The Essential Enthymeme
Propositions for Educating Students in a Modern World
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- John T. Gage - Preface: The Enthymeme Within Reason
- Jorge Juan Vega y Vega - Foreword: What Can the Enthymeme Do for Education Today?
- A. Intelligence and the Enthymeme
- B. Our Work: Education for the Professions
- C. Acknowledgements
- Jorge Juan Vega y Vega - Chapter 1. Popularizing the Enthymeme: Fans for Aristotle
- A. Cognitive Enthymemes: Observing, Thinking and Knowing
- 1. The Cognitive Enthymeme as Reading Comprehension
- B. Enjoyable Enthymemes: Learning, Linking and Liking
- C. Expressive Enthymemes: Claiming, Justifying and Sharing
- Michael Dennis Hood - Chapter 2. The Enthymeme as a Practical Rhetoric Concept for Teaching Composition
- Michael Dennis Hood - Chapter 3. The Role of the Enthymeme in the Connection Between Reading and Writing
- Michael Dennis Hood - Chapter 4. The Place of the Enthymeme in Composition Studies
- A. Definitions and Interpretations of the Enthymeme in Conflict
- B. Aristotle’s Reputation (and the Enthymeme) on the Outs
- C. Incompatibility of the Enthymeme with Most Approaches to Composition Instruction
- 1. Current-Traditional Rhetoric
- 2. Expressive Rhetoric
- 3. Cognitive-Process Rhetoric
- 4. Social-Construction Rhetoric
- 5. Social-Epistemic Rhetoric
- D. The Enthymeme in a Postmodern World
- Michael Dennis Hood - Chapter 5. Essential Modern Readings on the Enthymeme
- A. Approaches to Defining the Enthymeme
- 1. The Logical Perspective
- 2. The Audience-Centered Perspective
- 3. The Epistemic Perspective
- 4. The Historicist Perspective
- B. The Place of the Enthymeme in Aristotle’s Rhetoric: Two Views
- 1. The Centrality of the Enthymeme in Aristotle
- 2. The Marginal Status of the Enthymeme in Antiquity
- C. How the Enthymeme Functions in Discourse
- 1. Invention and Arrangement
- 2. Discourse Analysis
- 3. Where to Find Enthymemes
- D. Conclusion: Trends in Modern Enthymeme Scholarship
- Jorge Juan vega y Vega - Chapter 6. Language, Image and Reasoning: Learning with Enthymemes
- A. The Problem: School Drop-Outs and First Job Hunting
- B. The Solution: The Enthymeme as Critical Thinking
- C. Enthymeme: Reading, Writing and Memory
- D. A Visual Technique to Improve Reading
- Jorge Juan vega y Vega - Chapter 7. The Integrated Method: Cognitive and Expressive Skills in the Second-Language Classroom
- A. The Integrated Method: Seeing, Comprehending and Speaking
- B. Towards Image Analysis
- C. Image Analysis in Six Steps
- 0. Identification / Definition
- 1. Description / Verification
- 1.1 Descriptive Activities
- 1.2 Description and Vocabulary Cards
- 1.3 Description: Pedagogic Problems
- 1.4 Description Types
- 1.5 Descriptive Reasoning Is Useful
- 1.6 Descriptive Texts
- 1.7 Advantages of Descriptive Activities
- 2. Interpretation / Function
- 2.1 Interpretive Reasoning: Images, Reading, and Translation
- 2.2 Main Interpretive Figures
- 2.3 Symbols and Emotional Logic
- 2.4 Interpretive Texts
- 3. Narration / Sequence
- 3.1 Narrative Orders: Sequence and Reasoning
- 3.2 The Enthymeme and the “Logic” of Literary Fiction
- 3.3 Working with Narrative Images: Applications for the Classroom
- 3.4 How to Achieve a Narrative Text in 10 Steps
- 3.5 Narrative Texts: The “Timeline” Activity
- 3.5.1 A “Timeline” Application
- 3.6 Tales as Dreams and Dreams as Tales
- 4. Argumentation / Purpose
- 4.1 Argumentative Types
- 4.2 Argumentative Semantics (Cultural Topics)
