Figures of Argument
Rhetoricians taught their students to construct arguments by having them consider certain enduring sources or lines of arguments (called topoi or loci), such as definition, consequence, comparison, reversal, etc. In rhetorical style manuals, a group of figures of speech, called schemes, were associated with certain lines of argument as their most succinct and complete syntactic realizations. Arguments did not have to be expressed in these schemes, but these schemes were in a sense prepared iconic forms for these arguments. This chapter covers the most common of these schemes and illustrates their use. Parallelism can link phrases or clauses at the level of syllable length (isocolon), stress patterns, grammatical constituents, and absolute repetition. The rhetorical manuals were especially precise on the placement of repeated wording (e.g., anaphora, epistrophe). Parallel structures epitomize arguments from comparison and can support inductive and eductive (or abductive) arguments. Antithesis is a scheme that deploys pairs of opposed terms in parallel constructions. It epitomizes the argument from opposites, priming the plausible inference that, as pointed out by Aristotle, “opposites should lie with opposites.” (For example, if excess is bad, moderation is good.) The antimetabole inverts the relative position of key terms in parallel phrases (e.g., When the going gets tough, the tough get going). This scheme expresses reciprocal ties, as in two-way causality or in identity statements. Finally, even the key argumentative move of defining had a prescribed syntactic form (definitio) in the rhetorical manuals.
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