Bizzell and Herzberg: Enlightenment Rhetoric: Introduction

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds. Enlightenment Rhetoric: Introduction. The rhetorical tradition : readings from classical times to the present. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin''s, 2001. 791-813. Print.





Great ideas of Enlightenment: empiricism, rationalism, and psychology. All impacted rhetoric (812).


Rhetoric in the Enlightenment: An Overview


Influenced by scientific and philosophical revolutions of 17th C:


  • Indirect: change of conception of logic. Ramistic limited to style and delivery, giving invention and arrangement to logic (b/c L pursued "Truth"). Experimental science and inductive reasoning changed that. Ciceronian (5 canons) became foundation of rhetorical study 17th well into 18th C(791-2).
  • Late 17th C, traditional rhetoric became associated with belles lettres (history, poetry, lit crit); lit was seen as purposeful, to please and instruct. Persuasion "consonant" with poetry. Also influenced by psychology (reaoning and imagination key mental faculties [792]).  By end of 17th C, counter movement-- called for perspicuity.
  • Bacon''s theory of psychology; divides mind into productive and receptive operations.
  • Elocution movement --focused on delivery-- began early 18th C through 19th. Correct pronunciation and even physical expression (again, used psychological concepts of nonverbal appeals)


In the eighteenth century, then, rhetoric could offer a link to the classical period, an analysis of taste and literary judgment, instruction in correct and effective speaking, and a respectable scientific theory of psychological persuasion...the rhetorical theories of the Enlightenment are intimately linked to the intellectual and social developments that shaped the modern world. (792)


Seventeenth-Century Rhetoric


Philosophy and Rhetoric in the Seventeenth Century


Bacon divided intellect into faculties: memory, imagination, reason | will, appetite. Formulation: "rhetoric applies reason to the imagination to move the will" (793). View was in many ways in opposition to Ramistic views that had held sway. Bacon restores invention to rhetoric. Scorns use of deductive logic as form of inquiry; argued only inductive thinking can produce new knowledge.


Descartes: forget argument, everything is solitary mental analysis. Rejected Scholastic logic of disputation. Cogito ergo sum. D argued that scholarly dispute is about winning, not truth. Experiment preferable to disputre for scholarly investigation. "Because syllogism relies on established premises, it can convey knowledge but not produce it" (793). Defines the investigative method as a process of building on self-evident truths by careful division, sequential addition, and the search for causal connection (794).


Views were made popular by Port-Royal Logic (1662). In it, Arnauld and Nicole identify four mental operations:


  • conceiving--forming ideas and attaching words to them
  • judging--connects and compares ideas ad formulates propositions about them
  • reasoning--corrects for fallacies and prejudice, using syllogism as aid
  • ordering--organizes ideas for presentation (794).


Pascal (associated with Port-Royalists): proofs by scientific demonstration appeal to understanding only; one must consider the desires and the will in successful persuasion (794).


Traditional Rhetoric and the Problem of Style


Traditional rhetoric still used in schools, courts, parliaments, and pulpits. Ciceronians still used five canons (opposition to Ramists); both preserved syllogism, commonplaces, emphasized tropes and figures. Ornate was still considered impressive, which was interpreted as effective.


Issue of ornateness or plainness: Ciceronian vs. Senecan (not truly plain, just don''t be flowery for flowery''s sake). Characterized by long sentences, less symmetrical, fewer Latin borrowings, less flamboyant tropes. Bacon noted that the style "often strained after wit and weight that was not earned by the thought expressed" (794).


Pulpit oratory often targeted for "stylistic excess." Fénelon''s Dialogues on Eloquence (ca. 1679) attacks; calls for "''natural'' delivery and gestury, ''natural'' organization, real knowledge of the subject matter, and real conviction" (794-95). Wilkins (1646) argues "the greatest learning is to be seen in the greatest plainesse"; warns preachers against "a starched speech full of a puerile worded Rhetorick"" (795).


The Attack on Rhetoric


Some argued that rhetoric "seemed to be an art of obfuscation" (795) out of touch with old logic and new science. Rhetoric still used in European schools (which rejected Cartesian theory). Port-Royal Logic mostly result of a failed attempt at anti-Jesuit school that combined religion, math, sci, history, and French (vernacular! radical!).


British Royal Society (1660) envisioned a world without rhetoric, "plain language as clear as glass--so many words for so many things" (795). Thomas Sprat / BRS''s mission: "to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver''d so many things, almost in an equal number of words" (qtd. in Bizzell and Herzberg 796).


Wilkins developed a new symbol system to link words with things (no more metaphor/connotation). Mathematical (here comes science). Follows suggestion made by Bacon to use Chinese for a model; European languages defective b/c too many different uses for words. Mocked in Gulliver''s Travels.


Rhetoric and Belles Lettres


French began to link rhetoric to genres of history and literary criticism. The salon; also, Academie Française for protecting the French language. Belletrists'' heroes are Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian (b/c superb observers of human nature). Eloquence = appeal to human nature (798).


John Locke and the Idea of Human Nature


Locke divides mind into two faculties: understanding and will. "Understanding reflects upon perceptions and produces ideas that are then related by association" (798). All terms/words stand for ideas, not things. Also affected by culture, community, the individual. Locke also argues that the primary ideas area identical and only the words are ambiguous (!?!?). Rhetoric may be ok for popular discourse but not for instructing or informing (799).