- 4.3 Argumentative Syntax (Logical Schemes)
- 4.4 Writing an Essay
- 4.5 Microstructure of Argumentative Texts: The Enthymeme
- 4.6 How to Answer a Question (for Speaking and Writing)
- 4.7 Illogical Argument, Fallacy, and Tautology
- 4.8 Argumentative and Refutable Enthymemes
- 4.9 Macrostructure of Argumentative Texts: The Essay
- 4.10 Parts of an Argumentative Text
- 4.10.1 Introduction
- 4.10.2 Body or Development
- 4.10.3 Conclusion
- 4.11 A Model of Argumentative Writing
- 4.12 How People Naturally Argue (i.e. through Enthymemes)
- 5. Final Commentary
- 5.1 Problem Solving and Creativity
- 5.2 Anticipating Difficulties
- 5.3 Enjoying Learning: Aesthetic Value and Intellectual Value
- D. Image Analysis: Activities Suggested
- E. Assessment Template: From Expression to Expressivity
- F. Summing up: The Enthymeme Is for Life
- Appendix 1. General Scheme for Argumentative Writing
- Appendix 2. General Template for Assessment
- Appendix 3. Vade Mecum for Image Analysis
- Appendix 4. Questionnaire for Literary Analysis
- Daniela Ventura - Chapter 8. The Process of Reasoning in Advertising
- A. Advertising Comprehension through Cognitive Processes
- B. A Peculiar Argumentative Discourse
- C. How to Read Advertisements
- D. IKEA’s Ads
- 1. Observation
- 2. Reflection
- 3. Conclusion
- E. Bayer’s Ads
- 1. Observation
- 2. Reflection
- 3. Conclusion
- F. Conclusions
- Mª Sandra Marrero Morales - Chapter 9. The Enthymeme in Composition Studies: Discourse Analysis in Specialized Medical Texts
- A. Introduction
- B. Discourse Analysis and Genre Analysis in ESP
- C. The Enthymeme as a Controlling Structure in Medical Discourse
- D. Analysis of two Argumentative Texts in Medical Discourse
- 1. The Research Article
- 2. The Autopsy Report
- E. Conclusions
- Daniela Ventura & Jorge Juan vega y Vega - Chapter 10. The Enthymeme in Detective Novels
- A. The Enigma
- B. The Process of Reasoning in Detective Stories: “Simplicity itself”
- C. The Thinking Hero
- D. A Reasoning and Observing Machine
- E. The Narrative Macro- and Micro-Structure in the Detective Novel
- 1. A Case of Identity
- 2. Death on the Nile
- F. The Pleasure of Knowledge
- G. Conclusions
- Jorge Juan Vega y Vega - Conclusion: The Enthymeme for Educational Purposes Today
- General Bibliography
As someone who has written widely, if not always prudently, about the enthymeme, I am pleased to see the level and variety of attention given to this rhetorical concept in this collection, and flattered to be have been asked by the editor to write a preface. It is not my intention in this brief preface to introduce the reader to the studies contained here, which speak for themselves, except to say that they attend provocatively to all of the aspects of the enthymeme that have concerned me also: the theoretical, the historical, the analytical, and the pedagogical. Rather, I want to reflect on why such focused attention matters, why the enthymeme is a subject worthy of continued study from all of these perspectives. Whether it is seen as a sadly neglected concept in rhetorical and pedagogical studies, or whether on the contrary it is viewed as too obvious to merit in-depth study, the enthymeme has achieved a kind of inevitable role in rhetoric. Once seen, it is hard to ignore. At stake for me in continuing to look deeply into the nature and use of the enthymeme is the question of what it means to be rational.
So let me begin my reflection with an apparent truism.
