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S30 Rep Reading

81. Campbell, 108.
82. Warnick, 1 19.
83. McKerrow, 7 ff.
84. McKen-ow, 9.
85. Whately, ix.
86. Whately, xi.
87. Whately, 90.
88. Whately, 91.
89. Whately, 92.
90. Whately, 1 12.
91. Whately, 112-113.
92. Whately, 1 16.
93. Kennedy, 240.
94, Kennedy, 241.
Rhetoric I: Argument,
Audience, and Science
When Einstein discovered rationality in nature, unaided by
any observation that had not been availablefor at least fifty
years before, our positivistic textbooks promptly covered
up the scandal by an appropriately embellished account of
his discovery.
-Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge^
T h e twentieth century opened in the Western world with interest in rhetorical
theory at perhaps its lowest point since the systematic discussion of rhetoric began in
ancient Greece. Scientific thinking was ascendant, and the methods of reasoning and
speaking about contingent matters that had traditionally been studied and taught
under the name of rhetoric were derided as decidedly inferior to scientific method.
Logical positivism, or the intellectual effort t o bring scientific standards to bear on
the resolution of all issues, had apparently rendered rhetoric obsolete.
However, as the century progressed, confidence in scientific thinking as appropriate to the solution of human social and moral problems began to diminish. Events such
as World War II, and "scientific" approaches to social structuring such as those undertaken by fascists in Europe, left the intellectual world reeling. In addition, as news of
Stalin's often brutal tactics started to reach the West, many intellectuals began to question whether "scientific socialism" could indeed be a viable response to fascism and
the inequalities of industrial capitalism. Whereas science had made major advances in
such areas as medicine, it had failed to provide solutions to persistent human problems
like aggression, racism, economic exploitation, and class polarization.
Perhaps science could not provide solutions to these problems, for its methods
of reasoning were suited to investigating natural rather than social phenomena, and it
dealt best with clear cases of physical causation. Science did not provide a means of
investigating human motivation, the place of values in human choice-making, the intricacies of how power is achieved and maintained, or how political leaders come to
Contemporary Rhetoric I: Argument, Audience, and Science
wield the kind of massive influence that had been a major factor in bringing the
world to war.
A new means of discussing human values was required, one suited specifically
to resolving perennial problems that engaged human values and moral commitments. Recognizing the importance of everyday reasoning processes to our deliberations about such problems, some thinkers turned their attention to the structures that
undergird "everyday" or "marketplace" arguments. Others looked to the classical
tradition in rhetoric for help in discovering a new language, a new rhetoric, of human
values. In this search for a new logic and a new rhetoric, attention was focused on
two foundational components of rhetoric: argumentation and the audience.
Not only had science not provided solutions to social problems, but also scientists were increasingly willing to admit as the twentieth century progressed that
much of the discourse of science was not formulary, clinical, and syllogistic, but decidedly strategic, argumentative, and rhetorical. The theory that "won out" over
competing theories in scientific debates was often the theory presented in the most
persuasive manner, not the one supported by the greatest weight of evidence. Moreover, human motives were seen to play an enormous role in interpreting data, creating the institutional arrangements in which science was practiced, allocating funding
to research, and even in the process of formulating theories. Science, it turned out
after more than a century of intellectual dominance, was in several important respects rhetorical. Scholars in fields as varied as economics, astronomy, psychology,
literature, and even biology and mathematics were acknowledging that rhetoric
played a major role in their professional lives.
Argumentation and Rational Discourse
One of the important accomplishments of twentieth-century rhetorical studies has
been to examine and provide a means of discussing the structure of everyday argumentation. The work of scholars such as Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, and
Jurgen Habermas has been directed toward revealing the logical structure of everyday arguments, demonstrating the place of values in such arguments, and providing
a theory about the conditions under which such arguments are most equitably advanced. The goal of this important intellectual work has been to improve the practice
of discourse in contemporary society, and to thus improve the quality of human
social life.
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca:
A New Rhetoric
Chaim Perelman (1912-1985) was a Belgian philosopher and legal theorist who
became interested in the question of how moral claims can be proven rational in a cul-
ture in which there are few agreements about values. He and colleague Madame L.