Eighteenth-Century Rhetoric


Epistemology, Semantics, and Linguistics


Big move to "fix" language. Noted names: Leibniz, Bishop Berkeley. Condillac (Essai sur l''origine des connaissances humaines 1746) -- language condition of knowledge (can''t communicate until having language; analysis of knowledge is primary function of language). We reason well or badly only because our language is well or poorly made (799). In Grammaire (1775) endorses search for universal grammar.


Scientific study of language > linguistics. Port-Royal. Diderot and D''Alembert''s Encyclopédie (1750-72) grammar is coincident with metaphysics; fundamental order of language is same as fundamental order of thought. de Tracy (1801) would define philosophy as "the combination of ideology (the analysis of sensations and ideas, the content of philosophy), universal grammar (the method of philosophy), and logic (or correct reasoning, the goal of philosophy)" (800).


Vico disagrees with Décartes-- "On the Study Methods of Our Time" (1709) V argues that much human knowledge is contingent and knowledge cannot be separated from language. Rhetoric (porobabilities and language) better than Cartesian method for investigating knowledge. Even questions certainty of physics and mathematics. States Cartesian method appropriate for science, but not human affairs (multiply circumstances and relative causality) (800). The New Science (1725), V claims human knowledge only certain knowledge; natural (God-made) is uncertain. Searches for universal language. Three stages to origin-based history that link society, psychology, and language. First stage is poetic (knowledge develops through metaphor); heroic (individual subordinates to nation through creation of laws); human (self-conscious, democratic, individualistic), which leads to dissolution and repetition of cycle (800-01). 


CORRECTNESS: Development of dictionaries, concepts of "fixing" the language through law. Prescriptive grammars. Sir William Jones (1786) finds similarities in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit-- sets stage for modern linguistics.


The Elocution Movement


Correctness movement extends to pronunciation. Irish actor Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788) claimed to be reviving delivery and restoring it to its place in rhetorical study. Growing from Wilkins and Fénelon''s work in 17th C. In British Education (1756) calls for revival of oratory (detailed study and appreciation of oral performance). Expresses it as almost a way to save society. Sheridan also has pronouncing dictionary. (803). Lectures from 1756-62 complain about dominance of writing over speaking. Points out issues of meaning (pronunciation and emphasis) lost in writing. Argues writing (human crafted) inferior to speech (God-given). Notes that words not only constitutent of language-- also oral interpretation, vocal expressiveness, and gestures. 


Edinburgh intellectuals--the Select Society-- include Hume, Blair, Adam Smith, and Lord Kames. Correct pronunciation. Smith wanted to elevate through rhetoric and belles lettres; scientific attitude toward language study and communication.


See influence in later works like Austin''s Chironomia (1896) develops system of notation for posture, gensture, facial expression, movement.


In London, debate became important part of speech education.


Rhetoric and Belles Lettres


Augustans-- Swift and Pope-- saw selves as rhetoricians. Study of "man" proper activity of poet (804). Study relied on idea that "human nature was impermanent, that reason was the quintissential human characteristic, and that true knowledge about people came from examining recurrent experiences" (804). Wanted to improve society (use good conversation/ satire if necessary).


Ciceronian advocates still around.


Locke regarded as humanist by Augustans b/c his psychology seemed to point to general laws and common experience (805). Empiricism seen "as the search not for data and details but for the essential truths of human experience" (805).


Classicism and rationalism reconciled in France. Rapin likens logos to appeal to faculty of understanding and pathos to affection and will.


Adam Smith-- 1748, 1750s, 1760s lectures. Searches for rational origin for language; supposes a universal grammar. Perspicuity goal; depends on knowledge of subject and "natural" arrangement. Style= personality of speaker/writer, and is important as well (806). Style= expression of character, "accurate" or "affecting." Brings together rhetoric and belles lettres. The appeal to passions is not a threat to reason and understanding but natural to communication. "All that separates history and poetry... is that one is prose and the other is verse" (807).


George Campbell and Epistemological Rhetoric


Campbell (1719-1796). Scottish. seeks to "ground rhetoric in the science of human nature...[and] make rhetoric an essential element of that science" (808). For each mental faculty, Campbell identifies corresponding form of communication and its proper style. Perspicuity is for information; argument for convincing. Fine arts please faculty of imagination; pathos moves passions, vehemence persuades the will to action. Campbell "argues that persuasion is the culmination of the sequence:... informing, convincing, pleasing, moving, and then persuading" (808).


Refutes Hume (1711-76) who believes that true knowledge only comes from experience and reflection. For Hume, revelation is fantasy and testimony unreliable (isn''t that Plato?)


Campbell argues moral knowledge and scientific knowledge rely on same mental operations. Not certain vs. probability but degree of probability (808).


Hugh Blair''s Synthesis: Epistemology and Belles Lettres


Blair (1718-1800) had most popular rhetoric book of time: Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783). Seems to ride the popular wave. Middle ground between philosophy and politics. Taste = power of getting pleasure from beautiful things; can be corrupted by prejudice or enhanced by reason. Influenced by Hume. Conviction comes from reason and argument; persuasion combines conviction with techniques to stimulate feelings and move the will. Techniques are method (organization), ethos, style (aesthetic and pathetic appeals) and delivery (810). Invention means knowledge of subject--not topoi.


Education and Society in an Era of Reform


Locke-- social contract. Voltaire, Rousseau, Smith''s Wealth of Nations, American Revolution. Tradition not the way to reveal truth; scientific attitude. Apply to social/ political situations. Fénelon addresses issue of women''s and early childhood education.


Society of Friends (equality and speaking)


Rousseau argued for vernacular in education; education = studied of psychology of learning. Education as a social/ formative structure that could benefit society.