Everybody reasons. Stated like this, as a universal proposition, “Everybody reasons” is both self-evident and highly problematic. But these are both elusive qualities. I might take the claim to be self-evident because in order to refute it, a doubter would have to make a counter-claim and were I to ask “Why is that the case?” would then be obliged to back it up with reasons I could potentially accept, thereby demonstrating that at least we both need reasons to conclude that not everybody reasons, which would involve that doubter in a “performance contradiction” of sorts, an argument that seems to refute itself by virtue of being an argument. Could anyone who thinks that not everybody reasons justify that claim by not reasoning? Somewhere to be found in such paradoxes is a (perhaps tautological) principle something like “I think, therefore I reason.” Or, a doubter might simply ask me for my reasons for thinking that everybody reasons, in which case I would look for reasons that might support it, thus making it anything but self-evident. That the claim is problematic might derive also from its being a particular kind of statement, in a particular context, and hence not really clear as stated. I can illustrate this by suggesting some of the kinds of statement it might be. If it ← 13 | 14 → is a statement analogous to “Everybody breaths,” then it assumes that simply being a person requires this activity, and that the activity is at some basic level the same thing for all of those who do it. If it is a statement analogous to “Everybody eats,” then it implies that while the activity of eating is in some basic sense the same for all who do it, the particulars of what and how people eat vary tremendously according to a number of factors. If it is a statement analogous to “Everybody complains,” then the meaning is restricted to a speech act human beings perform sometimes, in some circumstances, but not in others. If it is a statement analogous to “Everybody sings,” then perhaps what matters most is that not everybody sings, or reasons, equally well. Keep the analogies going, and we see that what might seem to be a simple universal proposition must be interpreted.1 By “Everybody reasons,” I am thinking only that people, by virtue of drawing inferences from experience and of communicating those inferences to others, inevitably have and give reasons. Do they do it “naturally,” like breathing? Usually. Do they do it differently, like eating? Certainly. Do they do it as a response to circumstances, like complaining? Absolutely. Do some do it better than others, like singing? Evidently.
Making and taking in claims and reasons is a process that occurs naturally, un-self-consciously, by virtue of the persistence in our lives of the need or desire to align our thinking with that of others, to struggle with ideas as we confront them in encounters with other minds. Ideas, as in the ancient Sophists’ notion of dissoi logoi, are subject to contradiction, “saying against,” but in potentially infinite ways. Making and taking in reasons is a process of sorting and ranking ideas according to our willingness to accept them, “up to a point” perhaps or at least subject to reasons we have not yet made or heard. The process goes on, then, in the realm of contingencies, circumstantial givens that affect not only the interpretation of claims but the choice and assessment of reasons. These givens may change from circumstance to circumstance, from time to time, and from person to person. Thus, claims and reasons are always situated, even those that we use as the starting point for our arguments, as I am doing with my opening claim, “Everybody reasons.” Given this condition of situatedness (which is itself potentially arguable), I think it is fair to say that reasoning must be understood as a process that is subject to many kinds of adjustments (caveats, qualifications, ← 14 | 15 → word or style choices, choices of genre and medium, audience, timing, available authorities, expansion or contraction, emotional or psychological compulsion, and on and on), that it is flexible and resilient, and that it is performed creatively and spontaneously, in ways that both resist a totalizing assessment and that compel a nuanced understanding. The concept of the enthymeme, as I understand it both in its classical and its modern usages, addresses the vagaries of these contingent aspects of reasoning. It potentially gets at qualities of arguments that the strict template of formal logic either does not reveal or rejects as non-essential. The enthymeme is essential, as in the title of this book, because it applies specifically to all of the more or less persuasive, subtle, strategic, creative, ambiguous, conditional, unpremeditated, fallacious, and wooly things that people say when they argue, logicians included.
If the term “enthymeme” applies, as I think it does, to the basic structure and function of reasoning in the broadest sense of having and giving reasons, then all of the above considerations surface, and more. What are we doing, at the most basic level, when we reason? Is that structure and function different when we do it in one circumstance or another? Is that structure or function the same when done well and when done poorly, and what then is the difference? How does it derive from and how is it adapted to circumstances? How does it relate to our sense of “self” and of “others?” Given the endless variety that enthymemes might manifest, and their dynamism in use, how can its basic features be represented? How is it learned, and how in particular can it be improved? I will leave these and other salient questions to the authors of this volume to address, though the answers they provide will necessarily be themselves stated as enthymemes and thus be subject to scrutiny as to their adequacy. The questions are not trivial. They arise by virtue of the ubiquity of enthymemes in our discourse.
