Enlightenment Rhetoric


  • Thought Essays
  • Midterm (Bring green books next week!)
  • Study guide on Canvas


  • Reason in the Modern Age- Descartes and Locke
  • Vico

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Define "love"

Age of Enlightenment - Modernity

...radical questioning of traditional religious ideas, placing reason above authority, seeking scientific solutions to social problems, and understanding the universe as governed by the laws of physics.

Rhetoric on an individual level versus public level

Rhetoric as Discovering vs Communicating Knowledge

Discovery of Knowledge: Mind & Senses


  • Considered the "father" of modern Western philosophy
I think, therefore I am

Mind-Body Dualism

Can you imagine yourself without a body?

Can you imagine yourself without your mind?

Bodies represented in philosophy: as animal, appetites, deceiver, prison of the soul

Then, do we trust the mind or body more?

"Don't be so emotional, think logically"

Would rhetoric be seen more as the body or the mind?

Mathematics and science as ideal form of reason and knowledge production


  • One of the most influential philosophers of Enlightenment Age
Tabula Rasa

Do you think this is true?

Simple knowledge vs Complex knowledge

Senses more trustable

Language is too ambiguous

What did you write down earlier?

Need to simplify language

Is a universal language possible?

Descartes & Locke

How do you know something is true? One says the mind ; one says the senses


  • Italian Humanist (Late Renaissance Humanist)
  • Professor of Rhetoric in Naples
  • Critiques Descartes
  • Was seen as eccentric
  • One of the few for rhetoric during this period
“If only Italy had listened to Giambattista Vico … our eighteenth century ancestors … would not have believed that reason was our first faculty, but on the contrary that imagination was.” (Paul Hazzard)

Vico vs Descartes

Review Descartes: Mind/body

What did Descartes think was the ideal form of reason and knowledge production?

Math uses symbols, too

Rhetoric > Science

  • Science cannot solve social problems (ex. Immigration)
  • Science threatens sensus communis (common sense) beliefs, values
  • Need language/rhetoric for science
Perhaps language itself originated with rhetorical devices that were native to the human imagination. Language allowed people to impose order on their existence, to create meaning out of meaninglessness, and to develop societies. (Vico)


Defined: innate ability to grasp similarities & relationships

  • Imagination = human nature
  • Imagination is precursor to logic
  • All language is symbolic action


Rhetoric should be central in education

"Like Bacon, I would maintain that the moderns are led astray by their fondness for that strictly deductive form of reasoning which the Greeks called sorites. The person who uses the syllogism brings no new element, since the conclusion is already implied in the initial proposition or assumption: analogously, those who employ the sorites merely unfold the secondary truth which lies within the primary statement."
"But the greatest drawback of our educational methods is that we pay an excessive amount of attention to the natural sciences and not enough to ethics....Our young men, because of their training, which is focused on these studies, are unable to engage in the life of the community, to conduct themselves with sufficient wisdom and prudence; nor can they infuse into their speech a familiarity with human psychology or permeate their utterances with passion. When it comes to the matter of prudential behavior in life, it is well for us to keep in mind that human events are dominated by Chance and Choice, which are extremely subject to change and which are strongly influenced by simulation and dissimulation (both pre-eminently deceptive things). As a consequence, those whose only concern is abstract truth experience great difficulty in achieving their means, and great difficulty in attaining their ends."



  • Elocutionary and Belletristic Movements
  • Richard Whately's 'presumption' & 'burden of proof'


Don't worry about anything UNDER this...

Bridge In

Why do you think people were inspired by this speech?

Elocutionary Movement

  • 18th century Britain
  • Focus was on eloquent expression of English (delivery)

Thomas Sheridan

  • Irish actor
  • Poor preaching is threatening health of British religion
“Before you can persuade a man into any opinion, he must first be convinced that you believe it yourself. This he can never be, unless the tones of voice in which you speak come from the heart, accompanied by corresponding looks, and gestures, which naturally result from a man who speaks in earnest.”

What are some components of good delivery?

Tone Exercise- Ham Sandwich

Belletristic Movement

  • Beautiful language
  • Focus on taste and style in language


Defined: the ability to recognize and appreciate high quality in literature and other art, was in Kames’ view a largely natural quality of some individuals (Kennedy 176)


when we are examining an author’s composition, it is, in many cases, extremely difficult to separate the Style from the sentiment. (Blair)

Richard Whately

  • Not too concerned with the philosophical issues of rhetoric
  • Focused on practical argument
  • Traditional concepts in argumentation and debate: presumption & burden of proof


“pre-occupation of the ground, as implies that it must stand good till some sufficient reason is adduced against it.”

Burden of Proof

The accuser or affirmative side


On a sheet of paper, think of two reasons why our class should have pop quizzes.

Split into sides and decide your designated speakers

  • Affirmative Speech
  • Neg Questions Aff
  • Negative Speech
  • Aff Questions Neg
  • Negative Closing
  • Affirmative Closing

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