Chaim Perelman on Rhetoric


David Frank (1997)"The New Rhetoric, Judaism, and Post-Enlightenment thought: The Cultural Origins of Perelmanian Philosophy," Quarterly Journal of Speech 83: 311-331,

David Frank argues that Perelman's rhetorical approach is best understood when seen through relationships between rhetoric and Talmudic habits of argument. The Jewish concept Tsedeck (Justice) is taken as crucial to understanding Perelman's work. In Tsedeck, correct orientations are reached by moving between the rational and the reasonable; judgments are made on a case-by-case basis by enactments of argumentation. In this environment, pluralism holds forth without solipsism; the implications of juxtaposed traditions are worked out rhetorically. Community and audience are brought to agreement t on values and justice via communication in a non-violent environment. Frank argues that this interpretation of the "New Rhetoric" places rhetorical practice in a position to redeem the radical dangers of post-modernism. This "third way" stays a middle course between naive positivism and radical skepticism. People are invited to argue about values, with ascendant communitarianism, via justice, upheld throughout.

Materials developed by student study notes from Foss, Foss, and Trapp ( Lori Barnett Rustom Bhathena Calvin Fong Tamatha Greenup).

Study/Learning Objectives

1. To understand why Perelman wanted to change rhetoric.

2. To understand the roles in an argument.

3. To learn the difference between argumentation and demonstration/logic.

4. To learn the importance of audience analysis between a universal and particular group.

5. To comprehend the starting points of argument concerned with reality involve, facts, truth, and presumptions.

6. To understand the starting points that deal with the preferable that involve, values, hierarchies and loci.

7. To see the importance of presence and communion in an argument.

8. To learn various techniques of argumentation in order to gain adherence to conclusions.

9. To be able to demonstrate these techniques and provide examples of each.

10. To deal with incompatibilities within an argument.

A List of Key Concepts with Brief Definitions

Forensic Oratory -

deals with speaking in a court of law. (122)

Deliberative Oratory -

deals with speaking on legislative matters. (122)

Epidiectic Oratory -

deals with ceremonial speaking. (122)

Demonstration -

the use of mathematical techniques that produces a claim that is concrete. (123)

Argumentation -

the study of techniques that uses the mind to calculate the conclusion of a claim through interpersonal interaction. (123)

Audience -

the ensemble of those whom the speaker wishes to influence by his/her argumentation. (124)

Universal audience -

any group of people who are intelligent, competent, and reasonable human beings that can process information to arrive at a conclusion on a particular topic. (124)

Particular audience -

any group of individuals physically present in an assembly. (124)

Self evident facts -

require no justification and an audience expects no reinforcement. (127)

Agreement -

the criterion that defines a fact. (127)

Truths -

refer to some broader principle connecting facts to one another. Truths involve more complex systems. (127)

Presumptions -

Like facts and truths they enjoy universal agreement, however, the audience's adherence to presumptions falls short of being maximum. Presumptions can be reinforced by argumentation. (128)

Values -

are abstract when they are not attached to a particular person or institution. They are concrete whey they are attached to some person, institution, or object. (129)

Hierarchies -

refer to the way values are arranged in terms of importance. Hierarchies are classified as homogeneous and heterogeneous. (129)

Loci -

corresponds to the ways that value hierarchies can be organized. (130)

General loci -

are affirmations about what is presumed to be of higher value in any circumstance whatsoever. (130)

Special loci -

concern what is preferable in special situations. (130)

Presence -

the displaying of certain elements in which the speaker wishes to center attention in order that they may occupy the foreground of the bearer's consciousness. (131)

Communion -

Perelman's term for establishing commonalities or identifying with the audience. (132)

Techniques of liaison -

used to establish a bond between an arguer's starting point and thesis. (134)

Quasi-logical arguments -

used to seek audience adherence (in forms similar to syllogisms or incompatibility). (134)

Succession -

relationship between phenomenon on the same level (cause and effect). (135)

Coexistence -

relationship between phenomenon on the same levels (person and act, act and essence). (135)

Argument by example -

use examples to create a generalization. (136)

Argument by illustration -

Illustrate rule set by argument by example. (136)

Argument by model -

present specific case to be/not be imitated. (136)

Analogy -

argument that adheres to relationship between two pairs. (137)

Theme -

First pair in an analogy. (137)

Phoros -

Second pair in an analogy. (137)

Metaphor -

condensed analogy, theme and phoros are fused. (137)

Techniques of dissociation -

split two ideas (terms) to avoid incompatibility. (137)

Term I -

appearance. (137)

Term II -

reality (in comparison to term I). (137)

Chaim Perelman Chapter Outline

I. Need For A New Rhetoric (122)

A. Attitudes of ancient Greeks were that rhetoric appeared to be the study of a technique used by the common man impatient to arrive at rapid conclusions or to form an opinion without first seriously investigating.