I am concerned here with how the enthymeme brings into focus the question: What is one doing when one reasons? The question may be answered with the utmost complexity and detail, if reason is considered in all its aspects: how it arises, how it adapts, how it adjusts, how it complies, how it changes, etc. The history of philosophy is replete with answers. Reason may look like a different kind of thing when examined as a philosophical problem, or as a set of precise rules, or as a set of procedures, or as a “faculty” of the mind, or as a motivating principle, or as an ideal, or as a temperament, or as a game or contest, or as a folk ritual, etc. These perspectives are not inevitable; one must choose from among them, ← 15 | 16 → and any given perspective may prove to be limited. Each act of reasoning must be assessed both on its own terms and in relation to the contingent situation, broadly conceived, that gives rise to it. This includes the nature of the question it is constructed to answer.
Or, the question “What is one doing when one reasons?” may be answered with the utmost simplicity, if reasoning is considered in terms of what it must be to be reason-ing, i.e. the act of having and proffering reasons. Reasons (the stuff of reasoning) are chosen, more or less freely and deliberately, to do the work of substantiation. They are choices rather than inevitabilities, and they will be chosen based on the need to find and make an effective relationship between what they are chosen to substantiate and from what conditions they derive. Reasons are the pathway by which we negotiate the realm between the given and the unknown.
This, then, is what I take the enthymeme to be: a relationship created between a reason and a conclusion, based on the conditions of a contingent reality.2 The enthymeme is relational. It connects ideas to each other, based on assumptions about reality. It connects a claim one wishes to make with a reason one hopes will enable it to be made well, based on the givens of the circumstance, including the assumed beliefs of those to whom the claim is addressed. As such, it is the substance and substrata of reasoning. It is implicit in the very nature of language as a means of making statements; to make a claim of any kind implies the possibility of substantiation by means of other claims. A claim is made to and for an “other,” call it the audience, who is assumed to be competent and free to judge and for whom the claim is assumed to matter. Reasoning, then, applies to both the choice of enthymemes by which we discover and test what we ourselves think and to the choice of enthymemes we invent and use as a means of communicating what we think to others. Everybody makes, and everybody consumes, enthymemes. Enthymemes are always embedded in and address a particular circumstance. They are practical, then, insofar as people rely on them to negotiate issues that arise because they matter. ← 16 | 17 →
The enthymeme, in other words, mirrors the fundamental rhetorical transaction. Any given enthymeme is an invention of a human mind engaged in the act of trying to meet other minds in the realm of ideas. In A Rhetoric of Motives, Kenneth Burke has famously said that rhetoric is “rooted in an essential function of language itself, a function that is wholly realistic, and is continually born anew; the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.”3 His preferred term for the effect or goal of rhetoric, instead of the historically rooted term “persuasion,” is “identification.” Burke sees rhetorical acts as essentially human insofar as we are “beings that by nature respond to symbols,” and we seek identification with other humans, in Burke’s view, as “compensatory to division” (1969: 22). Without differences among us there would be no need for rhetorical acts designed to induce cooperation, to bring about identification. Rhetorical acts work enthymematically: identification is sought by means of a transactional connection between a known thing and the new thing to be shared.
