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What Did George Campbell Have to Say About Rhetoric

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Bret Koch

on 10 August 2015

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Transcript of What Did George Campbell Have to Say About Rhetoric

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
George Campbell "takes a roughly Aristotelian position on the relation between logic and rhetoric, since he holds that convincing an audience, which is the province of rhet-
Logic and Rhetoric
Logic and Eloquence:
Two Different Means Towards the End of Persuasion
Campbell points out that persuasion may be achieved through proofs/evidence (logic-Aristotle's
), and also from pure eloquence (rhetoric-Aristotle's
). The methods of each will differ accordingly, for

"The sole and ultimate end of logic is the eviction of truth,"

while the end of eloquence is

"the conviction of the hearers" (Campbell 54-55).

An investigation of both methods, logic and rhetoric, will follow.

Persuading with Truth
Defining Our Terms
Campbell uses the term
to denote

"that art or talent by which the discourse is adapted to its end"


Four Ends of Rhetoric
Campbell notes that all rhetoric has one of the following four ends:
1. Enlighten the Understanding
(To Instruct)
2. Please the Imagination
(Roughly, to Entertain)
3. Move the Passions
(Elicit an Emotional Response)
4. Influence the Will
(Induce Action)

Should Multiple Ends be Pursued in the Same Discourse?
No! Campbell believed that

"Any one discourse admits only one of these ends as principal"


However, Campbell allows that secondary ends may be employed to augment the principal aim--for example,
"a discourse addressed to the understanding . . . may borrow aid from the imagination"
--so long as they don't usurp focus or provide undue distraction from the principal
ENG 555 2015
What did George Campbell Have to Say About Rhetoric?
oric or eloquence, is a particular application of the logician's art. The central insight from which Campbell is working is that the orator seeks to persuade people, and in general the best way to persuade is to produce perspicuous arguments. Good orators have to be good logicians" (2001).
In agreement with Aristotle, Campbell observes that persuasion is most readily achieved through evidence, logic, and proofs, where available.
"In harangues pathetic or panegyrical, in order that the hearers may be moved or pleased, it is of great consequence to impress them with the belief of the reality of the subject. In order to satisfy the mind . . . truth, and . . . what bears the semblance of truth, must be presented to it" (Campbell 55).

How does a speaker come to achieve persuasion through the use of logic, proofs, or, more generally, truth?

. . . Through the presentation of
. Evidence may consist of two varieties:

I. Intuitive Evidence
That which is perceived immediately by the mind
II. Deductive Evidence
That which is produced meditatively, through synthesis and inferences with other ideas
(I) Types of Intuitive Evidence
Campbell subdivides
Intuitive Evidence
into the following three categories:

A. Pure Intellection (Metaphysical)

B. Consciousness (Physical-Sensations)

C. Common Sense (Moral-Individual)

Intuitive Evidence: (A) Intellection
Intellection is axiomatic:


"One and four make five. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. The whole is greater than a part"
Tantamount to definitions:

"To say `One and four make five' is precisely the same as to say `We give the name
to one added to four'"
All are reducible to
"Whatever is, is"
Concerned with

abstract notions
(Campbell 58)

But, small observations (one and four make five) allow for other observations (two and three make five), and proceeding from these, further and further discoveries are made. These are generally ill-suited for persuasion, as they occur in a strict, logical progression that has little to do with rhetoric.
Intuitive Evidence: (B) Consciousness
Consciousness is that which renders us immediately and incontrovertibly aware of our own existence [To be clear, we are aware of our own thoughts, feelings, etc. Yet even extreme skepticism cannot doubt that we are having such experiences, and, given that existence is a precondition of having those experiences, we are convinced of our own existence. This is René Descartes' famous,
"cogito ergo sum"
("I think, therefore, I am")] (Descartes 23-30).

Importantly, this type of intuition
"only the truth of the original feelings or impressions, but also many of the judgments that are formed by the mind" (Campbell 59).
This is extremely important, as perception is a constructive process, where appended to sheer sense data are various cognitive processes. This opens the door for the operations of rhetoric.

In comparison of Intellection to this type of intuition
"the former concerns only abstract notions or ideas, particularly in regard to number and extension, the objects purely of the understanding; the latter concerns only the existence of the mind itself. . ." (Campbell 60).

There is strong opportunity for persuasion in rhetoric that is congruent with the hearer's conscious experience. Where mathematical truths are necessary truths and admit no degrees of evidence, appealing to conscious evidence may afford those avenues for persuasion. Conscious evidence deals with experience, perceptions, and thoughts attendant by the mind.
Intuitive Evidence: (C) Common Sense
Cambpell describes Common Sense as that
"original source of knowledge common to all mankind" (60-61).

