Posted by: Moses | November 2, 2007

More Than a Pile of Bricks

George Campbell describes eloquence as ‘that art or talent by which the discourse is adapted to its end.” This definition seems new, a genuine contribution to the great conversation. Whereas others have offered ends based definitions such as Plato’s “a [rhetor] must know the truth about all the particular things of which he speaks,” Campbell offers four foundational ends that the means of rhetoric drives at: understanding, pleasure, evoking emotions, and finally influencing the will. This conception of rhetoric as a means seems helpful in delineating a specific trans-discipline role for all five canons of rhetoric. Rhetoric is not merely style, but nor is it Plato’s impossible attainment of knowing and communicating all truth. Such Rhetoric becomes a method of discovering truth and presenting it well to achieve a purpose. Such a construct allows for qualitative distinctions among rhetors: good, bad, worse, better, skilled, or unskilled based upon their art rather than upon either the rhetor’s essence or the end he accomplishes. This conception can transcend specific disciplines and be applied wherever it is needed. Furthermore it provides a much more useful word to the English language, with a broad enough domain to service the wide range of ideas we search for to describe persuasive communication.

In Chapter IV of The Philosophy of Rhetoric, Campbell presents Grammar and Logic as foundations for Rhetoric. Ramus would have been proud of his careful denomination of terms throughout this work. There are no Scholastic square pegs shoved into rationally round holes here. He clearly delineates a distinction between Grammar and Logic, but contends that they birth a new creature, Rhetoric. In Campbell’s words, “as in man, each of these constituent parts hath its distinctive attributes, and…the latter consisteth in its fitness for serving the purposes of the former.” Grammar serves Logic, and together they are the parents of Rhetoric.

However, Rhetoric is not merely good grammar added to logic. Rhetoric has to be the planned fusion of the two. Campbell asserts that “it is alike incumbent on the orator to design and to execute. He must, therefore, be master of the language he speaks or writes, and must be capable of adding to grammatic purity those higher qualities of elocution which will render his discourse graceful and energetic.” His argument would deny eloquence to presidential addresses and all other speeches drafted by a secondary writer. I believe I would agree; there, this pseudo-eloquence is merely style added to someone else’s conception of what should be said. To extend upon Campbell’s architect analogy, it seems to me that a house is obviously more than merely bricks and steel. There is a plain difference between a pile of rubble and an erect house even if composed of exactly the same materials. Logic seems parallel to the architect’s plans and grammar to the raw materials. Plans alone are worthless to accomplish anything worthwhile; the pile of rubble seems equally useless. However, when they are combined successfully, they produce a useful structure capable of sheltering and serving its creator. A house is more than just bricks and a plan; there is a third, distinct, ordering and acting force that changes materials into a product. In the same way, rhetoric exists as a distinct discipline, a similar fusion and application of five distinct disciplines: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. This art of rhetoric, adapts all five disciplines into a single means to accomplish a chosen end.

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Responses

  1. do you have anything about rhetoric that defines all of this more?

  2. Well… you could read Campbell’s work. I’m going beyond Campbell’s work, but he is the foundation.

  3. *bit of a glare for password protecting posts. . . *


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