Burke discusses enthymemes in this context, citing differences of opinions as the division for which enthymemes are designed to compensate. He calls the enthymeme “a quick survey of opinion,” and says that it simply refers to “reasoning based on opinion” (1969: 56). Following Aristotle, Burke associates the enthymeme with topoi, or the underlying shapes that arguments take and which serve as the formal resource for making enthymemes. Burke says, “you can’t possibly make a statement without its falling into some sort of pattern” (1969: 65). Burke in fact discussed form itself, in all modes of discourse, enthymematically, as in his claims that “the artist’s manipulation of the reader’s desires involve his use of what the reader considers desirable,”4 and that “If people believe something, the poet can use this belief to get an effect” (1953: 161). Thus the enthymeme constitutes what Burke calls a basic “pattern of experience,” or “Experience arising out of a relationship between an organism and its environment, the adjustments of the organism will depend upon the nature of the environment” (1953: 150). And so, for Burke, “the formal aspects of art appeal in that they exercise formal potentialities of the reader” (1953: 142). From a Burkean perspective, then, the form of enthymemes must already be in us, ← 17 | 18 → as a “formal potentiality,” or as a “condition of appeal” (1953: 48) by virtue of our experiences as language users, in order for us to respond to them and in order therefore for them to work when “individuated” with specific content (1953: 46, 143). We can make use of such forms, that is to say, only because we have already experienced them, as individuated arguments in numerous contexts, as we cannot help but have done. This then suggests that how we learn to be more adept and sensitive users and responders to enthymemes is a matter of concern for education, an issue addressed repeatedly in this volume.
Enthymemes as formal operations intended to substantiate claims are often discussed in relation to topoi. In The New Rhetoric, for example, Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca discuss the enthymeme in the context of “transitivity,” “a formal property of certain relations which makes it possible to infer that because a relation holds between a and b and between b and c, it therefore holds between a and c; the relations of equality, superiority, inclusion, and ancestry are transitive.”5 Thus they view the enthymeme in loose relation to syllogistic reasoning, in the context of what they call “quasi-logical” reasoning as opposed to formal logic (1969: 230). Their open sense of how transitivity works suggests relationships such as Aristotle defined in his listing of topoi, and indeed Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca are throughout their discussion of the elements of argumentation identifying deeply embedded loci. In Aristotle’s treatment, topoi form the grounding of enthymemes, and therefore may be said to distinguish kinds of enthymemes, as, for example Aristotle’s enthymemes of partition in general and division of genus and species in particular (cf. 1969: 234).
My discussion thus far posits the enthymeme as a sort of synecdoche for rhetorical thinking in general: creating for an audience a connection from the known to the unknown by means of mediation. Such a view is not found in and does not necessarily depend on an Aristotelian view of the enthymeme as a “rhetorical syllogism,” the rhetorical “counterpart” of deduction in dialectic.6 Yet Aristotle provides a stimulus for universalizing ← 18 | 19 → the enthymeme in this way when he claims for the enthymeme the status of the “body” of rhetorical proof (sōma tēs pisteōs).7 He seems to be concerned with how rhetorical argument necessarily consists of this kind of transaction. What audiences know already, or what the rhetor thinks they know already, and the shapes of arguments with which they are familiar, form the basis of inventing reasons (including the embodiment of ethos and pathos) that will lead to a new understanding. Such inventions will be unique to situations, but they will also follow certain lines of argument (topoi) which conform to patterns through which audiences are accustomed to processing arguments. Aristotle seems to be more concerned with the particulars of topoi, the various shapes reasons come in, the pool of sources from which particular enthymemes derive, than he is with the enthymeme as a model for all rhetorical transactions, but “body” in his claim (sōma) at least metaphorically invokes a vital principle without which rhetorical proof would be lifeless.
Whether we view the enthymeme through Aristotle or in light of various historical and modern discussions that go in different directions, the enthymeme seems to provide an alternative to the model of formal symbolic logic as a means of discussing the phenomenon of reasoned argument. This alternative is justified not because it is rule-bound and guarantees validity, but precisely because it is not and does not. Arguments as they exist in the untidy world of human disagreements rarely take the form of syllogisms as defined by symbolic logic and given that those arguments are made in natural language, it is impossible to imagine how they could. More importantly, however, given the constraints that must be placed on logic and the univocal language in which it is embodied in order for it to be subjected to a standard of validity, many have observed that strict logic is simply not available as a means of addressing certain kinds of issues, of value, say, or of ethics, or of faith, or even of policy.8 To make logic in the strictest sense the touchstone of rationality, then, is to consign many, if not most, of the arguments people feel they must resolve to the status of the irrational.9 I see ← 19 | 20 → the enthymeme, and therefore continued study of how it works, as essential precisely because it is the form by which arguments are made when “logical proof” is simply not available. As M. F. Burnyeat has stated it, enthymemes “are considerations one is swayed by when reflecting on an issue where conclusive argument is not to be had.”10 Taking “conclusive” in the strictest sense, this to me means all issues that matter. In this sense, then, rationality consists of using enthymemes as deliberately and as well as possible. Burnyeat uses the term, “relaxed” to describe the “less demanding notion of proof” entailed in the enthymeme (“Enthymeme,” 96), but it is possible to see “relaxed,” “less-demanding,” or “loose” (as I used the term above), not as conditions but as degrees. Enthymemes can be held to standards of greater or lesser rationality even though they do not aspire to logical perfection. For Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, “stronger” and “weaker” arguments can be assessed on grounds that do not rely on validity rules but more on ethical principles, chiefly that of justice (cf. 1969: 460 ff.). We do not sacrifice judgment by viewing argument as inevitably less-than-perfect, and in fact we gain the ability to measure arguments in all realms according to standards of human good.