Campbell was a theologian, and, true to form, cited the following as examples of Common Sense (interestingly, each pertains to a specific argument for the existence of God):

"Whatever has a beginning has a cause" (62)
Cosmological Argument)
"When there is, in the effect, a manifest adjustment of the several parts to a certain end, there is intelligence in the cause" (62)
(Argument from Teleology, aka Intelligent Design--eek!)

While the above do not seem to be knowledge innate in human beings, but are more akin to mathematical axioms, Campbell draws the distinction that to utilize common sense implies the external, objective existence of phenomena and other metaphysical principles which are innately apparent (e.g. any understanding of the scientific method presupposes the
Causal Principle
), whereas mathematical axioms are mere descriptions of relationships with no anchoring in the external world (numbers only relate to themselves, while the dictates of common sense relate to the external world and our experience of it). It is this aspect of Common Sense that lends it its vulnerability to rhetoric: where mathematical axioms are strict logical progressions dependent upon each other, evidence from Common Sense appeals to a bundle of distinct topics in no way dependent on each other.
(II) Types of Deductive Evidence
Campbell divides
Deductive Evidence
into the following categories:

A. Scientific

B. Moral
1. Experience
2. Analogy
3. Testimony

Campbell's Sources of Deductive Evidence
Invariable properties or relations of general ideas (Demonstrative)
Actual subsisting among things (Moral)
Deductive Evidence: (A) Scientific
Consists purely of abstract truths, which have no reference in time or place
Also what Campbell refers to as
"Demonstrative" (65)
Demonstration is
"built on pure intellection, and [consists] in an uninterrupted series of axioms" (Campbell 65)
Similar to links in a chain; logical succession
Unchangeable and necessary relations
Because scientific and mathematical evidences equate to essential or necessary truths and are demonstrative by nature, they admit no degrees of evidence and thus are not well suited for rhetoric. They involve immutable and necessary connections that do not provide opportunity for rhetoric. In addition, all that is required of such evidence is
"simplicity in diction"
"precision in arrangement
" in order to allow perspicuity. Therefore, rhetoric has little to contribute.

Deductive Evidence: (B) Moral
Evidence of the Moral variety is appropriate for Rhetoric. This type differs from the Scientific in the following respects:
Consists in the changeable and contingent connections among existing things
Admits of degrees, usually rendering its utmost proofs in
In assessing contradictory or at least contrary views, evidence exists on both sides of the contending viewpoints to support that particular position
(This presents a powerful opportunity for the rhetorician to practice his/her craft)
Moral evidence is complicated, consisting of a
"bundle of proofs" (Campbell 67)

Subdivisions of Moral Evidence:
1. Experience
2. Analogy
3. Testimony
a. Probability
A Word (or several hundred) on Probabilities (not from Campbell)

To put it bluntly and in simple terms, the scientific method never proves the truth of any theory or concept of reality, nor will it ever do so in the future. Admittedly, this sounds like an ambitious statement. However, a close look at the sheer logic of the method will illustrate this point.

One of the major logical fallacies is referred to as affirming the antecedent. In formal logic this fallacy takes the following form:

If P, then Q.
Therefore P.

In this expression, “P” is not guaranteed on the basis of “Q”; this argument only works in one direction. Therefore, this is an invalid deduction. Now we’ll replace the symbols with actual terms in order to see the invalidity. We’ll replace “P” with “if it rains,” and “Q” with “the streets are wet.” So to continue with the example,

If it rains (P), then the streets are wet (Q).
The streets are wet (Q),
Therefore it rained (P).

It now becomes glaringly apparent that this form of deduction is not valid. Are we to assume that when we see wet streets, we can be absolutely certain it rained? Of course not. For it could also simultaneously be the case that,

If R, then Q,

Or to continue with the example,

If a fire hydrant was opened (R), the streets are wet (Q).

To apply this principle to science we can use more general terms relevant to the scientific method, and by doing so the problem with this type of observation and experimentation should become clear.

If ‘a particular cause’ (P), then ‘a particular effect’ (Q),
‘A particular effect’ (Q),
Therefore, ‘a particular cause’ (P).

This particular example underscores what is known as the Null Hypothesis. The Null Hypothesis is a hypothesis that asserts that it is always logically possible that the two phenomena in question have occurred simply by random chance, or that they are unrelated entirely.

