, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 3-19
Date: 07 Aug 2007

From Figure to Argument: Contrarium in Roman Rhetoric

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Abstract

In Roman rhetoric, contrarium was variably considered either a figure of speech or an argument. The paper examines the logical pattern of this type of argument, which according to Cicero is based on a third Stoic indemonstrable syllogism: \( \neg ({\hbox{p}} \wedge {\hbox{q}});<$> <$>{\hbox{p}} \to \neg {\hbox{q}}{\hbox{.}} \) The persuasiveness of this type of argument, however, vitally depends on the validity of the alleged ‹incompatibility’ forming its major premiss. Yet this appears to be the argument’s weak point, as the ‹incompatibilities’ employed generally hold for the most part only, and are reducible to topical argument schemes. This is why in practical usage such arguments are most often phrased as rhetorical questions, the persuasive force of which, enhanced by certain strategical maneuverings and fallacies, makes the audience swallow the argument.