Date: 13 Mar 2007

Opposition Discourses in European Democracies: A Rhetorical Approach

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Abstract

Through this article, I explore the issue of tolerance in the Western thought from a rhetorical perspective. I assume that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects the framework in which Europeans democracies argue and think today. Consequently, I analyze the Universal Declaration with the help of Toulmin’s model in order to put its backing into light, and compare it to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man. This backing, I argue, echoes the contemporary vision of tolerance in Western democracies. Afterwards, I therefore analyze the concept of tolerance in a multicultural world. This reflection comes within the scope of the current researches in rhetoric as they were launched by Perelman’s Treatise on Argumentation first published in 1958. Having inherited from the 19th-century renewed interests in linguistics and semiotics, the contemporary researches assume an evolutionary and anthropological perspective on rhetoric and argumentation, seen as natural activities of human beings. This discipline, notably developing in the school of Brussels in argumentation [See Danblon, Emmanuelle, La Fonction Persuasive, Paris: Armand Colin, 2002], inspires itself both from Aristotle’s works and from the cognitive movement in contemporary linguistics. It seeks to establish a link between the emergence of rationality and rhetoric and takes its grounds in cognitive sciences as well as anthropological studies, philosophy, logics and theories of emotions. At present, it addresses several issues such as the status of rationality, persuasion and the place of rhetoric and argumentation in contemporary societies.

Additional support was provided by the National Science Foundation.