Another objection sometimes raised by rhetoricians to understanding reason solely through the lens of formal logic is that logic “compels,” whereas enthymematic reasoning “invites.” If this distinction is in any way inviting, then the difference between enthymeme and syllogism can be discussed in ethical terms as well as in terms of alleged relative rigor. It is a matter of how reasoning is assumed to function in the world of contingent ideas, whether to end consideration once an idea can be said to be conclusively demonstrated, or to enable consideration to continue to thrive. It is in such a way that the open play of enthymemes in discourse may be said to be a virtue, related to open-mindedness and tolerance. At any rate, one is justified in thinking that teaching about enthymemes, asking for a kind of self-conscious attention to a process one does naturally, can affect “attitudes” (as discussed in the conclusion of this volume). Constructing enthymemes as a conscious performance of reasons connected to audiences requires a choice from among different available reasons, in order ← 20 | 21 → to find those reasons most likely to invite identification. The performance of this choice involves the ability to make judgments. Judgment implies freedom to choose. Judgment is not constrained by rules but is occasioned and practiced in relation to motive, desire, and circumstance. It is precisely because there are choices that judgment must be exercised. This was, for instance, the guiding principle of Quintilian’s education of the ideal orator (vir bonus dicendi peritus): knowledge of the many options made available by rhetoric enable the development of iudicium as an intellectual and moral virtue. In Aristotle’s ethics, it is the intellectual virtue of phronesis, the practical wisdom needed to make good, i.e. ethical, judgments in particular situations in which certain knowledge is not available.11 In On Rhetoric “practical wisdom” is not only an aspect of the speaker’s ethos, but is the quality of discernment that is necessarily at play in the faculty of “discovering the available means of persuasion,” i.e. of being rhetorical.
Consideration of the enthymeme, then, gives rise to issues of ethics and character, of the responsible arguer, of creating and maintaining a vital community, of human capability, even of the transcendent potential of rhetoric to improve human life. By means of new approaches to the enthymeme, new modes of representation, and new uses of the enthymeme in education (as demonstrated throughout the present work), we extend our knowledge of a concept that is central to understanding rationality as a human performance capability in the practical world.
1 How does the claim appear, for instance, when the situation in which it is uttered includes consideration of abnormal psychology or catatonia? Clearly, situations govern even seemingly universal claims.
2 This is but one of many definitions that have been proffered, including different ones in this volume. This broad conception of the enthymeme is what has led me to suggest that the syllogism is a subspecies of the enthymeme, rather than the other way around as in definitions such as “rhetorical syllogism,” or “truncated syllogism.” See John T. Gage, “Enthymeme,” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, in Theresa Enos (ed.). New York: Garland Publishing, 1996: 225.
3 K. Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives . Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969: 43.
4 K. Burke, Counter-Statement . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953: 146.
5 C. Perelman & L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Translated by John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969: 227.
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- 2015 (November)
- Enthymeme Enthymeme and Composition Enthymeme and Literature Enthymeme and Public Speaking Enthymeme and Education Enthymeme and Second-language Learning
- Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, New York, Wien, 2015. 402 pp., 70 ill.