1. Rhetoric stressed matters of style at the expenses of rationality.

2. Rhetoric had not commanded much respect, particularly from philosophers.

B. Aristotle divides rhetoric into three forms.

1. Forensic Oratory deals with speaking in a court of law.

2. Deliberative Oratory deals with speaking on legislative matters.

3. Epidiectic Oratory deals with ceremonial speaking.

a. Audiences could not judge epidiectic oratory on both skill and content.

i. There was a need for values to be assessed rationally.

ii. Questions of value are important to rhetoric.

iii. There was a need for a consensus of the minds of the audience regarding the value celebrated in the speech. II. Argumentation and Logic (123)

II. Perelman's theory of Rhetoric is a theory of Argumentation rather than one that is based on logic/demonstration.

A. Demonstration is formed from a calculated set of rules that are previously set.

1. Demonstration uses mathematical language.

a. Mathematical language offers formulas such as a/b=c/d.

b. The conclusion/claim is produced by reasoning from the premises.

2. Demonstration is impersonal.

3. Demonstration is calculation.

a. Calculation is the deduction of conclusions by adhering to a set of rules.

b. Demonstration's axioms are believed true regardless of audience agreement.

4. The conclusion of demonstration is assumed to be certain.

B. Argumentation uses techniques that increase the adherence of a presented thesis.

1. Argumentation uses naturally ambiguous language of humans to comprehend.

a. The conclusion is based on the attempts to produce adherence to the thesis.

b. The aim of argumentation is assumed from a "meeting of minds".

2. Argumentation is personal.

a. The activity is person-centered for greater understanding.

b. It begins with a premise that the audience accepts.

3. The conclusion of argumentation is a probable one.

III. Audience (124)

A. Perelman's concern with argumentation led him to focus on the audience.

B. All argumentation must be related to the audience.

1. Facts are what the audience believes to be true.

2. Argumentation is a meeting of the minds that requires people to share a frame of reference.

C. The audience is defined as "The ensemble of those whom the speaker wishes to influence by his argumentation" (Perelman qtd. in FFT 124).

D. Perelman believes that there are two types of audiences; the particular, and the universal.

1. The particular audience is the group to be influenced, not merely the group physically present.

2. The universal audience consists of any number all reasonable and competent people.

a. May be all of humanity.

b. The mental concept of what the speaker constructs.

E. The universal audience serves two purposes.

1. It serves as an aid in the choice of arguments and appeals.

2. It serves as a norm or a standard for differentiating good and bad arguments.

IV. The Starting Points of Argumentation (126)

A. The purpose of argumentation is to move an audience from agreement about premises to agreement about some conclusion.

1. The process of argumentation is different from that of demonstration, where the purpose is to produce the "Truth" by reasoning from premises to a conclusion.

2. Argumentation begins with premises the audience accepts.

a. In Perelman's words, "The aim of argumentation is not like demonstration, to prove the truth of the conclusion from premises, but to transfer to the conclusion the adherence accorded to the premises" (Perelman qtd. in FFT 126).

b. Perelman distinguishes between starting points that deal with reality and those that deal with the preferable.

B. Starting Points Dealing with Reality (127)

1. Facts, truths and presumptions are among the starting points of argumentation that deal with reality.

2. Facts are objects that already are agreed to by the universal audience.

a. Because facts are given universal agreement, they are not subject to argumentation.

b. If justification is called for, the data is no longer a fact.

3. Truths involve "more complex systems relating to connections between facts" (Perelman qtd. in FFT 127).

4. Presumptions are the third starting point of argument bearing on the nature of reality and also enjoy universal agreement.

a. Presumptions can be reinforced by argumentation.

b. Audiences expect that which is normal and likely, and presumptions are based on these expectations.

