BENEDICT M. ASHLEY, O.P.: THE ARTS OF LEARNING AND COMMUNICATION
The Appreciation of
Complete Works of
In the preceding chapters we have studied the use of terms, of statements, and of arguments. All of these are used to make a complete work of liberal art, one in which every detail is fitted together to contribute to a single purpose, namely, to make clear to the reader or listener the thesis or central truth which is to be communicated.
In this chapter we will see that all we have previously learned can be used in trying to understand a work of liberal art as a complete whole in which every part serves its purpose.
RULES OF ANALYSIS
From all that has been previously said, it should be clear enough that in analyzing or composing any piece of writing or speaking' whether it be poetic, rhetorical, dialectical, or demonstrative in character, we should apply the following general rules:
- Discover the author's principal conclusion or thesis.
- Decide whether the argument for this conclusion is primarily demonstrative, dialectical, rhetorical, or poetic.
- Decide which are the author's principal terms, and how he has defined them.
- Decide which are the fundamental statements on which his argument is based, and discover the evidence or authority given for them.
- Discover the principal arguments for the conclusion and evaluate them.
- Consider whether or not all these different parts are present, properly balanced and ordered, and whether anything is superfluous.
USE OF THESE RULES
In reading or listening to the composition of another we should begin with a tentative answer to the first two questions, saying to ourselves, "I think that this is what the author is trying to say, and that he is trying to prove it in this type of discourse." We should then see if the details of the work (rules 3 to 5) are consistent with this supposed thesis. If they are not, we must admit that we have probably mistaken the purpose of the author, and we should try another hypothesis, Only after a very serious attempt to find a single thesis which will explain all the details of the work should we blame the author for being unclear or inconsistent. Poor readers and listeners are inclined to blame the author, when it is their own superficial analysis which alone is at fault.
In writing or speaking we should follow the same process. First we should formulate our thesis very clearly and simply and decide which mode of discourse we are going to use to communicate it (rules 1 and 2). Then we should carefully define our terms, state and justify our basic principles, and give our arguments for our thesis (rules 3 to 5). Finally, we should revise our composition to eliminate everything that is unnecessary and to make sure that we have omitted nothing which is needed (rule 6).
The actual writing usually can be done only when we are "inspired," that is, when we feel in the right mood and our imagination is working well. After this "inspired" draft (which, however, should have been carefully prepared for by preliminary work of research, reflection, outlining, etc.), we must carefully revise and often painfully correct mistakes and strengthen weak points.
When we wish to present a truth in the most perfect and certain form, we use a style of discourse which combines dialectic and demonstration, and which aims at being as clear and precise as possible. This is sometimes called the "thesis" or "dissertation form," or "scholastic disputation," because it was perfected in the universities of the Middle Ages and is still used by candidates for higher degrees in our modern universities.A. The statement of the question: 1. Rhetorical and poetic introduction: a. The use of rhetoric to render the audience: (1) Benevolent, by showing them what is to be gained by following the argument. (2) Attentive, by showing them the matter is somewhat difficult. (3) Docile, by showing them the order to be followed in order to overcome the difficulties. b. Poetics may be used (for example a joke or interesting anecdote) to assist the rhetorical purposes above, or to give a preliminary insight into the solution. 2. The statement of what is to be proved (the thesis). We must know exactly what we are trying to prove, and we begin by stating this in as short and precise a form as possible: a. Statement of thesis (conclusion to be proved). b. Definition of terms. We must define and justify the definition of all the important terms in the thesis, as well as the middle terms to be used in the demonstration. 3. Statement of the principles to be used in the solution. These are the premises or basic statements which contain the terms already defined. a. Statement of premises. b. Defense of premises on the ground that they are (1) evident from experience, or (2) confirmed by trustworthy authority. 4. The opinions held by others on this question. The opinions should be stated in an orderly way. This is a dialectical procedure, and the purpose here is to show that the problem is genuine, and to contrast the conclusion to be proved with other views so that its meaning will be plainer. B. The proof: The proof should be stated in syllogistic form. If the promises used are not the principles stated above in A3, then we must demonstrate each premise by further syllogisms until we come back to premises which have already been established in A3. C. Answers to objections: The purpose here is to confirm the proof by showing that it is sufficient to meet all the difficulties and to save whatever truth is in them: 1. The opponent should state his first objection and give a proof for his contradictory opinion. 2. The defendant then refutes this objection by contradistinguishing or distinguishing the objector's proof (see pages 163ff.). 3. The opponent then "subsumes," that is, attempts to refute the defendant's refutation by showing that even if the defendant's distinctions are granted the thesis is still false. Or if he cannot subsume, then be tries a different line of attack on the thesis. 4. This continues until the opponent has no further objections, or the defendant's proof is shown to be inadequate.
This method makes for the most orderly and courteous type of argument. It is as clear as possible and avoids all unnecessary verbiage. Sometimes scholars and scientists are tempted to "sound important" by using many technical terms when nothing is gained but rather clarity and brevity are lost. The form of the scholastic disputation forces both defendants and objector to eliminate all undefined terms and to make explicit every hidden assumption.
Notice that this "thesis form" includes two main types of discourse. The proof is strict demonstration. The statement of the question and the answers to objections, on the other hand, are dialectical. Such writing is best for scholarly journals or textbooks whose purpose is simply to record exact scientific thinking. The scientist in his work of research does not follow this form, but rather that of dialectic. Demonstration can be used only when we have already found the answer to a problem and wish merely to make it clear to others. Dialectic, however, can be used when we are still looking for an answer.
In the complete scientific exposition outlined above, dialectics is used to state opinions and refute objections, but it also may be used by itself. In dialectics the author cannot state a definite conclusion or thesis, since he is still looking for a solution to a question. A dialectical composition is based, not so much on a conclusion to be proved, as on a problem to be explored.
THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
We have seen in Chapter III that there are four basic questions or problems with which any investigation can begin:
- Does S exist?
- What is the definition of S?
- Is P a property of S?
- For what reason (cause) is P a property of S?
The first question is settled not so much by argument as by observation. The last two questions are settled by demonstration. Hence the main problem of dialectics is the second one, "What is the definition of S?" Once we have discovered a real definition we will have an immediately evident principle on which to base a demonstration which will answer questions 3 and 4.
The method of search for a definition is the one explained in Chapter II. We are always inquiring about the predicables. We seek the genus and difference in order to know the species or essential definition. If we cannot find this, then we inquire about a definition through properties or contingents. We also make these inquiries about all ten categories(see pages 133 ff.).
We ask such questions either in a theoretical or a practical way. A theoretical problem has to do with the establishment or explanation of facts, like the questions: "Are there men on Mars? Where did they come from? How do they live?" Practical problems have to do with the choice of means to some end which we seek, like the questions: "Should we lower taxes in order to increase prosperity? Or should we raise them in order to strengthen our defenses?"
