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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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Michael Dennis Hood - Chapter 4. The Place of the Enthymeme in Composition Studies


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Chapter 4. The Place of the Enthymeme in Composition Studies

When Aristotle talks about rhetoric and dialectic in the opening passages of the Rhetoric, he says that both treat matters which are part of the common knowledge of all people and are not in the realm any particular science. All people use this common knowledge, he points out, when they “endeavor to criticize or uphold an argument, to defend themselves or to accuse” (Rhet. I.2.1–2: 1354a 1). What Aristotle is acknowledging is the fundamental and universal human behavior upon which his understanding of rhetoric is based, namely that human beings are assertion makers and reason givers. When a reason supports an assertion which addresses a relevant question at issue, rather than something outside the issue, and when this reason is implicitly tied to a statement most people believe to be true, then the speaker (or writer) is making an enthymeme. Such enthymemes fall within the province of rhetoric as an art and thus, as Aristotle says, constitute the body of proof.

If the enthymeme is central to rhetorical activity, Aristotle having described the process of assertion making and reason giving which occurs by nature when people disagree, then the enthymeme ought to have important implications for the practice of rhetoric in general and the teaching of composition in particular. Yet the enthymeme, relative to its importance as a device for discovering and ordering proof and for discourse...

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