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Rhetoric and Dialectic

Peter Mack

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Aristotle, Plato

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Rhetoric and dialectic are closely related theories of (and trainings in) →  Persuasion . They have some distinct bodies of doctrine (e.g., the topics of invention and the enthymeme belong to dialectic; the theory of disposition and the figures of speech to rhetoric) but over time they have also overlapped and annexed each other's territory (→  Rhetoric and Philosophy ). Theorists today attempt to incorporate the insights and teachings of both subjects into an overarching theory of persuasive communication. These attempts have some instructive historical antecedents which will be the main subject of this article. To understand the history of the relations between rhetoric and dialectic it is necessary to take account of changes in the definition of dialectic and in the educational context of the two subjects. For Plato dialectic meant the training in philosophy acquired through dialogue and argument. For Aristotle dialectic is the technique of argument used in everyday conversations and in subjects (such as politics or questions of practical behavior) where certain reasoning, which he called analytic, was not possible. Later in antiquity and in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, “dialectic” and “logic” were synonyms, so dialectic included both plausible and certain reason, both the topics and the syllogism. Since the nineteenth century the term “dialectic” has generally been used ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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