Some problems do not really interest us in themselves, but we need to answer them in order to solve other really interesting questions. For example, we may ask, "Is there water vapor in the atmosphere of Mars?" because that will help us to determine if men could live there. Some problems concern new facts on which we ourselves have no opinion, like the question: "Is there anti-matter?" Sometimes they deal with things on which the experts disagree with common opinions ("Are atomic explosions the cause of so much rain this year?"), or on which experts disagree among themselves ("Are atomic explosions seriously injuring world health?"). Other problems are about things on which most people line up on two sides ("is communism a good thing?"), or about mysterious matters which are so great that no one really knows how to find a solution ("How old is the universe?").
Ordinarily, however, a dialectical thesis is one which some one proposes and defends in the face of what is generally accepted. Each of these problems remains a problem for us because we have not yet arrived at definitions and principles which are certain and which will permit us to demonstrate an answer. The dialectician attempts to show that the definitions and principles he proposes are more probable than those usually accepted.
We should not suppose, however, that all things are worth arguing about, or that an argument should continue forever. Some things are obvious to men of good will, and if someone refuses to admit the obvious he needs a spanking rather than an argument. Others rest mainly on a question of fact which must be settled by observation or authority, not by argument. Nor is there much use arguing about things which cannot be answered with solid probability, nor about things which can be strictly demonstrated. Dialectical argument is useful only when there are two sides, each of which is seriously probable, and the discussion is really directed to seeing which is more probable.
In dialectical argument, just as in demonstration, we use both induction and syllogism. Induction is more convincing because it is based on particular facts. Syllogism is more useful in refuting argumentative opponents, since it exposes the weaknesses of their reasoning.
THE METHODS OF DIALECTIC
In beginning a dialectical argument we should employ the following four methods:
1. We must find opinions that relate to the problem at hand. For example, if the problem under discussion is, "is there life on Mars?" we must begin by stating opinions on either side of the question.
Opinions can be found by referring to popular belief, or to the statements of experts, or to accepted principles borrowed from some art or profession, or finally they may be original views that seem striking and likely. Some experienced writers and speakers keep notebooks in which they jot down quotations from their reading that state such opinions which might apply to things they may have to discuss with others. These opinions can be drawn from literature or logic, from the social sciences and history, from natural science, or from philosophy and theology. It is best to begin a discussion with some general opinion and then show how it applies to the problem at hand; for example, "Life requires a very carefully balanced environment. Is it possible that Mars should provide such an environment?"
2. We must distinguish the senses of terms and carefully define them. We might say, for instance, "When you ask if there is life on Mars, do you mean merely plant life, or animal life, or human life?" It is very important not to let a discussion turn into a mere "war of words." Be willing to accept the terms in which the question has been put by others, insisting only that their meaning be defined. Too many arguments are really about words, not about things.
3. We must investigate the differences of things, since many problems arise from overlooking such differences. For example, we should ask, "But is Mars really like the earth? Isn't it much farther away from the sun? Isn't it true that there are no oceans on Mars? Isn't it considerably smaller than the earth?" These differences make it clear that, after all, the argument for life on Mars is not as strong as one might at first suppose.
4. We must also investigate the likenesses, which will be easier to see after we have noticed the differences. Likeness is the basis of definition, of induction, and of argument through analogy. Thus we may argue: "Mars is much more similar to the earth in size and in distance from the sun than many other planets. It has polar ice-caps. Clouds float across it. Patches that look like green vegetation seem to spread on its surface during its summer season. Hence it would seem that Mars has life like the earth."
Thus in analyzing and writing dialectical arguments we can follow a method similar to that used in the complete demonstration, except that:
- Instead of principles we use opinions.
- We argue for both sides of the question extensively, bringing many arguments from both sides, since no single argument is conclusive.
- We conclude to the more probable side, but we admit the inconclusiveness of our proof and show what still needs to be cleared up before certitude will be possible.
THE FORMS OF DIALECTIC
Dialectic takes many forms. The most perfect type is that of scientific research. In research the scientist is already certain about his thesis, not from demonstration, but from observation. Demonstration goes from principles to conclusion, but research usually begins from a conclusion already known and seeks out the principles by which this conclusion can be explained.
1. The discovery of radium. For example, Madame Curie,. who discovered the marvelous element, radium, began with a conclusion which she knew to be certain from her careful laboratory observations. This conclusion was as follows: "Certain ores are more radioactive than uranium and thorium, the only known radioactive elements." The problem of her research was to find the explanation or cause of this conclusion. (See page 552.)
Madame Curie began her reasoning with certain opinions accepted among experts in chemistry, especially the opinion that there probably exists an element to fit every position in the periodic table, or classification of the elements. She then proposed a hypothesis which would be consistent with these accepted opinions and which, if it were true, would give the reason for her conclusion. Her hypothesis was: "An element, X, exists which is not uranium or thorium, nor any known element, but which fills one of the gaps in the periodic table and which is highly radioactive."
She then proceeded to test this hypothesis by seeing whether it would explain the facts in great detail and be a guide in the discovery of new details. To do this she carefully analyzed the radioactive ore, applying many chemical processes so as gradually to eliminate all other known elements, At last she arrived at a concentrated and highly radioactive substance, X, which behaved like an element. In this manner her hypothesis had stood many tests and had become highly probable.
She could have continued this dialectical reasoning indefinitely, making her argument ever more probable, but never arriving at certitude. In this case, however, once she had secured a pure substance, it became possible to drop her hypothesis and replace it by a genuine principle, namely, a real definition of X through its properties. She defined X (radium) in terms of its atomic weight and atomic number, and thus definitely located it in the periodic table. She was now able to give a strict demonstration: the proper and exact cause of the high radioactivity of the ore was the presence of a definite element of known definition.
2. The stages of research. Madame Curie was able to carry her dialectic up to the point where strict demonstration became possible. But it sometimes takes centuries before this last stage in research is reached. For example, the Greek and medieval astronomers for some 1800 years worked on a theory of astronomy based on the hypothesis that "the earth is stationary at the center of the universe." They were perfectly well aware that this was not certain; but as a hypothesis it was able to explain in a highly probable way all the detailed observations and measurements of the motions of the planets which they were able to make with the instruments they had.
Alternative hypotheses were proposed, but none proved so successful in fitting the facts as that of the astronomer, Ptolemy. Hence scientists made use of this explanation, even though they knew it was not certain. By the time of Copernicus (16th century), however, the discovery of the telescope and of new facts little by little suggested another hypothesis. Copernicus held that the earth moves, a hypothesis which, in the light of the newly discovered facts, seemed more probable than that of Ptolemy.
Nevertheless, it was not until the time of Newton, over a century later, that the real reason or cause for the earth's motion was discovered, namely, the law of gravitation.** There are, indeed, some scientists today who would say that even the law of gravitation is only a hypothesis, and that we can never be certain whether the earth moves or not, nor of any other scientific truth. Their reason for this sceptical position is the fear that if we claim a truth to be certain we will cease to make any more inquiries and scientific research will come to an end. This fear is groundless. We may know that something is certainly true without understanding it with perfect distinctness or clarity, or without seeing its consequences. To know these we must continue Our researches. In fact, the establishment of a certain truth is what gives us confidence to go on with scientific study, and forms a firm foundation for further exploration.Once this was discovered, it became possible to demonstrate the motion of the earth and the positions of the planets through their proper causes.