Olbrechts-Weca searched for a nonscientific but also nontheistic foundation for discourse involving values.= This search led them to the ancient disciplineof rhetoric and,
more specifically, to argumentation and the audience. "What we preserve of the traditional rhetoric," they write in their major work, The New Rhetoric, "is the idea of the
audience, an idea immediately evoked by the mere thought of a speech."3 Sounding
like rhetoricians from classical Greek or Rome, they write that "knowledge of those
one wishes to win over is a condition preliminary to all effectual argurnentati~n."~
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca begin with the assumption that no claim or conclusion is self-evidendy true, and that resort to absolutes such as God or a specific revealed truth will not uphold arguments about important issues of value in our
contemporary, pluralistic social setting. Only through a sustained process of public argumentation could propositions of value and policy be tested and established as sufficiently reasonable, or rejected as lacking rational merit. Thus, their particular concern
is the argumentative processes involved in testing ideas by engaging and convincing
Much of their groundbreaking book, The New Rhetoric, is a catalog of
various types of arguments common to everyday discourse, along with discussions of
how different arguments achieve their effects and examples of each type.
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, as we shall see, place great emphasis on the audience. "All argumentation," as they see it, "aims at gaining the adherence of minds,
and, by this very fact, assumes the existence of intellectual ~ontact.'~
That is, rhetoric inseparably intertwines the concepts of audience and argumentation. Moreover,
these writers contend that the quality and significance attributed to an argument
depend on the astuteness and skill of the audience it succeeds in persuading. As Perelman and Olbrechts-ma put the point, the audience "will determine to a great
extent both the direction the arguments will take, and the character, the significance
that will be attributed to them."7 The audience, then, plays a role equal to that of the
orator in the testing of ideas publicly. A closer look at Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca's theory of audience is in order, as theirs is perhaps the best developed analysis of this topic in contemporary rhetorical theory.$ A closer look at their theory of
audience will be helpful to understanding their rhetorical theory.
The Centrality of Audience
Three audiences are particularly important in Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's theory
of rhetoric. This is because these three audiences can reliably test the rational quality
of arguments. "The first such audience," they write, "consists of the whole of mankind, or at least, of all normal, adult persons; we shall refer to it as the universal audie n ~ e . "The
~ universal audience is advanced as a possible test of the reasonableness of
arguments that transcends local and personal biases.1ÂThe second audience they consider is "the single interlocutor whom a speaker addresses in a dialogue," while the
third audience that can test the reasonableness of arguments is "the subject himself
when he deliberates or gives himself reasons for his actions."11We will examine in
Contemporary Rhetoric I: Argument, Audience, and Science
some detail their discussion of these and other audiences, and consider how audiences
may enhance the quality of public rhetoric.
Particular Audiences, Starting Points, and Values. Though the universal audience, the audience of the single interlocutor, and the audience of self provide important checks on the reasonableness of arguments, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca
locate social and personal values in particular audiences. A particular audience is
the actual audience of persons one addresses when advancing an argument publicly.
In fact, this regard for particular audiences and their "opinions and values" is what
Perelman and Olbrechts-iyteca see as distinguishing a rhetorical approach to argument from other possible approaches. "What.. .characterizes the rhetorical point of
view in philosophy is a fundamental concem with the opinions and values of the audience that the speaker addresses, and more particularly with the intensity of his audience's adherence to each of these invoked by the speaker."I2
When we recall the importance of public values as starting points of argument in
Greek and Roman theories of rhetoric, we recognize Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca's debt to these theories. Whether in ancient or modem settings, rhetors must
attend to what real audiences believe and value, and adapt their arguments to the beliefs of particular audiences. "Every social circle or milieu is distinguishablein terms
of its dominant opinions and unquestioned beliefs, of the premises that it takes for
granted without hesitation." Does one, then, question such beliefs as simply the
shifting opinions of the public, as Plato did, or take them as the basis of rhetorical
appeals, as Aristotle did? Perelman and Olbrechts-iyteca apparently side with Aristotle. "These views form an integral part of its culture, and an orator wishing to persuade a particular audience must of necessity adapt himself to it."13
Perelman and Olbrechts-iyteca devote considerable time in The New Rhetoric
to the notion of the starting points of argument. Starting points are points of agreement between a rhetor and an audience that allowfor argumentation to develop. Because of their interest in forging a rhetoric that allows for a rational discussion of
human values, the concept of starting points as places for finding agreement between
disagreeing parties is important to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's rhetorical theory. "The unfolding as well as the starting point of argumentation," they write, "presupposes indeed the agreement of the audience."14
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca divide starting points into two general classes.
