Enlightenment Rhetoric


  • Thought Essay #3 due next week


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

Check in

On a sheet of paper, define the word 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.

What do you think Enlightenment thinkers thought of rhetoric?

Rhetoric on an individual level versus public level

Rhetoric as Discovering vs Communicating Knowledge


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

Mind vs Body Dualism

Can imagine yourself without a body, but you can't imagine yourself without a mind

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

Then, do we trust the mind or body?

Considering this, would rhetoric be seen more as the body or the mind?

How might this relate back to content vs form?

Mathematics and science as ideal form of reason and knowledge production


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

Simple knowledge vs Complex knowledge

Language is too ambiguous

Need to simplify language

Is a universal language possible?


On the same sheet of paper, draw me a picture of 'love'


  • Italian Humanist
  • Professor of Rhetoric
  • Critiques Descartes
  • Was seen as eccentric
“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

Math uses symbols, too

Rhetoric > Science

  • Science cannot solve social problems
  • Science threatens sensus communis (common sense) beliefs, values
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
  • Neutral language is a misconception
  • All language is symbolic action


For Vico, is rhetoric as a form of discovering knowledge or communicating knowledge?


  • Thought Essay #3 Due next Friday
  • Taking out Thought Essay #5
  • Quizzes will continue next week


  • Elocutionary and Belletristic Movements
  • Richard Whately's 'presumption' & 'burden of proof'
  • Thought Essay #3 Guidelines


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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