Rhetorical Reasoning

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Rhetorical Reasoning

“A faculty of wise interrogating is half a knowledge.”
–Francis Bacon

Rhetorical invention entails both a techne of argumentation and a faculty (dunamis) of discovery (theoresai) that relies for its efficacy upon phronesis. That faculty of discovery that precedes argumentation is rhetorical reasoning. Rhetorical reasoning may be defined as the faculty of discovering, in tough cases, the crux of the matter. Rhetorical reasoning, conceptualized systematically, will entail the following key elements:

  • case centeredness
  • discursive moral inquiry guided by topical logic
  • stasiastic doctrine
  • maxims
  • phronesis
  • a mode of dialectical inference

For much of history the dunamis to theoresai of rhetoric has been left to chance or native ability, and the techne aspect of rhetoric has been privileged so that invention has been associated primarily with building arguments and neglected as a means of inquiry. The art of rhetorical inquiry “has not been taught seriously and widely for at least two hundred years” (Bitzer and Black, The Prospect of Rhetoric, 1971, p. 239).

My project, to conceptualize the methodology of rhetorical reasoning, responds substantively to such neglect in four ways: First, it helps to promote a fuller understanding of both the function and scope of rhetoric. Second, it capitalizes on Albert Jonsen’s casuistry by means of a close study of actual durational rhetorical practice. Third, it suggests why conceptualizing rhetorical reason is especially important to the success of rhetoric’s restoration to centrality in both theory and practice, because the method of rhetorical reason must be stabilized before its practical utility will be realized.

In the final analysis, this conceptualization of rhetorical reasoning has the potential to broaden the domain of rhetorical inquiry to include precisely those practical fields that need it most and will testify to its utility as an architectonic art. The ancient conception of rhetorical reasoning underscores how the contemporary quest for rhetorical reason holds implications for a communal (as opposed to individual) ethics. Rhetorical theorists will appreciate the implications of this project regarding practical applications for special topics.


Essays on “Rhetorical Intelligence” by Dr. Tallmon

Read the “statement of the problem” regarding the need in our time to restore to its proper status rhetorical invention.  Restoring Rhetorical Invention (this paper was lost to me until June 1, 2017!)

Read “Toward a Grammar of Rhetorical Reason” (a case study that locates and isolates, in the talk of an actual ethics committee deliberation, the methodology of rhetorical reasoning.)

Read the companion to the above essay, “Toward a Rhetorical Ethics,” which examines theoretical implications of the methodology of Rhetorical Reason found in “Toward a Grammar of Rhetorical Reason”

Read “Newman’s Contribution to Conceptualizing Rhetorical Reason” a related essay, extracted from my doctoral dissertation.

Read “Retooling the Topoi”

Read “Casuistry” from the Oxford Encylopedia of Rhetoric

and its companion piece:  “Five Facets of Phronesis in Rhetorical Reasoning”  (also “parted out” from the dissertation)

Study here, on RhetoricRing.com, how I teach in tandem dialectic and rhetoric to cultivate wisdom and eloquence.

Read “The Thrill is Gone” (only somewhat germane to rhetorical reasoning, but, still, kind of fun!)


All the above are being forged into chapters of my forthcoming New Methodica (in which I attempt to establish the province of “rhetorical intelligence”). Sometimes, I think I should subtitle this work,”Rhetoric: The Most Valuable Treasure Nobody is Looking For.” Perhaps, after the election of 2016, we will rediscover the desirability of maintaining civil discourse, of sitting down at the table of brotherhood, across from one another, actually listening to one another and exercising empathy. Rhetorical intelligence will be key in any effort to bridge that which divides us and in the restoration of social bonds.

Please grant me the courtesy of notifying me if you plan on using any of the material posted here in your work. I am interested in your researches. Thank You.