(Abstracted from Richard M. Weaver’s Ethics of Rhetoric and Charles K. Follette’s doctoral dissertation, A Weaverian Interpretation of Richard Weaver.)
In the Ethics of Rhetoric Weaver stated that “a man’s method of argument is a truer index in his beliefs than his explicit profession of principles” (Ethics, 58). One’s basis of argument is his or her habit of argument: from cause, definition, circum-stances, etc. Which topoi does the individual habitually employ?
Ultimate terms = god terms and devil terms. This is a Burkean notion. Speaking of the meaning/motivational process, Weaver wrote, “We have seen that rhetorical force must be conceived as a power transmitted through the links of a chain that extends upward toward some ultimate source. The higher links of that chain must always be of unique interest to the student of rhetoric, pointing as they do, to some prime mover of human impulse” (Ethics, 211).
Pertinences = Index to one’s “value hierarchy” Thus, a person who consistently insists that she wants “just the facts, please” presupposes that what is “really real” is empir-ically verifiable. Following one’s discourse up the axiological chain eventually will unveil one’s ultimate good or ultimate reality.
Resonances = The force of stylistic similitude. Resonances “gain their power by being suggestive of an authoritative source” (Follette, 228). Does this individual make biblical allusions as a rule, or is she in the habit of using scientific metaphors, does she borrow the language of the Declaration of Independence, etc? What impact does this have, good or ill, on her audience?