The first class of starting points they call simply "the real," which includes "facts,
truths, and presumptions." The other category they call "the preferable," which takes in
"values, hierarchies, and lines of argument relating to the preferable."15 Thus, one
source of the agreements needed to begin constructive argumentation is found in what
both speaker and audience accept as well-established facts, widely accepted truths, or
uncontested commitments, called presumptions. Recall that presumptions were discussed in the last chapter when we considered the argument theory of Hugh Blair. The
clearest example of a presumption accepted by most Americans is the presumption of
innocence in judicial settings. A second source of starting points is discovered in cam-
monly held values, values arranged into hierarchies, and preferences such as the preference for group over individual decision making in an organization. From such points
of agreement, further agreements may be reached through the processes of argumentation. Again, the central concem of these authors is to establish a rational method for
discussing questions of value in a modem, pluralistic social setting. Their call for renewed attention to classical theories of argumentation is a major part of this effort.
Perelman and Olbrechts-iyteca recognized the very serious problems associated with arguments about matters of value before real audiences. Rhetoric based
strictly on the beliefs of a particular group may be biased, narrow, and parochial. Arguments capable of winning the adherence of only a particular audience often are not
acceptable to most reasonable people. To solve this problem associated with arguments addressed to particular audiences, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca introduced
what was to become their most famous concept.
The Universal Audience
Who decides which ideas are truly rational, if the judgments of different particular
audiences clash? In some instances we turn to elite audiences. These are audiences
of trained specialists in particular disciplines who can assist in "the attempt to formulate norms and values such as could be proposed to every reasonable being."16
But even the judgments of experts must be brought back to the test of the particular
audience. Otherwise we run the "risk of the philosopher-king who would use the political authority and power of the State" to impose one set of values on everyone.17
The universal audience is also important in the effort to develop sound arguments for particular audiences without bowing to the local prejudices these audiences often endorse. Looking beyond persuading only their immediate audience,
conscientious rhetors will consider how an imagined audience of highly rational indIvIduals would respond to a particular argument. In his book, Justice, Perelman
writes, "I do not see [reason] as a faculty in contrast to other faculties.. .. I conceive
of it as a privileged audience, the universal audience."18 Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca seek an imagined audience of reasonable people available at all times, and not
subject to the limitations and biases of any particular audience.
In the universal audience, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca reveal their conviction that a reasonable and moral advocate must possess a vision of rationality that
transcends particular social groups or geographical locations. A rational advocate
"seeks to conform to principles of action which are acceptable to everyone [and]
considers as unreasonable a rule of action which cannot be ~niversalized."~~
The reasonable advocate looks beyond the immediate and recognizes that "a principle of
action which others would consider acceptable and even reasonable cannot arbitrarily favor certain people or certain situations: what is reasonable must be able to
be a precedent which can inspire everyone in analogous circumstance^."^^
The "highest point" of assurance that an argument is reasonable "is reached when
there is agreement of the universal audience," which audience is "a universality and
Contemporary Rhetoric I: Argument, Audience, and Science
unanimity imagined by the speaker, to the agreement of an audience which should be
universal.yy21Argumentation which wins the assent of the universal audience must
reach a very high standard indeed. It must "convince the reader that the reasons adduced are of a compelling character, that they are self-evident, and possess an absolute
and tuneless validity independent of local or historical c~ntingencies."~~
The Audience of One
course, even in self-deliberation, reasons may be invented simply to justify a particular decision rather than reasonably to explore options.
The universal audience consists of the speaker's conception of all rational people. Reasons addressed to this audience are to be compelling, self-evident, and timeless, thus independent of local concerns. The speaker's character is reflected in the
conception she forms of the universal audience. The audience of the single hearer
provides a check on each step in the reasoning process. The goal of discourse addressed to this audience is not to "win" a debate, but to engage in dialogue leading to
a reasonable decision. The interlocutor may be seen as a manifestation of all reasonable people, as an instance of the universal audience. Self-deliberation is viewed as a
kind of argumentation, and not as a distinct cognitive activity. We employ the same
arguments to persuade others that we use to persuade ourselves. The secrecy of a
personal, internal debate is seen as a guarantee of its sincerity, as we are not interested in deceiving ourselves.