The Greeks and medievals were not in error about their theory, since they knew that it was only a hypothesis. It is not an error in dialectics to propose a theory as probable, even though it later proves to be wrong. Error consists in claiming certitude when one does not have it, or in denying what has been proved to be certain.
The method of research just described is sometimes called "the scientific method." It is more accurate to call it "the scientific method of research," since perfect scientific knowledge is found only in strict demonstration.
3. Proposal of the solution to the problem. After a scientist has been successful enough in his research to arrive at a true demonstration -- or at least at a hypothetical one -- he should present his proof in the "thesis form." If he is writing for a more popular audience, he will also have to make use of rhetoric and even of poetic discourse, in order to interest his audience and make them receptive and attentive.
The use of vivid anecdotes and examples of a poetic sort make scientific writing pleasant, and they give to the audience a certain insight into the vision of the scientist, even when they cannot perfectly follow his scientific argument. Rhetoric gives variety, smoothness, politeness, humor, appropriateness to scientific writing, and adapts it to the background and practical interests of a particular audience. It is very important, however, that a scientist should not be carried away by his poetic and rhetorical style, so as to distort or exaggerate his scientific discoveries.
In reading or listening to scientific thought popularly expressed, we should be on our guard against such distortions. "Many people, for instance, suppose that the theory of human evolution is certain because scientific writers have so vividly depicted the "ape-men" supposed to be our ancestors. Such "ape-men" are actually mere hypothesis. It is not science but poetry that has made them seem so real to us. Similarly, medical discoveries are sometimes presented with such striking rhetoric that the public believes a "sure cure" has been found, when the scientific evidence by no means establishes this conclusion. A parade of scientific terms, and an appearance of great "scientific objectivity" is itself sometimes only a rhetorical device.
Another form of dialectic made famous by Socrates and Plato is the dialogue, in which people carry on a conversation, gradually reshaping their views until they approach agreement. In such a conversation there is usually a leader; otherwise it will not proceed in an orderly fashion, since people will tend to shift from one side to the other. The leader should require each speaker to hold to a position as long as he can defend it, and then to admit his error. The dialogue is useful as a way of showing the steps by which the mind moves toward a conclusion. It is not primarily a matter of research, but of teaching.
The debate is like the dialogue, except that there are two or more parties, each of which holds to a fixed position until the end of the debate. It is used in courts and legislative assemblies and many public discussions, where a third person must come to a decision and wishes to hear both sides of a problem thoroughly explored. The business of the debater is honestly to make out the best possible case for the side assigned him, in order that the truth can be seen. He need not bold that his position is the more probable. However, one should not seriously uphold a position which is known to be false or vicious.
Other Forms of Dialectics
The symposium, forum, and panel are similar to the dialogue and debate. The symposium is more like a dialogue, and consists of a number of experts stating views on a general question and then trying to reconcile and synthesize these views by public discussion. The forum is a kind of open debate in which many people can speak, or question the speaker. A panel consists in a series of statements by different speakers on the same topic. To these we may compare the interview or press conference, in which questions are put to a single person.
The essay, editorial, and column, although usually rhetorical in purpose, can also be dialectical. This happens in the case where the author discusses a problem and current opinions about it without attempting a conclusive solution, but intending to stimulate thought on the subject.
RULES OF CONDUCT IN DISCUSSION
In all these modes of discussion it is important to preserve certain rules of conduct which prevent the discussion from becoming rhetorical or emotional. Mortimer Adler in his book, How to Read a Book, suggests the following cautions:* [*Quoted by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc.]
- "You must be able to say, with reasonable certainty, 'I understand' before you can say any one of the following things: 'I agree,' or 'I disagree,' or 'I suspend judgment.'"
(Adler points out that a good test of this requirement is whether one can repeat what the other person says in different words.)
- "There is no point in winning an argument if you know or suspect you are wrong."
- "You must regard disagreements as capable of being resolved."
If we can honestly say, "I understand but I disagree," we can then make one of the following assertions:
- "You are uninformed"; and then we must point out the facts or sources of facts which the other person has neglected.
- "You are misinformed"; and then we must point out the mistake and give the correct information together with our source.
- "You are illogical"; and then we must point out the error in logic.
- "Your analysis is incomplete"; that is, the author has not solved all the problems raised, or has not used all the material given, or has not seen all the consequences, or has not made sufficient distinctions. We must point out definitely what he has emitted.
THE PURPOSE OF DIALECTIC
The great test of good dialectics is to ask whether the author has stuck to his problem and explored all the arguments pro and con for the various sides. If he is one-sided, then he has failed to provide us with the help we need to arrive at truth, although we may still profit from him if he has at least stated his own side plainly.
Today we hear a great deal in all professions and in public life about the need for "research," for "creative thinking," for "open-mindedness," for the "ability to discuss," and for the "art of conversation." All of these needs are really a recognition that few people know the art of dialectics by which they could consider all sides of a question fairly and flexibly.
On the other hand, we must remember that the purpose of dialectics is to prepare for demonstration whenever this is possible. Some people like to discuss endlessly, but can never come to a decision. They fall under the condemnation of Saint Paul who mocked at those who "are ever learning yet never attaining knowledge of the truth" (II Tim. 3:7).
APPLICATION OF THE RULES OF ANALYSIS
Chesterton's "A Defence of Patriotism"
In reading an essay such as Chesterton's A Defence of Patriotism we might apply our six general rules (see pages 184-185) of analysis as follows:
1. We should notice that the title itself indicates to us the author's thesis or principal conclusion. He is about to defend patriotism, that is, to show that patriotism is honorable. A more careful reading will help us to state this somewhat more accurately as follows: True patriotism, namely, a love of one's country for its spiritual achievements, is honorable. We may use this as a tentative summary of the author's thesis until we have examined the work more closely.
2. We should ask whether the author intends to establish this thesis by poetic, rhetorical, dialectical, or demonstrative arguments. It is easy to see that the work is not the representation of an action, or even of thought pictured as the interior action of some character. Hence it is not a poetic work. Nor does it appear that the author is attempting a strict scientific demonstration of this thesis. If he were, we would expect him to proceed by stating technical principles, bringing forward evidence for these principles, and carefully excluding all appeal to emotion.
Indeed, it would seem clear that the work is rhetorical since it is called "A Defence," and it obviously uses a style that has strong emotional appeal. If we interpret it as rhetorical, we can get quite a satisfactory explanation of its details, except for one interesting point. In a rhetorical work we would expect the author to argue his position by enthymemes, but Chesterton is concerned here mainly with a definition. His effort is to contrast different ideas about patriotism and to discover the true one.
Hence in spite of its many rhetorical elements, we may suspect that this work is principally a dialectical one, since it is characteristic of dialectics to search for definitions. This is an example of the fact that many literary works combine two or more forms of discourse. Nevertheless, they will be principally one or the other.
3. The third rule deals with the discovery of the author's main terms and how he defines them. Here we should apply whatever we have learned in Chapter II about terms and definitions. It is clear from his thesis that Chesterton's main terms are true and false patriotism and honorable. He does not actually use the latter term, but it is implied in the very idea of a "defence." Since this is probably a dialectical work, we do not expect the author to give a final definition of these terms, since that is just what he is looking for. Rather we should list the various definitions of patriotism which occur in his essay (see pages 169 ff.).
