Descartes and the Resilience of Rhetoric: Varieties of Cartesian Rhetorical Theory

By Thomas M. Carr Jr. | Go to book overview

2
Descartes and Guez de Balzac Humanist Eloquence Spurned

Putting aside Eloquence for Mathematics is like growing sick of a mistress of eighteen to fall in love with an old crone.

Quitter l'Eloquence pour les Mathématiques, c'est être dégoûté d'une maîtresse de dix-huit ans et devenir amoureux d'une vieille.

Balzac, letter to M. de Tissandier

My goal in this chapter and the next is neither to examine how Descartes' rhetoric fits into his philosophical concerns, as Henri Gouhier has done, nor to examine the various persuasive strategies he uses to win adherents to his system along the lines of the analyses of Peter France or Sylvie Romanowski. Instead, I am interested in the consequences of his thought, especially his epistemological and psychological views, for rhetorical theory -- the task allotted to rhetoric, its legitimacy, and its functioning. The question is not so much what kind of rhetoric Descartes employed, or its role in his philosophy (although both these topics are relevant), as much as how his approach to the issues that had traditionally been the province of rhetoricians was determined by his notions about human nature and the operation of the mind.


The Eloquence of L'Honnête Homme

A preliminary discussion of a contemporary and friend of Descartes, Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, who was a conscious

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