Constructing chaim perelman: Implications of the new rhetoric for teaching argumentation in the composition classroom
Julie Margaret Farrar
School: Purdue University (0183)
Date: 1994 pp: 241
Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
Source: DAI-A 56/02, p. 529, Aug 1995
Subjects: Language, General (0679); Education, Language And Literature (0279)
ProQuest Document Number:
UMI Number: AAT 9523343
A review of composition scholarship and pedagogy concerning argumentative discourse reveals a focus on analysis and deconstruction of an argument rather than its construction. Over-emphasis on syllogistic reasoning suggests a lack of attention toward argumentation research carried on outside of composition. Significant elements in the New Rhetoric theory of Chaim Perelman are identified and discussed with suggestions on how his theory might inform the teaching of argumentation in the composition classroom. The New Rhetoric rejects structural validity as the measure of arguments because nonmathematical reasoning offers only probable conclusions. Perelman’s theory emphasizes adherence of the audience as both the object and starting point of argumentation. To achieve persuasion the rhetor must utilize values and beliefs shared with the audience. As a result, that audience serves as an inventional tool that aids in the creation of the discourse. If formal logic and its language are not the model of argumentation, then Perelman and other rhetoricians must work within the ambiguities of natural language. Current linguistic theories are applied to persuasive discourse to provide a linguistic description of argumentation. Using script theory, pseudo-invariant and invariant assumptions as well as semantic recursion triggers are identified in texts to support Perelman’s argument that ‘quasi-logical’ arguments gain strength because of their linguistic resemblance to formal logical structures. As Perelman views it, arguments gain strength by using language to achieve ‘presence’ in the mind of the audience, an act which involves creating an association between concepts which are accepted by the audience and those which are less readily accepted. This notion applies to Perelman’s quasi-logical arguments, as well as techniques based on the structure of reality and techniques establishing the structure of reality. The implications of Perelman’s New Rhetoric for composition pedagogy are (1) argumentation pedagogy must shift from mathematical reasoning; (2) students must be taught to build arguments from shared beliefs; (3) they must be taught that arguments derive strength by creating presence, linking ideas to ideas and ideas to readers. The process of constructing arguments and the audience’s role in that endeavor become the focus of the classroom.