4. The fourth rule leads its to seek the author's fundamental statements or principles and the evidence offered for them. We can do this by making an outline, as we learned in Chapter III; such an outline for Chesterton's essay is given on pages 170f. We see that, as is to be expected in a dialectical composition, there are no strict principles, but only a series of opinions or hypotheses. Chesterton bases these opinions on the common consent of men, on daily experience, and on various analogies.
5. The fifth rule brings us to the very heart of the essay, namely, its argument. We have already discussed this in Chapter III (pages 169 ff). The argument in dialectic consists in showing that if we accept the opinion in question, then we must accept certain consequences, which we then compare with other accepted opinions or known facts. Chesterton proposes a series of hypotheses, each of which is a possible definition of patriotism. He then shows that the commonly accepted ideas about patriotism lead us to absurd consequences. Only the definition which he is proposing stands the test. Hence it may be accepted as probably correct.
6. The last rule is to consider whether the author has used all the means required to establish his argument. To settle this we must consider the outline we have already made. Is the composition well ordered, or does it ramble? Are the parts in about the right balance and proportion? Does each paragraph have a unity of its own? What about the length, the continuity, and the variety of the sentences (see Chapter 11, pages 107 ff.)? Is the style chosen suitable for the argument? Is the choice of words and figures of speech suitable for the style? Finally, does the rhythm and sound of the words and sentences contribute or detract from the total effect?
When we ask these questions we will see that Chesterton's essay is, on the whole, quite orderly and free from extraneous matter. His style is characteristic in its great use of antithesis and paradox. He seeks certain humorous effects, and he especial1y loves alliteration and sonorous sentences. This style is chosen because its light and humorous quality and its paradoxical surprises assist his audience to think about rather serious questions without realizing that they are engaging in dialectics. They suppose the author is joking, writing a little informal essay, while actually he is writing rather deep philosophy.
The more carefully we study the details of this style, the more we will see how wisely Chesterton keeps prodding us to think by surprising turns of thought and expression. When we have seen how every word in the essay contributes to this one effect of leading us step by step to a better notion of what patriotism really is, then we can say that we have really read his essay.
Aquinas "Whether Piety Is a Special Virtue?"
If we turn now to Whether Piety Is a Special Virtue? we can apply the same six rules:
1. There is no doubt of Saint Thomas' thesis. It is put first in question form and then declared in his answer to that question: piety is a special virtue and hence something honorable, just as Chesterton has tried to show.
2. But an application of the second rule shows us at once that Saint Thomas is using a different type of argument than that used by Chesterton. Clearly there is no appeal to emotions, but only to cold reason. Hence the work is neither poetical nor rhetorical. Furthermore, it gives every sign of being an attempt at a strictly scientific demonstration, and not merely a dialectical research, since Saint Thomas gives a positive and definitive answer to the question he raises. On the other band, there is some dialectic involved here, since the composition begins with a series of opinions that are opposed to the thesis. We have here an example of a complete exposition in which dialectic is used to raise a question, but in which the question is answered by a strict demonstration.
3. It is at once obvious that the chief terms used are piety and special virtue. Saint Thomas defines piety very explicitly by an essential definition, showing that its genus is justice, and that its difference is paying the debt of reverence and service due to country and parents. Furthermore, he defines justice itself as a virtue which pays a debt to another. The term special virtue he does not define here, but rather refers back to an earlier section of his work where it has already been defined.
4. The fourth rule leads us to make an outline of Saint Thomas' work and to discover his basic principles. We see that all the parts of a complete exposition are present but in a different order than the usual one (see pages 185 f.). The thesis is stated as a question. Then come the objections and "on the contrary" which serve as a statement of the question, since they give the common opinions. The definition of terms, however, is included along with the proof in the "I answer that." The reply to objections is in the usual place. We see that the basic principles used in his proof are the definition of piety which is immediately evident, since it is a definition derived from experience of human life, and the definitions of justice and of virtue, which he has already defended earlier in the Summa.
5. The argument contained in the "I answer that" has already been given in syllogistic form on page 173 in Chapter III, and is logically correct. Moreover, it fulfills the requirements of a strict proof, because its premises are certain and necessary (see pages 173 f.). Hence Saint Thomas' answer is certainly true and provides us with the exact reason (middle term) for the conclusion.
6. In applying the last rule concerning the economy and style of presentation, we cannot help but admire the way in which Saint Thomas has answered a deep scientific question in so brief a space. Nothing here is wasted. Everything is straight to the point. We cannot judge his use of the Latin language, since this is only a translation. Experts in Latin literature, however, greatly admire the purity and simplicity of Saint Thomas' Latin style, although he wrote in the Middle Ages when Latin bad lost much of its literary polish. We can see, however, even in translation, his great care to use technical terms that will express ideas accurately, and his avoidance of any display of mere technical jargon.
If we compare the work of Saint Thomas with that of Chesterton, we can see how Chesterton by his use of dialectics, with a certain flavor of rhetoric, helps us to become interested in the problem of what real patriotism is. Once we have been awakened to the problem, Saint Thomas with clear and simple but exact language gives us a precise answer. Thus rhetoric and dialectics prepare the way for scientific demonstration.
THE METHODS OF ORATORY
The Central Point or Thesis
The first step in writing a rhetorical composition is to formulate exactly the main point to be established, that is, to determine what we want to persuade the audience to do. Next we need to consider the character of the audience itself, the things that appeal to them, and the things they dislike. Finally, we should consider what kind of arguments will be convincing to them.
In reading or listening to a rhetorical composition the process of analysis is the same: What is the author trying to persuade his audience to do? Has he rightly judged their reaction? Is he using the arguments that are effective for this audience?
In trying to discover a rhetorician's thesis, we must remember that rhetoric sometimes seeks to keep the thesis concealed until the audience is fully prepared to accept it. Otherwise if it were presented from the outset the audience might reject it decisively. Thus Mark Anthony begins his speech in Julius Caesar by saying: "I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him," because he knows his audience is in no mood to hear Caesar praised. Only by indirection does he finally come to speak openly in Caesar's favor.
Sometimes, however, if our thesis is not something which the audience detests, but rather something to which they are indifferent, we may want to present it frankly at the start so they will not be suspicious. This thesis must be something morally good and true, or the whole work will not be genuine rhetoric, but only an abuse of rhetoric.
In order to study the nature of the audience to which some speech has been addressed, we may have to do some research on the history of the period and the situation in which the speech was delivered. In composing a rhetorical work ourself, we must carefully observe and study the people to whom we are to speak, trying to know as much about them as possible. Here the methods of the social sciences are useful when they can be applied. For this reason advertising firms carefully study the audience to whom they are trying to sell a product by the use of "opinion surveys," "consumer analyses," etc. When such elaborate methods cannot be applied, we should at least make careful inquiries, ask the advice of those who know the audience, and carefully watch the audience reaction during our speech.
The Means of Persuasion
Of all the means of persuasion, none is so fundamental as the impression made on the audience by the character of the speaker. Hence we must consider what the reaction of the audience is likely to be to our appearance, manner, and approach to the question. A speaker should realize his weak and his strong points relative to a particular audience, and he should try to counteract any prejudices they may have formed concerning him.
