Perelman, Chaïm "The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning"

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In "The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning" Chaim Perelman starts his essay by explaining the fall out of classical rhetoric and how current rhetoric is different from the definitions it used to have. He doesn’t disavow the idea of classical rhetoric completely, though; he gives examples showing that classical rhetoric was practical, rather than just empty style. Perelman tells how he discovered what he calls new rhetoric by studying how people make value judgments (connects with dialectical reasoning). Since the new rhetoric is “a theory of argumentation,” it is important to understand what differentiates argumentation from simply demonstrating (153). A demonstration is based off of rules and guidelines that were previously created. In demonstration, the orator/rhetor does not try to persuade or compel his or her audience. Argumentation, however, has the purpose of moving the audience, persuading the audience, communicating with the audience, and getting the audience to listen (154-55). All argumentation, therefore, must be made to be effective to its audience. This is where new rhetoric differentiates from classical rhetoric. New rhetoric “has a wider scope as nonformal reasoning that aims at obtaining or reinforcing the adherence of an audience” (155).

After learning what new rhetoric is, Perelman teaches us how it works. There are the uses of facts, truths, presumptions, values, hierarchies, and loci of the preferable. Facts and truths are universally agreed upon; the orator does not need to spend his or her time trying to get the audience to believe these facts/truths. Values play the role of moving the audience, influencing their decisions. Perelman mentions that values that may seem universal are really not. He argues there is just a desire for an universal agreement. In any situation, the orator must “know the opinion of [his or her] audience,” so he or she can answer any questions asked (159). The orator must have prepared his argument with relevant information both to the audience and the subject. They must also know what they considered a strong/weak argument, what type of argument his audience will care for (listen to), and what type of argument his audience won’t care about (159). The orator must choose an effective argument and structure it so his or her audience comes to his or her desired conclusion.

Perelman talks about Quasi Logical arguments that use an artificial language so “one sign can have only one meaning” (162). There are also arguments that appeal to the real, meaning they are based on reality’s structure. Arguments that attempt to establish the real are arguments trying to generate a reality.

Perelman also discusses how to deal with dissociation. According to him, philosophers use dissociation to move the audience from common sense into a “vision of reality” that doesn’t have conflict of opinions.

Glossary Terms

The following key terms are defined in the Glossary: aesthetics, antilogy, apodictic philosophy, axiom, categorical imperative, classical rhetoric, dialectical reasoning, existentialism, exordium, forensic speaking, instrumental value judgment, intuitionism, logical empiricism, New Rhetoric, positivist, empiricism, proofs, rationalism, subjectivism, tautology

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