Figures of Argument (OSSA 2005 Keynote Address)

Jeanne Fahnestock


From the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, scientists such as Kekule, Mendel, Lavoisier and Harvey argued for insights that depended critically on antithetical expressions and reasoning. The heuristic and persuasive use of devices
like the antithesis has roots in the in combined grammatical, rhetorical and dialectical training established during the early modern educational reforms of the humanists. While the entire array of figures includes devices which inscribe all the rhetorical appeals, the set of devices derived from parallel phrasing illustrates how certain figures of speech express lines of reasoning iconically. But the continued use of such devices invites a general rationale for their persuasiveness based on the importance of pattern completion in language processing.


antithesis, dialectic, rhetoric, parallelism, science, figures of speech

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ISSN: 0824-2577