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Headword: Ἐνθύμημα
Adler number: epsilon,1370
Translated headword: enthymeme, enthymema
Vetting Status: high
Rhetorical syllogisms are called this;[1] for the syllogism seems to be produced in them through one premise because the other premise, being familiar, is admitted by the judges or the audience. For example, this person is worthy of punishment since he is a betrayer. In fact, the judge admits as something obvious that every betrayer is worthy of punishment. Now in those cases where the omission is not familiar [sc. either to the judge or to the audience], it is no longer possible for the syllogism to be produced through an enthymeme; for the syllogism appears to mean a certain joining [σύνθεσις ] of statements [λόγων ].
Greek Original:
Ἐνθύμημα: οὕτω λέγονται οἱ ῥητορικοὶ συλλογισμοί: ἐν ἐκείνοις γὰρ διὰ μιᾶς προτάσεως δοκεῖ γίνεσθαι ὁ συλλογισμὸς τῷ τὴν ἑτέραν γνώριμον οὖσαν ὑπὸ τῶν δικαστῶν ἢ τῶν ἀκροατῶν προστίθεσθαι. οἷον, οὗτος ἄξιός ἐστι κολάσεως: προδότης γάρ ἐστι. προστίθησι γὰρ ὁ δικαστὴς ὡς ἐναργὲς τὸ πάντα τὸν προδότην κολάσεως ἄξιον εἶναι. ἐφ' ὧν οὖν μὴ γνώριμόν ἐστι τὸ παραλειπόμενον, οὐκέτι ἐπὶ τούτων οἷόν τε τὸν δι' ἐνθυμήματος γίνεσθαι συλλογισμόν: ὁ γὰρ συλλογισμὸς σύνθεσίν τινα λόγων ἔοικε σημαίνειν.
Alexander of Aphrodisias, Commentaries on Aristotle's Topica 9.9-20 Wallies, cf. the English translation in On Aristotle, Topics I by J.M. Van Ophuijsen (2001) p.11.9-18.
[1] See Aristotle, Rhetoric 1356b4-5: "I call a rhetorical syllogism an enthymeme". The enthymeme is a type of argument especially used by rhetoricians; it is a kind of argument which excites the louder aplause from the audience (Rhetoric 1356b24-25; see also Problemata 916b25ff.). The syllogism (or "deductive argument"; syllogismos) is defined by Aristotle as "an argument in which, certain things being established, something different from the supposed things turns out to be of necessity through them" (Topica 100a25-27). But this is the scientific or demonstrative syllogism, i.e the one which starts from what is primary and true (Topica 100a27-29). By contrast, the enthymeme is related to what Aristotle calls "dialectical syllogism", i.e. that syllogism whose premises are plausible or probable (endoxa) but neither primary nor necessarily true. An enthymeme is concerned with what, for the most part, can be otherwise (Rhetoric 1357a13-15). it is a "sort" of dialectical argument insofar as its premises are just plausible. But it is not the same thing because in rhetoric the argument must be clear to the hearers who do not have expertise in logic (see Rhetoric 1395b21-27). For a clear explanation of the plausible, probable or "reputable" premises in the dialectical syllogisms see Evans (below) 77-85. See also Burnyeat (below). In the practice of Cicero and other orators, enthymeme is particularly applied to arguments that avoid spelling out a socially or politically unacceptable belief by suppressing as if obvious that premise of the argument, e.g., under a tyrant, one does not articulate as premise that all tyrants deserve death.
M.F. Burnyeat, "Enthymeme: Aristotle on the logic of persuasion" in Aristotle's Rhetoric: philosophical essays ed. D.J. Furley and A. Nehamas (1994) 3-55, with bibliography
J.D.G. Evans, Aristotle's Concept of Dialectic (Cambridge/London: Cambridge University Press, 1977)
Keywords: definition; law; philosophy; rhetoric
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 7 April 2000@15:39:38.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 1 December 2002@19:11:27.
Catharine Roth on 1 December 2002@19:11:50.
David Whitehead (added note and keyword; cosmetics) on 2 December 2002@03:11:28.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 2 December 2002@10:41:07.
Robert Dyer (Expanded notes, added reference to Burnyeat, raised status) on 13 December 2002@11:00:18.
Catharine Roth (restorative cosmetics) on 11 May 2007@11:22:50.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics) on 12 January 2016@09:27:13.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 27 March 2017@01:46:36.


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