Enthymematic Essay Topics

Abstract:  Strategies for analyzing, completing, and evaluating incomplete syllogisms are discussed.

“The Body of Persuasion: A Theory of the Enthymeme” Jeffrey Walker questions how enthymemes are defined in many rhetoric and composition studies, develops a better characterization, and analyzes two readings first published in the journal College English.

“Different Types of Enthymemes” Enthymemes are described in Christof Rapp's “Aristotle's Rhetoric” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

“Enthymeme” A concise, clear definition is stated from the classic 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

"Enthymeme," A short entry summary from Wikipedia.

“Enthymemes,” “The Enthymeme: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography of Critical Studies” is prepared by Carol Poster, York University.

“The Three Bases for the Enthymeme: A Dialogical Theory,” Douglas Walton develops a theory of enthymematic arguments in accordance with dialogical theory, illustrated with several examples first published in Journal of Applied Logic.

1. “Enthymeme” is not used in contemporary logic in the Aristotelian sense of the word. For example, Aristotle states “Now an enthymeme (ενθυμημα) is a syllogism starting from probabilities or signs…” where, for him, a sign is a generally approved demonstrative proposition) (The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon, Analytica Priora, trans. A.J. Jenkinson (New York: Random House: 1970) Bk. II, Ch. 26). Here is Aristotle's example of the former type of sign (where the logical support moves from specific to general):

“The fact that Socrates was wise and just is a sign that the wise are just”(Ibid, Rhetorica trans. W. Rhys Roberts, Bk. 1 Ch. 2, 1357b).

Aristotle says this argument is refutable because it does not form a syllogism. Rather than classifying this argument in accordance with Aristotle's concept of “enthymeme” contemporary usage would label the argument as an example of the informal fallacy of converse accident. Although enthymematic arguments are discussed here in terms of traditional formal logic, notice that these arguments can also be taken in the rhetorical sense of being probable, as is often done so in English rhetoric and composition studies.↩

2. See John J. Pitney, Jr., “The Tocqueville Fraud,"" The Weekly Standard (November 13, 1995), http://www.tocqueville.org/pitney.htm (accessed February 5, 2015). ↩

3. These rules and fallacies presented here are from I.M. Copi and Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic (Pearson, 2010). Rules in various textbooks differ according to author, but the main procedure outlined here would, of course, work systematically to discover the missing propositions with those rules and fallacies as well. ↩


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