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The Essential Enthymeme

Propositions for Educating Students in a Modern World

Edited By Jorge Juan Vega y Vega

The enthymeme in education is essential because it reflects what humans do when they think. It informs not only how we make inferences about the world to discover new knowledge, but also how we express those discoveries to influence the minds of others. Thus, the enthymeme provides an effective pedagogical approach to the analysis and synthesis of ideas in the classroom. In this volume, such an approach is applied to composition instruction, second-language learning, advertising, specialized medical texts, and detective fiction to help prepare students for the challenges of modern life. (Michael D. Hood)


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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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