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CCLE Primer

For your convenience: Here is the complete workbook from CCLE III



Part I: Rhetoric in Classical Education

Part II: Rhetoric and Dialectic

Part III: Rhetoric, Pathos and Style


Part I: Rhetoric in Classical Education

Classical rhetoric, in its most ethical and ancient manifestation, is a way of discussing the truth with one's fellows in a manner that respects their freedom and dignity, and attempts to move them toward the Good. Of course human beings think, argue and persuade by nature. We do these intuitively! However, there's a big difference between intuition and art. In order to master any body of knowledge as an art, one must:

1. Define it
2. Break it into parts
3. Study the parts
4. Practice

Steps 1-3 entail laying a theoretical foundation, of systematically acquiring a theoretical account of the making process. There is no substitute for theory when one's aim is art. Joseph Dunne defines art (techne), in Back to the Rough Ground, as: "The kind of knowledge possessed by an expert maker; it gives him a clear conception of the why and wherefore, the how and the with what of the making process and enables him, through the capacity to offer a rational account of it, to preside over his activity with secure mastery" (p. 9).

John Henry Cardinal Newman, "The Idea of a University":

Is there a quote supposed to go here?

Aristotle's definition of rhetoric:

5 Classical Canons

  • Invention
  • Disposition
  • Style
  • Memory
  • Delivery

Tallmon's Definition of Practical Reasoning:

Cultivating the intellectual abilities to:

  1. Identify and evaluate assumptions.
  2. Follow an argument to its conclusion.
  3. Spot contradictions and faulty logic.
  4. Draw appropriate distinctions.
  5. Avoid extremes.

Three basic tools for developing practical reasoning in the classical model:

  • Syllogistic logic
  • dialectic
  • common material fallacies


Part II: Rhetoric and Dialectic

Syllogistic Logic:

SO--HOW DOES ONE IDENTIFY ASSUMPTIONS? (other than intuitively)

A little knowledge about syllogisms gives one a means of identifying assumptions. Richard M. Weaver's Rhetoric and Handbook, Chapter 5, is excellent here. It's my primary source.

In traditional liberal arts pedagogy, kids, as pre-teens, were taught how to follow a train of thought by studying syllogisms. Categorical syllogisms are the easiest kind to understand.

Warning: Don't be a Scholastic!

Categorical syllogism:

  • All A are B.
  • C is an A.
  • C is a B.

The classical one is:

  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is a man.
  • Socrates is mortal.

Aristotle's definition of syllogism: "discourse in which, certain things being stated, something other than what is stated follows of necessity from their being so." (Pr. Analytics 24b.20)

Rules for the Categorical Syllogism:

They must have:

1. Three propositions:

  • Major premise
  • Minor premise
  • conclusion

2. Three terms:

  • Major term
  • middle term
  • minor term

An enthymeme is a syllogism with one of the propositions missing.

Weaver answers: "Since a great many of the world's arguments appear in the form of enthymemes, it is of great value to acquire some facility in expanding the enthymeme into a complete syllogism. Then, whether or not we shall be persuaded by the argument will depend upon whether or not we accept both of the premises. And even if we can accept both of the premises, we must be able to see whether the conclusion emerges in accordance with the formal rules of the syllogism."

Application and Exercises

Now we know how to identify an assumption. What now??

Dialectic and Common Material Fallacies are tests for truth. (Validity vs. Truth)

Dialectic: Is, in part, a three-step process whereby one tests for the truth of propositions of a contingent nature:

A. Begin with an assumption. (proposition, assertion, statement, etc. )
B. Push it to its logical conclusion, drawing out implications. (Key questions)
C. Apply the law of contradiction.--Aristotle, Metaphysics: 1011b:

"the most undisputable of all beliefs is that contradictory statements are not at the same time true."

Aristotle’s Topics is explicitly concerned with formalizing the first set of rules for disputations and the label, ‘dialectician’ is ascribed almost exclu-sively to competitors in mental gymnastics. Aristotle’s final exhorta-tion to the would-be disputant indicates a higher concern than mere competi-tion: ‘Moreover, as contributing to knowledge and to philosophic wisdom the power of discerning and holding in one view the results of either of two hypotheses is no mean instrument; for it only remains to make a right choice of one of them’(Topics 163b 9). Aristotle maintains the distinction between dialectical disputation and dialectical inquiry throughout his Topics. Dialectic should be understood also as ‘A process of criticism wherein lies the path to the principles of all inquiries’ (Topics, 101b 4).

Dialectic is exemplified in the Socratic method. It is, in essence, a test for truth, founded on the law of contradiction. Another way to understand dialectic is as a tool for securing propositions. If any single function captures the essence of dialectic as a test for truth, it is the securing of proposi-tions. A proposi-tion is dialectically secured when it passes the muster of the ‘most undis-putable of all beliefs’: the law of contradiction. Therefore, securing proposi-tions is dialectic reduced to its purest function.