The second mode of persuasion is an appeal to the emotions of the audience. We must have a good idea of what will appeal to them and what they will dislike. Frequently a truth put in one set of terms will seem distasteful to them, while the very same truth differently expressed will seem pleasing.
These two means of persuasion, powerful as they may be, only dispose the audience to accept a thesis; they do not actually persuade them. Complete persuasion is achieved only through a third means, that of rational argument, and it is this which is most characteristic of rhetoric. Rational arguments must be based on premises readily acceptable to the audience, and they must be expressed in a forceful manner through enthymemes, examples, and maxims, rather than through the clearer yet less striking form of the syllogism. In analyzing a rhetorical composition we should pay careful attention to the arguments which it contains, since these are its very heart. Frequently readers and speakers make the mistake of looking only at the style, or the emotional appeal of a speech, and they neglect a study of the arguments in which its chief power really consists.
THE KINDS OF ORATORY
The particular form an argument should take depends upon the type of speech. A speech may be deliberative, that is, one intended to lead all audience to make a decision about some future action, (for example, a speech in Congress on a proposed law). Or it may be judicial, that is, intended to persuade the audience to make a judgment upon some past action (for example, a speech in a court of law). Or it may be ceremonial, that is, designed to make the audience appreciate some present situation or person as honorable or dishonorable (for example, a commencement speech).
In deliberative oratory the speaker must understand clearly what the public welfare truly consists in. He must also understand the characteristics of particular forms of government, and must be well acquainted with history, geography, war, and economics, so that he can show that a certain course of action in war or diplomacy, or certain policies with regard to civil liberties, business, taxes, etc., are really more or less expedient. Men who are to take part in public affairs, or to stand for public office, must have this kind of wide education in social science, history, and current affairs if they are to be effective speakers. They must especially be able to present their character in a favorable light to the public, and they must know how to establish their arguments by many examples from history and personal experience.
In judicial oratory the speaker is chiefly concerned with crime and its motivation, and With the character of the criminal and of the victims of his crime. He must also be thoroughly acquainted both with the law and with the facts in the case at issue. He will appeal to the emotions of the judge and jury, but he must especially use forceful reasoning in the form of the enthymeme to prove his case or to refute contrary arguments, since judgment about past events frequently depends upon inferences from rather scanty evidence.
The ceremonial orator must have an especially good knowledge of ethics, so that he has a profound concept of true nobility of character and is able to show its traits clearly. He makes especial use of the devices of amplification to help the audience appreciate the greatness of his subject. It is in this type of speech that beauty of style is of the greatest importance, and it is the kind of oratory which most resembles poetry.
Other Rhetorical Forms
History and biography (including autobiography, of course) are really forms of rhetoric similar to ceremonial rhetoric, when they are more than a mere recording of facts. The primary purpose of history is to broaden our narrow personal experience of life, so that we can make more prudent decisions in our personal lives and especially as citizens.
The historian is not a mere propagandist. He seeks to establish his facts accurately on the basis of reliable witnesses, and he seeks to explain these facts in terms of psychology and other sciences, especially of social science. His explanations cannot be strictly demonstrative, because we cannot fully explain singular events, since science deals with what is universal. Hence the historian uses dialectics to make a research into the most probable explanations. He also uses something of the skill of the poetic writer in attempting to recreate a vivid picture of the past. The historian's ultimate purpose, however, is to help us to make better judgments about life by following men of great character, and avoiding the mistakes of evil men. This purpose requires the art of rhetoric.**Some believe that history is worth knowing for its own sake as a purely theoretical science like natural science, mathematics, or philosophy. But these latter sciences are worth knowing for their own sake precisely because they are about something universal and permanent, and they can arrive at precise and certain explanations. History deals with events which will never occur again and which we can only imperfectly understand. Hence it cannot be of great value for its own sake. It is, however, of immense value when used in the manner described above.
STYLE IN RHETORIC
Although ceremonial oratory and history especially require excellence of style, style is of great importance in all rhetoric. The speaker must select terms which are forceful and which have the right emotional tone for his purpose. He must avoid whatever is technical or pedantic or unintelligible to his audience. His sentences must have a smooth rhythmic flow so as not to impede the course of his thought, and they must be so constructed as to produce interesting variety and appropriate climaxes. Finally, they must be composed with a view to delivery, since there is considerable difference between a speech which is effective in reading and in listening.
The style of ceremonial oratory must be very polished. judicial oratory must be vivid and striking. Deliberative oratory is less literary than either of these, but clear and practical.
No matter how excellent the content of a speech or its style, it will lose all force if it is badly arranged. We have all become exasperated with the speaker who wanders from one topic to another, and seems to be getting nowhere. The basic arrangement of every speech is as follows:
- 1. The introduction, which aims at catching the attention of the audience and disposing them well to the character of the speaker.
- 2. The statement of the case, which is designed to put the practical problem clearly before the audience and make them see bow important it is for them personally to arrive at the right decision.
- 3. The argument of the case, in which the reasons for deciding in favor of the orator's point of view are brought forth. This is the heart of the whole speech.
- 4. The conclusion, in which the emotions of the audience are particularly brought to bear to reinforce the argument and to leave them with a definite resolution on which to act.
It is obvious that these points are essentially the same as in a complete demonstrative exposition, except that more attention is given to disposing the audience to a good opinion of the speaker in the introduction, and to awakening a strong emotional conviction in the conclusion. The statement of the case and the argument, however, are very different in a rhetorical and in a demonstrative composition, because the demonstration is always trying to bring forward the exact reason or cause of his conclusion, while the orator is concerned with the reason which will be most appealing to the particular audience.
This does not mean, of course, that the rhetorician can use false arguments. His reasons must be true and good, but they need not be exact and essential. Thus if I wished to demonstrate that physical exercise is good for health, I would dwell on the fact that our bodily functions are stimulated by vigorous use. This is the precise reason and cause. But if I wished to persuade a fat man to take exercise, it might be more effective to point out that if he doesn't reduce people will laugh at him. This is not the essential reason that he needs to exercise, but it is the one which has the most emotional force.
ANALYSIS OF A RHETORICAL EXAMPLE
In previous chapters we have already given a rather complete analysis of the "Gettysburg Address" (see pages 159 ff.). Here we will only summarize briefly the steps a skilled reader would take in analyzing it:
1. A preliminary reading would show that the thesis is probably: "You should imitate the patriotism of the dead by finishing the war."
2. This makes it clear at once that we are dealing with a rhetorical work, since it is an attempt to persuade the audience to do something, namely, to imitate the dead by finishing the war. Hence we must judge everything in the speech in terms of this rhetorical purpose: How does it contribute to persuading the audience?
Furthermore, we will quickly see from the contents of the speech that it is an example of ceremonial oratory, since it seeks to glorify the dead, but that it contains also in its main conclusion an element of deliberative oratory, since it also argues about the course of action to be pursued in the future. This deliberative purpose, however, is kept subordinated to the ceremonial purpose.
Hence we should modify our tentative statement of the thesis so as to bring these points out. The thesis is better expressed, therefore, as follows: "The patriotism of the dead is to be honored today and imitated by finishing their work in the future," for instance, or something similar.
