Propositions for Educating Students in a Modern World
Edited By Jorge Juan Vega y Vega
Chapter 2. The Enthymeme as a Practical Rhetorical Concept for Teaching Composition (Michael Dennis Hood)
Michael Dennis Hood Chapter 2. The Enthymeme as a Practical Rhetorical Concept for Teaching Composition We are all in the dumps. For diamonds are trumps; The kittens are gone to St. Paul’s! The babies are bit. The moon’s in a ﬁt. And the houses are built without walls! (English nursery rhyme) Interpreting the enthymeme in the larger context of Aristotle’s philosophical system is especially important because it reveals that the enthymeme is best understood as a process for discovering proof in the contingent world of human affairs1 rather than as a static entity whose form is measured against the requirements of the syllogism and found wanting. Once the enthymeme is understood as a process, it becomes clear that it is neither an exotic nor a hopelessly complicated concept, but reﬂects the way the mind works and 1 Aristotle’s four causes are helpful in explaining how this process works in that the es- sential activity of rhetoric involves the dynamic interaction of the material and formal causes brought about by the speaker (efficient cause) to discover proof (ﬁnal cause). The material cause of the speech or writing occasion is the question at issue and the common beliefs, values, knowledge, and experiences held by the audience. The formal cause is the three propositions of the enthymeme (assertion, assumption, and because clause), each performing a different function. The assertion is the response to the ques- tion at issue (conclusion); the assumption (provided by the audience) is the shared basis of argument (major...
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