It is precisely this epistemological dilemma that will prevent science from ever proving exhaustively any theory or framework of reality. This is essentially why science will always only ever provide falsification, meaning merely that a hypothesis can be shown to be false when faced with conflicting evidence or observation, and can never be proven.

Conversely, the scientific method can only render probability. Based on the way we infer and deduce, and taking into account the Null Hypothesis, degrees of probability are the only measures of which we can be certain. This is not to say that the scientific method is somehow insufficient or flawed; it’s quite the reverse. When a particular theory or model of reality has been established on the basis of repeated hypotheses and testing, and when that model has been extensively successfully reproduced, it reaches such a high degree of probability that it becomes tantamount to truth. Naturally this makes sense, for how could a theory describe and predict the effects of phenomena if the phenomena were not accurately reflected by the theory? For example, repeated testing of steel girders’ breaking strength and the effects of gravity leave us confident that the buildings we walk into are not going to collapse on top of us. The breaking strength of such materials has been tested to the extent that the probability of our measurements being correct is extremely high and is thus tantamount to truth.

Persuading Through Rhetoric
While Campbell is aware of the importance of logic, reason, evidence, and proofs (Aristotle's
) in effecting persuasion, and is intimately attuned to epistemology, he also explores other means available to the rhetorician in effecting persuasion. Essentially, these additional means correspond to Aristotle's

Moreover, where
perspicuity (insight, precision, Logos)

is appropriate for addresses involving
where it is the speakers goal to educate, explicate, or foster understanding--the modes of
argument (through Ethos and Pathos)
are appropriate for addresses aimed at earning
Persuading Through Rhetoric: How Does it Work?
"The orator can be said to fight with weapons which are at once sharp, massive, and refulgent, which, like Heaven's artillery, dazzle while they strike, which overpower the sight and the heart in the same instant" (Campbell 29).

The key component in successfully deploying ethos and pathos in rhetoric involves addressing the


"the immediate view of whatever is directed to the imagination (whether the subject be things inanimate or animal forms, whether characters, actions, incidents, or manners) terminates in the
of some internal taste" (emphasis added) (Campbell 25).
Persuading Through Rhetoric: Magic and the Sublime
For Campbell, rhetoric reaches its perfection in the Sublime--
"those great and noble images which . . . distend the imagination with some vast conception and quite ravish the soul" (25).

As if magical...
When used properly, the sublime, created by the rhetorician, appears, almost magically, to engender something akin to natural reflexes in the hearers.

These images,
"when properly employed, have such a marvelous efficacy in rousing the passions, and by some secret, sudden, and inexplicable association, [awaken] all the tenderest emotions of the heart . . . It will not permit the hearers even a moment's leisure for making the comparison, but . . . by some magical spell, hurries them, 'ere they are aware, into love, pity, grief, terror, desire, aversion, fury or hatred. It therefore earns the denomination of
" (26).

While Campbell uses the word "pathetic," in observance of the Aristotelian "pathos," in a footnote he suggests the term "impassioned" may be more appropriate.
Persuading Through Rhetoric: Tricks of the Trade
What Works and What Doesn't
Not all types of passions produce persuasion.
Some are
"naturally inert and torpid,"

"deject the mind, and indispose it for enterprise" (27)
Sorrow, Fear, Shame Humility
"elevate the soul and stimulate to action" (27)
Hope, Patriotism, Ambition, Emulation, Anger

To Convince the Will, Follow the Formula
That which convinces the Judgment (Logos)
That which interests the Passions (Pathos)

Tying it All Together
Here can be seen the importance of logos in rhetoric, for, coupled with pathos, it may influence the Will.

"Would we not only touch the heart, but win it entirely to cooperate with our views . . . and by the justness of reasoning, the passion may be more deeply rooted and enforced . . . For here, we do not argue to gain barely the assent of the understanding, but, which is infinitely more important, the consent of the Will" (Campbell 28).

Works Cited
The Rhetoric and the Poetics of Aristotle
. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts. New York: Random House, Inc., 1984. Print.

Campbell, George.
The Philosophy of Rhetoric
. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1868. Web. Internet Archive. 07 August 2015. https://archive.org/stream/philosophyofrhet00campuoft#page/n3/mode/2up

Descartes, René.
Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings
. Trans. Desmond M. Clarke. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1998. 23-30. Print.

Rafi. “Magician Hat and Wand.” Retrieved from http://www.graphicsfuel.com/2010/11/magician-hat-wand-psd/

“Scottish Philosophy in the 18th Century.”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
. Stanford University. 27 June 2001. Web. 08 August 2015. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scottish-18th/#CamRheTra
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