3. We next consider the main terms, which obviously again will be the patriotism of the dead and the honor due them. We see that Lincoln has the task of defining these terms in such a way as to amplify them, that is, to make them seem very great. He amplifies the notion of patriotism (1) by showing how complete was the offering of these men, an offering of their own lives; and (2) by showing how great was the cause in which they fought, to carry on the mission of America of giving an example of free government to the whole world. In this fashion he defines patriotism in terms of its formal cause (reverence of country shown by sacrifice of one's life) and its final cause (to preserve the country in its ideals).
Honor he defines by showing that the honor due is beyond all, words. This he does by depreciating his own words in order to amplify honor. The only fitting honor is imitation, the carrying out of the task already begun. Hence true honor is defined as reverence shown not in words but in deeds.
4. Next the reader should try to outline the speech and to see its most significant statements and their basis. We have already done this (see page 101). We will see that Lincoln bases his argument on the principle, accepted by all in the audience, that the United States was founded to carry on a great ideal, the ideal of free government which is worth the greatest sacrifices. He gives as his grounds for this assertion the accepted historical fact that this was the purpose, for which the country was founded (first sentence).
A second principle he uses, but keeps implicit, is that this war is being fought by the North to defend the true ideal on which the country is based. Of course a Southern audience would not have accepted this notion. The Northern audience accepts it without question, but Lincoln does not feel that this is the occasion on which to discuss the point. Hence he leaves it implicit.
5. We have also already analyzed the arguments of the speech (see pages 159 f.). We have seen that Lincoln realizes that in establishing his own character before the audience he has to overcome their suspicious of him as a cheap politician. This he does by the simple dignity and lofty character of his speech as a whole, and especially in the grandeur of its opening lines.
Secondly, he uses their emotions effectively. He knows that this audience is bitter, tired, suspicious, and filled with sorrow. Hence he tries to raise their emotions to a higher plane of nobility, to give them a sense of the solemnity of the occasion, its historical significance, and the hopeful future of the cause. The speech begins solemnly but moves to a strong and resolute climax.
Thirdly, he makes use of a simple enthymeme (see page 160) which gives them a rational conviction that if the war for so noble a cause has cost so much already, they must see it through to the end. Thus he leads directly from their sense of the honor due to the dead to the practical resolution he wishes them to form.
6. Once we understand this course of the argument the fittingness of Lincoln's style becomes apparent. The regular rule of ceremonial oratory requires that it have a highly polished style. This is seen in three features: (1) the simple but noble choice of words;
(2) the use of figures of speech, but especially of the metaphor of death and rebirth which runs through the whole oration; and especially (3) in the beautiful rhythm of the words rising to the grand climax of the last sentence. The economy of the speech is notable, and its very brevity makes it have the character of an epitaph or proverb, something that can be easily memorized and retained like a motto. Its arrangement shows a very brief introduction, an exposition of the occasion, the argument, and a brief but powerful conclusion.
The more we analyze this speech the more we see that every detail of it contributes to the total thesis and that it is complete in all its parts.
FALLACIES CONCERNING POETIC WORKS
In judging a poetic work, whether it is in prose or verse, whether it is in the form of a novel, a play, a lyric, or an essay, we must keep clearly in mind the special purpose of such a work. This special purpose makes it very different from demonstrative, dialectical, or rhetorical works. We should especially avoid the following mistakes, which lead many readers to wrong judgments about works of literature and to a failure to appreciate true excellence.
First Mistake: Divorce from Truth
It is a mistake to think that a poetic work can be a good work of art despite the fact that it presents a false thesis or arouses in us immoral emotions and attitudes. A poetic work, just like demonstration, dialectic, and rhetoric, must present the truth. To use our power of thought and speech to produce something which is false or foolish is a misuse of God-given powers. To arouse immoral emotions or to read a work that arouses them is to place ourselves in the occasion of sin.
Many who make this mistake argue that certain great writers have written very clever works that present falsehood. In answer to this we may grant that an artist can misuse his art if he wills. He then produces a bad work of art as a whole, although this or that feature of it may be very good. Our admiration of the good features of the work should not blind us to its bad features. On the other hand, a work of art is not to be condemned totally because it has some incidental falsehoods or errors in taste or morals. If these are minor and incidental and are not an occasion of temptation to us, we may overlook them. No human work is entirely perfect.
Again people argue that literature must present life as it is, and hence it must deal with falsehood and with vice as well as with what is true and virtuous. This is a most illogical argument. All discourse presents falsehood -- not, however, in order to agree with it, but to refute it. Falsehood is used to make the truth more clear by contrast. So in literature there must indeed be a presentation of falsehood and of evil. Nevertheless, the purpose of this presentation of falsehood and sin must be only for the purpose of making truth clearer and goodness more desirable. The emotions aroused by the work must be virtuous and not dangerous, so that sin is never presented sympathetically, although the sinner should arouse our pity, and our fear for our own sins.
The reason for this is clear if we remember that the purpose of the poetic work is to purify the emotions so that we may be recreated by a vision of the truth. If the work arouses irrational emotions and presents a falsehood, it cannot give us this recreation.
Second Mistake: Divorce from Art
The second mistake is to think if a work does present the truth and arouse good emotions that it is a good poetic work. People who do not make the first mistake above frequently fall into this second mistake,
Any work of liberal art, whether it be poetic, rhetorical, dialectical, or demonstrative, must present truth; but it is not a good work of liberal art merely because its thesis or conclusion is true. An argument may have a true conclusion and still be a weak, or even a false, argument. Rather an argument of any sort is good when it has (1) good logical form, and (2) it presents the true middle term or cause of the conclusion.
In a poetic work the correct logical form is that of an example, and the middle term in this example is a story which produces a catharsis of emotion.
Granted that a poetic work presents a truth, it will be a good or bad poetic work insofar as it presents this truth in terms of such a story. If a poetic writer is a poor storyteller he is a poor writer, no matter how true and good may be his thesis. Some religious magazines are filled with pious stories and poems which have a good moral but which are very poor literature and which are quite unsatisfactory as recreation.
Third Mistake: Digesting Plot
A third mistake is to think that since the story or plot is the soul of the work that a poetic work is good if it has a good story, Some people think that if they read a digest of a novel, or even a summary of its plot, they have saved a great deal of time and got at the real heart of the work. This is not true of any work of liberal art. If it is a good work of art, every word in it has a purpose, and a mere summary of any argument does not do it justice.
But this is particularly true of a poetic work. The work does not achieve its purpose of purifying our emotions and leading us to a vision of truth except by helping us enter into the very experience of the story itself. We must not only "hear about what happened," we must seem to live it ourselves. For that reason the way in which the story is told, the descriptions, the characters, the dialogue, the choice of words and figures of speech, the sound and rhythm of the sentences-all are important. The story or plot is not a mere summary, it is found in every detail of the work and in every feature of its style, just as our soul is found in every part of the body to which it gives life.
The reader who reads only for the story and does not appreciate the style and art with which the story is told is missing most of its true recreative value. This is why he finds little enjoyment in the lyric, essay, or didactic poem in which the story element is less prominent, and character, thought, or style is more important.