C. Starting Points Dealing with the Preferable (128)

1. Values, hierarchies, and loci deal with matters that hold the adherence of particular audiences.

2. Perelman divides values into two types; abstract and concrete.

a. Values are called abstract when they are not attached to a particular person or institution.

b. Values are considered concrete when they are attached to some person, institution, or object.

3. Hierarchies are more important than values in that they refer to the way values are arranged in terms of importance.

a. Homogeneous hierarchy is one that compares similar values.

b. Heterogeneous hierarchy is more difficult to determine since the values are different and often may come into conflict.

4. Perelman isolates a third starting point of argument related to the preferable that he calls loci.

a. General loci are affirmations about what is presumed to be of higher value in any circumstance.

b. Special loci concern what is preferable in specific situations.

V. Presence and Communion (131)

A. The starting points of argument that a speaker chooses creates presence and communion with his audience in order to illustrate his concept.

1. Presence is created through acting on the senses of the audience.

2. Communion is Perelman's term for establishing commonalties or identifying with the audience.

a. Communion makes a speaker more likely to be persuasive.

b. Communion restates Perelman's notion that the starting point of an argument is agreement.

B. Techniques of Presentation (132)

1. Perelman uses an in-depth look at techniques of presentation.

a. Perelman cannot separate the stylistic aspects of an argument from the content.

b. Argumentation intent is conveyed through the words of a speaker in an argument by choosing one word over another.

2. Argumentation must take into account human language and interpretation.

3. Perelman states that argumentation takes place through the speaker and audience.

a. The speaker must choose techniques to insure presence and communion.

b. A speaker may try to secure the interpretations of his audience by setting the favored interpretation into the foreground and shadowing the others.

4. The listener must choose among various interpretations that might be assigned to the speaker's data.

VI. Techniques of Argumentation (133)

A. Perelman distinguishes two techniques of argumentation; liaison and dissociation.

B. Techniques of liaison (134)

1. Techniques of liaison establish a bond between the starting point and thesis.

2. Liaison can be established through quasi-logical arguments, arguments based on the structure of reality, and arguments that seek to establish the structure of reality.

a. The first method of liaison is the quasi- logical argument.

i. The quasi-logical argument is modeled after the syllogism, while attempting to gain audience adherence.

ii. Incompatibility is another type of quasi- logical argument, in which one is faced with a position in conflict with a position previously held.

b. Next is the argument based on the structure of reality, which deal with associations of succession and coexistence.

i. The association of succession deals with the relationship of phenomena on the same level.

1). An example is the "pragmatic argument", which presumes that the value of an act is determined by its consequences.

ii. Associations of coexistence involve the relationship between phenomenon on different levels.

2). Associations of coexistence "are based on the link that unites a person and his actions" (Perelman qdt. in FFT 135)

c. The third method of liaison is through arguments that establish the structure of reality.

i. The first type is argumentation by example, illustration, and model.

1). Argumentation by example creates generalizations and seeks to establish regularities.

2). Argumentation by illustration sets out to illustrate and clarify the rules set by example.

3). Argumentation by model shows a specific case to be/not be imitated, and also serves as an ideal for legal precedent.

ii. The second category is argumentation by analogy and metaphor.

1). The analogy seeks to gain adherence about the similarity between the two pairs involved (the "theme" and "phoros" of the analogy).

2). The theme and phoros are joined together in a condensed analogy, known as the metaphor.

C. Techniques of Dissociation (137)

1. The aim of dissociation is to split one idea into two to avoid incompatibility.

2. One must present the philosophical pairs of "term I" and "term II".

a. Term I corresponds to appearance.

b. Term II deals with reality.

i. Term II is understood in comparison to term I.

ii. Term II aims to terminate "incompatibilities that may appear between different aspects of term I" (Perelman qtd in FFT 137).

c. By dividing the ideas into two terms, the speaker avoids presenting a conclusion that is incompatible with the thesis.

VII. Responses to Perelman (138)

A. Negative responses

1. Critics hold that Perelman does not work out the details of the relationship between the techniques of arguments and the audience.

a. They ask the question that if the certain techniques are persuasive to certain or general audiences.

b. A minor criticism is that Perelman uses two different criteria to distinguish among the techniques.

