Making and Unmaking the Prospects for Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 1996 Rhetoric Society of America Conference

By Theresa Enos; Richard McNabb et al. | Go to book overview

is very difficult to find a person to teach children to read and write. (269)

This "dead wood" to a Chinese writer is necessary for preparing the audience for the thesis of the essay: "All these differences, no doubt, will leave a great influence on the educational standard for the people in different areas" (269). Liu, the student writer, is practicing the method of placing the thesis at the end of the paragraph. Chinese audiences can see the logic in his reasoning because cities and rural areas vary in conveniences and educational means; people in different areas receive unequal opportunities for education. The unstated premise is that means of transportation and other conveniences are facilitators of education. The minor premise is that less-developed areas lack transportation means and other conveniences, and consequently, accesses to universities and schools are difficult (conclusion). Liu trusts his audience's reasonableness and their familiarity with the social context to make connections between conveniences and education. To an audience who is devoid of a cultural background, Liu's argument appears haphazard.

The above case study of Chinese argumentative discourse suggests that it is a universal phenomenon that all human beings have an inborn disposition for logical reasoning, though differing in patterns. Since the substance of rhetoric, enthymematic demonstration of proofs, involves not only logical reasoning but also rational reasoning, the reasoning process is quasi-logical. The logic in the enthymeme is a chain of inference based on the beliefs of the human being that vary in different social milieux. This is why Chinese argumentation appears so puzzling and even illogical to many Westerners.

Having examined a mode of logical and rhetorical reasoning that differs from Euro-American practices, we can conclude that the study of the enthymeme can by no means depart from specific value system studies. Whether the development of arguments is regarded as logical or illogical, or even fallacious in another culture, it is arbitrarily constructed in a particular culture. Rhetoric as a field of research is defined as discovering available means of persuasion. To reach this goal and to facilitate global communications, we ought to understand the beliefs of others and learn about their enthymematic reasoning.


Notes
1
Y. P. Mei thinks that the individual permeation is throughout the ever-broadening circle of the society. But I hold that the Chinese sense of society is rooted in the family system, in which an individual is identified as the core of the permeation.
2
My interpretation of the enthymeme originates from Winifred Homer's analysis of Mark Twain Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. She examines the enthymeme as an equivalent to a complete argumentative essay. See Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition 161.

-121-

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