Fourth Mistake: Fixed Forms
The fourth mistake is to approach a poetic work with a preconceived idea of its form. Some critics have attempted a neat classification of the forms of poetic work as if they were natural species, and have laid down "rules" for each form. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century the neoclassical school of criticism attempted to impose such rules. They even considered that the great Shakespeare was a barbarian because his works failed to fit their models. Against this attitude a reaction called romanticism set in which stressed the idea that there are no rules in poetry, and that the artist is free to create as he pleases.
Today the romantic attitude is still the dominant one, and yet many fine writers and critics are again emphasizing that a poem must conform to the rules of some form if it is to be a real work of art,
In order to balance the classical and romantic positions, we should remember two points:
- 1. A poetic work represents (or imitates) nature; that is, it tells a story about human life and it will be successful in presenting such a story only if it is true to life. Hence no artist is free to create anything, he pleases; he must design his work so that it achieves this purpose of presenting nature. The neoclassical critics realized this, and they believed that the great Greek writers had discovered how to present life truly; in consequence, they thought that the types of literature invented by the Greeks were the best, and they tried to discover the rules on which they were based, just as in architecture we still study the Greek temples to discover how they achieved such marvelous balance and proportion. It remains true that in developing a taste for literature, or even the ability to write, one should begin by a careful study and analysis of great works of literature invented by the Greeks and by later writers who attained success in their art. In this way the poet must be the pupil both of nature and of past artists.
- 2. Nevertheless, in imitating nature the artist can invent an infinite variety of ways to represent it. Human life is vastly complex, and no work of art can present the whole of it. Each artist sees some aspect of life which others have missed and he must design his own form in which to present that aspect. Even if he uses some well-recognized and fully developed form he will have to modify and adapt it to make it serve his special purpose.
Hence the forms of art and the rules of writing can never be fixed once and for all; they are constantly being added to and developed. We must approach each new work with an open mind. This is what the romantics pleaded for. They, too, spoke of a "return to nature," because they believed that by imitating only the authors of the past writers lose touch with human life itself. The mistake of romanticism, however, (and it was a greater error even than that of the neoclassicists) was to think that nature is known by us only through our subjective impressions and emotions. A romantic poem is really not about nature, but about the poet's feelings about nature. This view of life denied the power of the human reason to understand the true nature of man and of the world, and gradually led to a type of literature which pictures life as without order or meaning. Realism is only the other side of romanticism, since the realistic writer simply records what he sees without trying to understand it.
POETIC FORMS AND METHODS
Differences in Manner
A true theory of poetry requires the poet to be true to life as it really is not merely to its appearances or his reactions to it; but it leaves him free rein to invent new forms and methods by which to present this truth about life. In criticizing a work we should try first of all to discover this basic idea, which is the soul of the work. If it is false, then the work as a whole is bad, and nothing remains but to consider such excellence as its parts may exhibit. If the idea is true, then we must try to see if the artist has invented or made use of the right form in which to represent this truth down to its last details of word and sound.
In discovering this basic idea or form which is the plot or soul of the work, we have to proceed by stating it in the form of a hypothesis, and then see if this hypothesis can explain all the details of the work. Sometimes it is useful to try several hypotheses and
find out which best explains the work. In doing this it is a help to be acquainted with the forms of poetic work which have already been invented and perfected by previous authors, but we should not try to force the work we are criticizing into one of these molds. Rather we should try to see why the author has modified the recognized forms in order to present his own idea more perfectly.
Differences in Method
Related to differences in manner are differences resulting from the freedom with which the author deals with his materials. Thus a story may be historical when the author draws the material from actual history, or purely fictional when be invents it all. He may treat this realistically by describing daily life in a literal fashion, in which case he may use either an impressionistic or a documentary technique, according as he builds tip his picture from little fragments or from a detailed description; or he may write in a romantic style, that is, coloring his story with the marvelous and imaginary, or at least with the heroic and unusual. He may also present his story in a literal way by saying directly what is intended; or figuratively, either by making use of occasional symbolism (metaphors), or by an extended allegory or parable. **An allegory is a story which has a hidden meaning corresponding to almost all of its details. A parable has a hidden meaning also, but one which has only a general correspondence between story and meaning, the details not requiring any special interpretation.
Differences in Length
A third classification is according to the magnitude or length. Thus the trilogy, the novel, the novelette, and the short-story differ principally in their relative length. Along with this can be grouped the classification of works according to their completeness. Thus we can speak of major works, like the play, the epic, and the novel, all of which are long, deal with all the objects of imitation (plot, character, thought), and use a rich variety of means; and minor works, which limit themselves more narrowly. Also we can speak of sketches, essays, descriptions, and experimental studies which do not aim to present a complete and finished work.
Differences in Form
The third classification just mentioned is closely related to a fourth. This is the most important and fundamental classification, because it is based riot merely on the matter and mariner of the work, but on its object or form.
Classification of Poetic WorksI. The most obvious classification of works is with respect to their matter or means employed: 1. Works in verse: a. In free-verse: b. In meter: These can be subdivided according to the kinds of meter, and the kinds of stanza forms used; for example, blank verse, rhymed verse, iambic pentameter, quatrains, the sonnet, etc. 2. Works in prose: These also could be subdivided according to the style of prose, as poetic prose, simple prose, etc. 3. Works which use additional means: Thus the words can be set to music, and they can be intended to be performed, either by reading, or by acting on the stage with the stage-setting (spectacle), or as movies or television. Thus the opera, the drama, the movie, the reading make use of the different combinations of means. II. A second classification can be made according to the manner or method of presenting the story: 1. Dialogues: in which the story is told exclusively through dialogue. When these are intended to be performed they are plays or dramas. 2. Narratives: in these works the story is recounted. Most narratives, of course, also include reports of dialogues. A narrative may be told: a. In the, third person; this is the common way. b. In the second person, such as a story related through letters. c. In the first person; for example, a story told as an autobiography. A cross-division which relates to manner, but which call be found both in dialogues and narratives is: 1) Stories told in straight chronological order. 