* Richard Weaver has a number of fine essays on the relationship between rhetoric and dialectic. Some of my favorites are: "The Cultural Role of Rhetoric," "Language is Sermonic," "The Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric" and "The Importance of Cultural Freedom."

Common Material Fallacies:

The second test for truth featured in classical liberal arts learning.

A ‘fallacy’ is faulty reasoning. (There are web sites that detail fallacies.)

Some ‘old standbys’:

1. Non-sequitur - "It does not follow"
2. Unrepresentative generalization-
3. Hasty generalization-
4. Either/or- (False dilemma)
5. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc- (after this, therefore because of this)
6. Single cause-
7. Red herring-
8. Faulty analogy-

About "Minding the Premises" and other exercises.

It is important to impart this knowledge in stages. It is best to dispense the concepts as the student walks through a number of assignments that give opportunities for practical application. For example, I assign a non-graded speech while I'm covering the most basic information. It's an ice-breaker. Then, when we graduate to the "Informative" speech, where they provide an overview of the controversial policy topic, I begin teaching syllogistic logic. That way, by the time they're ready for the "Analysis of Controversy" speech, which is a detailed "underview" of the controversy, they understand clearly how to identify assumptions. Dialectic and fallacies are likewise taught in preparation for the persuasive speech. "Stair step" the learning, and remember that rhetoric is a practical art, not a subject matter (see Aristotle's Rhetoric, Book I, Chpt. 1). Remember the trivium are tools of learning!

Logic dovetails nicely with the Fundamentals of Speech class. In fact, all the tools for practical reasoning learned in 101 are condensed into the first four weeks of Argumentation, and entitled, "Bootcamp of the Mind." That unit culminates in a Basics Exam and a Philosophical Speech assignment.



  • based on the GBWW "Syntopicon"


    Following the intensive introduction to logic, the course is divided into the following units:

    Forensic Argumentation

  • Introduce stasis and topics
  • (see SpCm 222 readings from Cicero and Aristotle, Dieter and EOR entries.)


    Moral Argumentation

  • Examine the function of stasis and topics in casuistry
  • (see EOR entry on casuistry)
  • Case Brief, mock ethics committee meeting, assignment prompt (see Resources)


    Policy Debate


  • Argument Strategies:
    Turning the tables, process of elimination, reductio ad absurdum



  • Debating rules:
    Burden of Proof
    Burden of Rejoinder



  • Style and Pathos in Argumentation


    At the end of the semester, I run a policy debate in which teams and a topic are selected several weeks prior to competition. Criteria for the topic are: must be a timely, controversial policy question. After researching the topic, we flip for sides and follow the modified debate format found in the Resources section. The next class period, teams switch sides.

    Rhetoric appeals to human beings in their fullness. One may be convinced by logical appeals, but to really persuade, to move, an audience, one must appeal to core values and emotions; to passion. This is, in a sense, a tribute to their humanity, because it does not presuppose that they are mere "logic chopping machines."
    Part III: Rhetoric, Pathos and Style

    CAUTION: All this emphasis on logic may give students the impression that human excellence is realized in the exercise of reason alone (which would be consistent with Classical Greek thought). Christian education must not produce little rationalists (which is to say, little pagans). Appeal to the head and to the heart.

    Aristotle's Three Modes of Artistic Proof:

  • Ethos
  • Pathos
  • Logos

    Sir Francis Bacon's definition of rhetoric:

    "The application of reason to imagination for the better moving of the will."

    In the traditional liberal arts education, style was learnt by studying figures of speech.

    Figures of speech are divided into:

    Schemes Tropes
    (syntactic) (Semantic)
    | |
    rhythm imagery

    (See glossary handout)


    After having laid a theoretical foundation for the students, and having done a couple of "warm up" speech assignments, we get to the crux of the course. They first do the memorized speech, discussed in the preface. Here is an assignment prompt for it:

    The rationale for this speech is quite simple: to learn by studying the rhetoric of past masters. Select a speech that looks interesting to you. Select a portion of it that can be performed in 6 minutes (including a brief, extemporaneous introduction that sets the tone for the speech). The key to doing well on this assignment is to practice the speech, out loud, a couple of times a day for at least two weeks. Listen to yourself. Is your inflection appropriate (i.e., does it reflect the intended meaning of the speaker? Emotion?) Does the rhythm enhance or detract from the performance? Are you pronouncing words correctly? Do you understand the significance of the problem to which the speaker addresses him or herself? Through studying the historical context of the speech, you should gain an appreciation of the challenges with which the speaker was faced and that appreciation should influence the manner in which you perform the piece.

    (Critique sheets and other handouts are appended in the Resources section.)