How can we know, in a practical sense, if our arguments are ready for appeal to the
universal audience? Though Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca are not explicit in their
answer to this question, there are some clear suggestions in The New Rhetoric about
practical tests of one's arguments. One of these is the careful scrutiny that takes place
when one person argues directly with another. "Argumentation before a single hearer"
can also make a special claim to reasonableness, and provides another kind of test of
arguments. In The New Rhetoric, Plato's Gorgias is an example of the role of the audience of a single hearer: "Each of Socrates' interlocutors is the spokesman... of a
particular viewpoint and their objections must first be disposed of in order to facilitate
public adherence to the proposed theses."23
The single hearer sometimes acts like an audience of one's opponents by advancing ,the counterargumentsto one's own arguments. The single listener or reader carefully checks each step in the awmentation, raising objections to it, asking for
clarifications, providing aiguments in response.24The individual listener can in some
cases fulfill this role so well that he or she represents the universal audience. "The
hearer is assumed to have the same reasoning power at his disposal as the other members of the universal audience."25 Thus, if our arguments succeed before an audience
of a single, careful critic, they may be ready for the test of the universal audience.
Regardless of the type of discourse one advances-scientific, political, judicial,
religious-an audience is being addressed, m e n t a r i o n , for Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca, cannot be adequately understood apart from a theory of audience. Discourse
is not simply addressed to, but adapted to and affected by its audience. Here is both
a fact about rhetoric and a criticism of it that has been advanced ever since Plato
raised the concern in Gogias. But, does this fact mean that argumentation must then
be unreasonable? Perelman and Olbrechts-iyteca think not, and they respond with
both a theory of audiences and of uments intended to secure the rationality of discourse about moral issues that engages values and beliefs. And finding a rational approach to moral discourse is perhaps the most pressing problem of rhetorical theory
in the twentieth century.
The Self as Audience
We are all familiar with argumentation before a large audience, and each of us has
likely advanced arguments before an audience of a single hearer. But do we typically
think of ourselves as an audience for our own arguments? Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca wish to draw our attention to this audience as well, the audience of the self.
"The self-deliberating subject," they write, "is often regarded as an incarnation of the
universal audience."26 The individual "endowed with reason" who directs her own
arguments privately to herself "is bound to be contemptuous of procedures aimed at
winning over other people," Moreover, such an individual "cannot avoid being sincere" in this process, and "is in a better position than anyone else to test the value" of
her arguments.27
Self-deliberation is crucial to the process of inventing or coming up with arguments. It is also important to justifying arguments as reasonable. We might say that
the self is the first audience whose adherence is sought in argumentation, and, for
reasons Perelman and Olbrwhts-iyteca articulate, among the most important. Of
We have considered Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's theory of audience and its
centrality to their "new rhetoric." Another of their concepts has also been influential
and deserves attention. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca call this concept "presence."
The immediate goal of argumentation, according to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca,
is to make certain facts present to an audience. Establishing presence involves the
choice to emphasize certain ideas and facts over others, thus encouraging an audience to attend to them. Perelrnan and Olbrechts-Tyteca write that presence "is an essential factor in argumentation and one that is far too much neglected in rationalistic
conceptions of rea~oning."~~
The presence of a fact or an idea is almost a sensory experience rather than a purely rational one; "presence," they write, "acts directly on
our ~ensibility."~~
Thus, in argumentation a rhetor seeks to bring his or her audience to the point of
seeing the relevant facts, or experiencing the tnithfulness of an idea. Thus, Perelman
and Olbrechts-Tytwa can write, "one of the preoccupations of a speaker is to make
Contemporary Rhetoric I: Argument, Audience, and Science
present, by verbal magic alone, what is actually absent" but what is considered "important to [the] argument."30This statement, particularly with its reference to rhetoric as a
kind of magic, sounds like something the Sophist Gorgias or a Renaissance humanist
like Ficino might say. Indeed, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca share Gorgias' and the
humanists' intrigue with rhetoric's power to direct thought, particularly rhetoric in the
control of a skilled rhetorician. But their confidence in argumentation as a rational
foundation of discourse is decidedly stronger than was Gorgias'.
