy) to recognize the importance of kairos, of highly particular contexts.


Raymond, James C. “Enthymemes, Examples, and Rhetorical Method” (140-151).

“enthymemes–those patterns of demonstration that presume upon the audience’s acceptance of assumptions, often unstated” (140)

The enthymeme is not a nonlogical lapse in all-important logic (GASP!), but rather a serious attempt to deal with non-logos issues: ie “the sort of issues (those not resolvable by ratiocination or by empirical data) and the kind of audiences (those to whom it would be inappropriate to present intricate chains of reasoning) that rhetoricians face” (142).

“The enthymeme is like a syllogism with some differences. The differences are these: whereas a syllogism is a formal pattern of thought with expressed premises, the major premise in an enthymeme may be implied rather than expressed because the audience is presumed to know it; and whereas the major premise in a syllogism must be an established truth, the major premise in an enthymeme may be unproved (or even unprovable) if the audience believes in it.” (142)

“Persuasion occurs when speakers can demonstrate that their conclusions follow from an assumption the audience is willing to accept” (whether that assumption is debatable or not; whether that assumption is implicit or explicit) (144).

examples at some level enthymemes, “patterns inferred from one set of circumstances and applied to others” (147). (analogical, rather than syllogistic). paradeigma (145).

“Aristotle’s rhetoric is a philosophical assertion that some important questions cannot be answered by experimentation, ro by logic, or by quantification because the data needed to make these methods work is unavailable. And yet, the questions must be resolved.” (149).

(arguments beyond logic, audiences beyond chains, syllogisms with assumed knowledge or unproved/unprovable assumptions) (related to doxa?)


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