"The Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1 (January, 1968), 1-14.
I. What Bitzer says that he doesn't mean:
a. not merely that context is important.
b. not merely that speaker, audience, subject, purpose interact.
c. not merely that rhetoric=persuasion.
d. not merely that the discourse is rooted in historic context.
II. What Bitzer does mean by the rhetorical situation:
"Hence, to say that rhetoric is situational means:
(1) rhetorical discourse comes into existence as a response to a situation, in the same sense that an answer comes into existence in response to a question or a solution in response to a problem;
(2) a speech is given rhetorical significance by the situation, just as a unit of discourse is given significance as answer or as solution by the question or problem;
(3) a rhetorical situation must exist as a necessary condition of rhetorical discourse, just as a question must exist as a necessary condition of an answer;
(4) many questions go unanswered and many problems remain unsolved; similarly, many rhetorical situations mature and decay without giving birth to rhetorical utterance;
(6) discourse is rhetorical insofar as it functions, (or seeks to function) as a fitting response to a situation which needs and invites it.
(7) Finally, the situation controls the rhetorical response in the same sense that the question controls the answer and the problem controls the solution. Not the rhetor and not persuasive intent, but the situation is the source and ground of rhetorical activity--and, I should add, of rhetorical criticism.
III. The difference:
The latter implies that "rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action. The rhetor alters reality by bringing into existence a discourse of such character that the audience, in thought and action, is so engaged that it becomes mediator of change. In this rhetoric is always persuasive."
IV. So the rhetorical situation
may be defined as:
"a complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence.
Prior to the creation and presentation of the discourse, there are three constituents of any rhetorical situation: the first is the exigence; the second and third are elements of the complex, namely the audience to be constrained in decision and action, and the constraints which influence the rhetor and can be brought to bear upon the audience."
V. Constituent elements:
Audience (universal/particular--those capable of being influenced and those capable of influencing)
Life cycles of situations