Stephen Toulmin and the Uses of Argument
In 1958, British philosopher and scientist Stephen Toulmin published his groundbreaking study of argumentation, The Uses of Argument.31Thus, his work appeared
in England just one year before The New Rhetoric of Perelman and Olbrechtslyteca. His analysis of everyday or marketplace arguments on a model derived from
logical studies is reminiscent of Aristotle's reference to the enthymeme as a "rhetorical syllogism." Toulmin also drew on the study of legal argumentation in establishing his system for assessing arguments.32 However, he affirmed that the standards
for assessing arguments varied depending on the subject matter under consideration.
The authors of Handbook of Argumentation Theory write, 'Toulmin's central thesis
is that every sort of argumentation can in principle claim rationality and that the criteria to be applied when determining the soundness of the argumentation depend on
the nature of the problem to which the argumentation relates."33 To demonstrate this
possibility, Toulmin developed a scheme for analyzing arguments that has become
extremely popular, and which we will review momentarily.
Argument Fields
Toulmin questioned the ancient idea of logical validity as applicable to the analysis
of ordinary arguments. In order to make his case, Toulmin introduced the concept of
argument fields into his discussion of arguments. "The first problem we have set
ourselves," writes Toulmin in The Uses of Argument, -"dan be re-stated in the question, 'What things about the form and merits of our arguments are field-invariant and
what things about them are field-dependent?'" Toulmin explains the distinction in
the following way:
What things about the modes in which we assess arguments, the standards with reference
to which we assess them and the manner in which we qualify our conclusions about
them, are the same regardless of field (field-invariant), and which of them vary as we
move from arguments in one field to arguments in another field (field-dependent)?34
Specifically, "two arguments will be said to belong to the same field when the
data [evidence] and conclusions in each of the two arguments are, respectively, of
the same logical type (emphasis added)."35 Geometrical proofs, navigational calculations, arguments from statistical data, arguments based on criteria for inclusion in
a category, and arguments applying laws to particular cases-all of these, according
to Toulmin, belong to different fields. Thus, some of the criteria relevant to evaluating each type of argument will differ from some of the criteria appropriate to evaluating any of the others. That is, not all arguments are subject to evaluation by the
same criteria or standards. Thus, Toulmin rejects the logician's idea that validityconcern for an argument's structure without consideration of its content-is the
single universal standard of argument analysis. But, even within a particular domain
of argument, law, for example, arguments may belong to different fields. Thus, arguments about whether to apply a particular law to a particular action, and judicial arguments based on generalizations about human character, would belong to different
fields. Arguments are from the same field when it makes sense to compare them to
one another and to judge them by similar special criteria.
Field-Dependent and Field-Invariant Standards
Toulmin introduces the concept of field, then, for a particular reason: He wishes to
explore the rational standards by which arguments can be assessed. Some standards
for assessing arguments belong specifically to a particular field, and these standards
Toulmin called field-dependent. Other standards for assessing arguments apply regardless of the field in which the argument is advanced. Toulmin called these standards field-invariant. Thus, in an argument about whether a particular law should be
applied to a particular action, standards appropriate to the interpretation of law
would be among the field-dependentfactors that might come into play. Standards regarding the underlying logic of the arguments advanced-for example, whether a
logical fallacy had been committed-would be among the field-invariant standards
that could be applied to the arguments on both sides.
Modal Qualifiers
As one application of his idea that some of the standards by which arguments are assessed vary with argument fields, Toulmin expresses interest in certain terms "which
have always been of interest to philosophers and have come to be known as modal
terms."36 Modal qualifiers, words that indicate the degree of confidence or force assigned to a conclusion, include terms such as must, possibly, probably, certainly, and
cannot. The "force" of these terms does not vary from one field of argument to another, "but the criteria applied in order to determine whether a given modal term has
been used rightly or wrongly in a given context are field-de~endent."~~
In modals,
Toulmin sees a reflection of the rational processes involved in decision making and
an important clue to the nature of everyday reasoning.38The standards used to assess
whether a modal has been properly employed will vary with a variation in the argument's field. For example, the term must is justified by the rules of mathematics in