Logic is a branch of Rhetoric by Edwin Coleman


I’m interested in argumentation, and I’m certainly interested in abstract reasoning, so this looked interesting. There are echoes of Sperber and epistemic vigilance in here that make me want to revisit it.

“The starting point for rhetoric is the recognition of the three main elements in the rhetorical process, the author, the text and the audience. Now this is quite a crucial point for us since the tendency in logic has been, particularly in our time, to concentrate on the text in abstraction from the author and audience. In a later section I will argue that the concept of good reason cannot be severedfrom these contextual elements.”

“We need to bear in the mind the kind of effect desired by the makers of the speeches which are the original subject of rhetoric. A speaker in a law court is looking for a favourable judgment, and a speaker in a political assembly for a favourable decision. In these two cases the speaker seeks finally to persuade the audience (the judge or jury, the voting body) to act in a certain way. I call this persuasion to. A speaker at a ceremony seeks to obtain a favourable attitude in the audience, to persuade them of the merits or shortcomings of the subject of the speech usually a person. This is  persuasion of. These aims of persuasion stand in contrast to what is generally taken in logic as the sole point of argument, which is to gain the assent of the audience to some proposition this I shall call persuasion that. This distinction which I have introduced should not be thought to create three different fields of endeavour, however, since each kind of speaker is likely to seek all three kinds of persuasion. But the main or final point of a text is generally one or the other.”

“The rhetor must present himself as authoritative, which in Aristotle comprises
being prudent that is capable of discerning the truth about the matter at hand; virtuous that is, characeristically a teller of the truth; and wellintentioned toward the audience so that the truth will be told on this occasion.”

“Since arguments as used in practice are not typically demonstrative, and since in practice the treatment of argument by logicians is not so limited either, it seems to me reasonable todescribe Logic as simply the study of what makes for good in appeal to logos.”

For example the following remark of Salmon’s is just false: “To argue that a conclusion is correct merely because some authority figure accepts it is fallacious.” … That some authority accepts a fact C is a good, though defeasible reason to believe it; but it does not of course explainwhy C is so.”

“Behind such accusations there is an image of what argument and reasoning should be. This image has it that rational belief is based only on valid inference from true premises; that believers are disinterested, seeking only to know truth, unconcerned about money fame etc; and that the purpose of persuasion is solely to spread truth. All three of these ideas are completely erroneous. In reality, communicators have different interests which frequently come into conflict and occasion casemaking; more generally, they have different perspectives and interests which come into conflict and occasion discussion. Limited, interested, motivated, plural: that’s what  communicators are like – why else would communication have come to exist?”

It’s a funny little paper. I’m not sure whether it’s been published as such, but he’s published some related work.


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