2. Critics found Perelman's notion of the universal audience to be excessively ambiguous and formal.

B. Positive responses

1. Some critics say that Perelman's perspective allows us to understand "how the arguer develops arguments and the critic of argumentation analyzes argument from this value-centered perspective" (Walker and Sillars qtd. in FFT 139).

VIII. Selected, Annotated , Readings

Perelman, Chaim. "The New Rhetoric and the Rhetoricians: Remembrances and Comments." Quarterly Journal of Speech. Vol. 70 (1984), 188-196.

Chaim Perelman writes this article in an effort to explain his writings and theories on a universal and particular audience. He analyzes how other rhetoricians studied and elaborated on his work. He defends those parts of his theory that he feels have been misinterpreted. He also elaborates on his theory where questions have been presented. To summarize, this article states Perelman's theory as breaking down each area of the universal audience to eliminate any misinterpretations.

Perelman, Chaim. "Act and Person in Argumentation." Ethics, 61 (July 1951), 251-69. (With L. Olbrechts-Tyteca). Perelman and Tyteca explain in their article the importance of the act and person involved in Argumentation. They do so by first examining the audience structure. They break that down to the act and person. Within the act there exists a connection of coexistence and systemization. Most important is that the person is the element to stability. They examine the influence of the act on the conception of person and that of the person on his act.

Perelman, Chaim. "Techniques of Argumentation" The Realm of Rhetoric. London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982. Perelman distinguishes his techniques of argumentation from formal logic. He states that due to the audience's varied levels of adherence, the status of elements in the arguments are not fixed. Because facts, truths, and the interpretation of datum can be questioned, the status depends on the real or presumed adherence of the audience. This adherence is itself dependent on the appraisal of the arguments and the value of the solutions offered. Perelman gives brief previews of his techniques of liaison and dissociation.

Perelman, Chaim. "The Dissociation of Ideas" The Realm of Rhetoric. London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982. Perelman guards against incompatibility with his technique of dissociation. He states that the immediate appearance can have the status as either the expression of reality, or the source of error and illusion. Reality, which is known through appearances, thus becomes the basis through which we judge the appearances. Reality (term II) can either confirm the actuality of the appearance (term I), or can mark the appearance as a fallacy. Reality constructs a hierarchy of values to keep and discard the multiple aspects of the appearance.

Long, Richard. "The Role of Audience in Chaim Perelman's New Rhetoric." Journal of Advanced Composition. Vol. IV (1983), 107-116.

This article reviews Perelman's development of presence and communion in a universal and particular audience. He discusses how Perelman believes that presence is created through the rhetor's analysis of his audience. The rhetor then creates presence with the audience using this information. Once a rhetor has created presence then he can proceed to create communion through the use of his language. The rhetor must find objects of agreement in order to commune with his audience. Long explains how Perelman developed this theory.

Crosswhite, James. "Universality in Rhetoric: Perelman's Universal Audience." Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 22 (1989), 157-172.

James Crosswhite develops and applies a new way to discover the types of universality in rhetoric and whether rhetorical theory can meet the objection philosophers have made to rhetoric. Crosswhite makes the claim that there are ways to distinguish valid from effective argumentation. He also claims that Perelman's theory of an account of rationality which neither disguises nor undervalues the particular ethical interests of reason.

Wallace, Karl R., "Topoi and the Problem of Invention" Quarterly Journal of Speech. (1958), 387-395. Wallace writes about the study of invention and believes that inventing is at he heart of all communication. He believes that in the process of communicating man is perceiving, defining, interpreting, judging, evaluating, criticizing, and arguing. Wallace states that the process of these operations is called searching. Which means we direct attention towards goals and expectations in the anticipation of something to result. Wallace concludes that a system of topoi is an orderly way of searching for meaningful utterances.

Dearin, Ray D., The New Rhetoric of Chaim Perelman: Statement and Response. University Press of America, (1989) 91-98. Dearin discusses Perelman's value judgments, justifications and argumentation. Dearin believes that one can only justify an object of condemnation or criticism, what can be judged an action or agent. Justification of an action or agent is based on society and what is accepted as a norm. Dearin gives some techniques for criticizing and justifying some conduct.

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