    After having performed the memorized piece, students study it to determine the essential message, then prepare for the "Imitatio" assignment. The next page is an assignment prompt.
    About the Imitatio Assignment

    This speech is weighted double because you are expected to labor over it, reflect on it and, especially, reflect in it your ability to apply what you've learned this semester. To that end, I suggest that, in the process of doing the worksheet, you come up with a working title for your speech, develop a rough idea of how you want to approach this assignment, and then reflect on it for a day or two. When you are ready to work on it again, take up your "lump of clay" and start to shape it. Work out the sections of your speech that will be directly paraphrased from the memorized speech. Now, shape the original portions of your speech, looking especially for ways that you can utilize figures of speech, etc. to make your speech sublime.* Lay it down. After having worked on other assignments for awhile :-), return to your composition, take it up and ask yourself, "What am I trying to say here?" Polish it. Refine it. And when you listen to it and exclaim, "That's as good as I can get it, if I add any more it would be overkill," then you are ready to begin practicing. Practice until you are familiar enough with the speech to barely need your manuscript.

    So, this speech is about capitalizing on the strongest, most relevant features of your memorized speech in the following ways:

    1. Paraphrase those parts of the speech that are most suitable for paraphrasing.
    2. "Pull forward" that aspect of the speech (the most enduring idea) that is most relevant to us today, by applying the idea to a particular situation, societal trend, attitude, etc.
    3. Emulate those aspects of your speaker's rhetoric most worth emulating. (This is the essence of learning by imitatio.)
    4. Speak in an eloquent, as opposed to extemporaneous, style. (I.e., refine your language by using figures of speech, but don't overuse them!)
    5. Address all the items on the critique sheet.
    6. Come visit your humble servant for some coaching (it's his forté!).

    On the day you present your speech, all you need is a manuscript from which to speak and two copies of the critique sheet.

    Don't forget to have fun!

    * When I say "sublime" I don't mean perfection. Aim for a speech that has one or two moments of sheer brilliance. Those should suffice!
    Imitatio Speech Worksheet

    20 pts. possible Name ______________________________

    My memorized speech is _________________________ by ________________________

    What is the most powerful idea in your memorized speech? What makes it so powerful?

    What contemporary situation do you plan to address in order to demonstrate the continued relevance of that idea to your present audience? Why?

    What stylistic features of the speaker's rhetoric do you find most excellent?

    How do you plan to imitate that stylistic excellence in your composition? Improve on it?
    Public speaking entails more than giving speeches. Therefore, in addition to delivering a variety of speeches, I have students volunteer, at different times in the semester, to be MC, evaluator, or "table topics" leader. These all give students experience being in front of an audience in a variety of roles. The duties of each are:


    The aim of the evaluator is to actively listen to the speakers and then offer a brief oral critique, when everyone is done speaking for the day, that addresses the following: how well the speaker met assignment requirements, whether or not the speaker exceeded them, specific feedback regarding both strengths and suggestions for improvement. Allow a moment or two for audience feedback after each evaluation. The evaluator's job should take no more than one minute per speaker, then there should be plenty of time for any further comments from the audience.


    The Master of Ceremonies is responsible for setting a positive tone for the speech round by providing clever opening remarks and a brief (very brief!) introduction for each speaker and each evaluator. The M.C. should watch the clock, lead the applause after each speech, and close out the speech round on a positive note.

    Table Topics:

    There is an impromptu speaking assignment in this course. Table Topics is an ungraded exercise that prepares students for impromptu speaking. The Table Topics leader comes up with 3 or 4 topics (current events, imaginative, intellectual, etc.) and asks a question about each topic, then, in turn, invites a class member to respond for 1-2 minutes. (I picked up this technique at Toastmasters!) The aim is to use all the allotted time, think on your feet, and say something meaningful and witty. I always encourage kids to say something "off the wall" if they can't speak to the topic "head on." It's a great opportunity to develop imagination!


    Fundamentals of Speech, Logic, and Public Speaking are integrated in such a way that those students who take all three courses will have a well-rounded introduction to rhetorical theory and practice. These three courses compliment one another in a way that illustrates what Aristotle meant, in his treatise on rhetoric, when he identifies rhetoric as a counterpart of both dialectic and ethics. In ancient Greece, the ideal leader was a "speaker of words and a doer of deeds." Rhetoric is the "most humane of the humanities" and the cornerstone of liberal arts education because, in the process of studying it and applying it, one learns to speak the truth with grace and beauty. In the final analysis, learning the fundamentals of rhetoric, practicing the art of argumentation, and learning to master oratory, equips one for human excellence. The study, simultaneously, of contemporary issues and classical theory, cultivates practical wisdom. The sequenced assignments give students the practice necessary to develop eloquence, and the goal of education is a wise and eloquent piety!

    Resource Pages