2) Stories told by "flash-backs." III. The third classification is based on the object or form of the work: 1. The work may emphasize the plot: (plays, novels, epics, short stories, ballads). a. The plot results from the deliberate choices made by the characters. This may be called a dramatic plot, since the most crucial and agonizing situations result only when human decisions are involved. This dramatic plot may be either: (1) Tragic: in the tragic dramatic plot the chief character is tempted to sin through pride and thus bring upon himself and society the most serious consequences. Pride is the sin by which man rebels against God and the order which be has set in the universe. It is opposed to the virtue of humility by which man acknowledges that he is subordinated to the common good. Two main types of tragic plot have been developed: (a) The Greek tragedy in which the hero sins by pride and is brought back to humility only through an ultimate punishment. Shakespeare's Macbeth and Julius Caesar are modifications of this type of plot. (b) The Christian tragedy in which the hero conquers the temptation to pride, but only at the price of enduring the suffering which is the punishment of pride. The life of our Lord is the most perfect model of this plot. (2) Comic: in the comic dramatic plot the chief character is tempted not to pride but to the lesser sin of vainglory. Vainglory is not rebellion, but an inordinate desire for the good opinion of others. It is opposed to the virtue of magnanimity or nobility. The vainglorious man assumes a dignity which is not really his and thus appears ridiculous and laughable, but the consequences of his error are not serious. Two types of comedy also have been developed: (a) The Greek comedy in which the chief character assumes a false dignity but is finally exposed as ridiculous, and true human dignity is vindicated. Moliere's The Bourgeois Gentleman is a good example. (b) The Christian comedy in which the chief character overcomes the false standards of the world by true magnanimity of character. The great Spanish novel, Don Quixote, is a famous example. b. The plot results from the circumstances in which the characters are placed. A plot of this type may emphasize either: (1) The external difficulties which the characters must overcome and then we have the adventure story in which the interest is in the unusual external actions. The Greek epic, The Odyssey, and Stevenson's Treasure Island are examples. The "western" story, science fiction, mystery stories, war stories, etc., belong to this class. (2) The internal sufferings of the character in which the interest is mainly psychological, George Eliot's Silas Marner is an example. These last two types of plot may have something either of the tragic or the comic about them, but they cannot be strictly either tragic or comic since the truly tragic and comic depend on the moral choices of the characters. They also may be presented as novels, plays, epics, short stories, narrative poems, etc. 2. The work may emphasize character: a. The biography. This is more properly a rhetorical form, as we have explained above (see page 202), but even when the picture of a character is rhetorical it requires a great deal of poetic art to present it vividly, The interest is not in some action, but in character. It may be presented as a series of story episodes, or sometimes in the form of monologue or dialogue, as in Browning's so-called "dramatic monologues." The distinction between tragic and comic can be reflected in character study: (1) There is a tragic tone when ideal men and women are portrayed. Plutarch's Parallel Lives, Sandburg's Life of Lincoln, and Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop are examples. (2) There is a comic tone when a ridiculous character or group is exposed. This is ordinarily a satire as in many of the novels of Dickens, Thackeray, and Mark Twain. Related to satire is the pastoral, or contrast between the simple life of the country and the vicious life of the city, of which the Book of Ruth, The Deserted Village, and Snowbound are examples. b. Lyric poetry (and also some longer poems similar to lyrics) which portrays the transient states of character known as emotions. All poetic works involve emotion, but emotion is at the center in the lyric; hence the lyric is usually in verse, since this best expresses intense feelings. There are many types of lyrics, but they might be grouped as follows: (1) The writer expresses the way in which his emotions are aroused by: (a) a scene of beauty (or even of horror). This is descriptive poetry such as Pope's Windsor Castle or much of the poetry of the English romantic poets. (b) a person or event. Thus we have love poetry, the elegy, etc. Shakespeare's Sonnets are a famous example. (2) The writer deliberates about some action. This might be called the soliloquy and is frequently used in plays. Many of the lyrics of the so-called Metaphysical Poets of the 17th century are of this type. 3. The work may emphasize thought: didactic poetry and prose. Such work is hard to distinguish from rhetoric. If it is truly practical and leads to positive practical conclusions, it is rhetoric; but if its purpose is rather contemplative, leading us to be emotionally reconciled with life, then it may be poetic. a. The essay in prose or verse, and sometimes the letter, develops some one theme in an informal or formal manner. The essays of Addison and Pope's Essays on Man are good examples. b. The philosophical poem of greater length and complexity such as those of Wordsworth, or even Dante's Divine Comedy (which has something of the epic character but rather belongs here). c. The dialogue or soliloquy, like those of Plato and Augustine which are not mere character studies. d. Short poems like the proverb, epitaph, epigram, etc., in which thought is the dominant feature.
ANALYSIS OF POETIC WORKS
After we have found the approximate form of the work to be criticized, we should try to state its plot in a single sentence. If it is a work in which plot is emphasized, this will at once give us the central idea of the whole work. If, however, character or thought are emphasized, the plot may be reduced to a minimum. In a lyric poem, for example, the plot will probably consist simply in the stages of emotion which are expressed. In a didactic work it will be the successive stages of thought and the sentiments which accompany them.
Keeping this tentative statement of the plot, we should ask if it is truly poetic in character; that is, is it a single vivid, typical example which expresses a universal truth and produces a catharsis? In deciding this we must ask if it is complete, unified, and probable (see page 150). We should also divide it into its beginning, middle, and end, and the middle into its various episodes. If in attempting to do this we find that the plot appears defective, we should re-examine our tentative statement to see if perhaps we have mistaken the author's real purpose. Only when we have seriously tried to find a complete, unified, and probable plot, should we conclude that he has failed.
We should also consider whether the magnitude or length is sufficient for the completeness of the plot, or whether it is unnecessarily long. In examining the plot we must also consider the other objects of imitation. How many characters are there? What is the nature of each? How do they contribute to the action? Are they consistent, lifelike, and appropriate to the plot? If it is a work in which character is emphasize these questions will be the main basis on which to judge the work.
As to the thought, we must ask whether it follows the rules of rhetoric and at the same time maintains a contemplative and emotional1y moving tone so as to be genuinely poetic.
After these questions that relate to the object of representation, we should consider the manner. Has the author rightly chosen the form of a play or is it more suited for a novel? Is dialogue used effectively? Why has he chosen to present it in first, second, or third person? Why has he chosen it realistic or romantic tone, etc.?
Lastly we come to the means. Here we have to consider the writer's consistency of tone, his choice of words, his use of description and figures of speech, and the suitability of his work to be performed or to be set to music, if that is the intention.
After this careful analysis of the work we may ask ourselves if the author has abused his art by using it for an unworthy purpose to present what is false or dangerous. Finally, this analysis should be only the preparation for our own experience and enjoyment of the work.
The Experience of Poetic Works
In the actual experience of a work of art, all the points of which we have spoken are blended together into a unified whole. We are able to achieve this only when we have developed good taste. For a person of good taste the process of analysis of which we have been speaking becomes second nature, so that there is no need to think of it; only the beauty of the work is present. There is little use in learning rules of literary criticism unless we use them so frequently that they become second nature. Reference to them, however, will be useful in approaching new and unfamiliar types of works, and in discussing works with friends. Literary works are a fitting topic of discussion since such discussion recalls delightful experiences and helps us renew the refreshment we received from these works. It also helps friends to open up their own souls to each other, since it is in the appreciation of beautiful works that our gifts and beauty of soul appear.
AN EXAMPLE OF POETIC ANALYSIS
The Kind of Work
In reading the "Concord Hymn" we might apply our six rules in something of the following manner:
1. We gather first that the central idea of the work is that "patriotism is often forgotten but not by God." This is another way of saying that " patriotism is to be honored as a virtue," much the same theme as we have found in the demonstrative, dialectical, and rhetorical pieces we have already analyzed.
2. We should not jump to the conclusion that this work is "poetic" merely because it is a short work in verse. Many so-called "poems" are really rhetorical or even scientific works. In order to decide if it is a rhetorical or poetic work, rather than scientific, we must ask ourself if it has an emotional as well as an intellectual appeal? It is clear from the writer's care to speak in concrete and imaginative terms that he is trying to move us emotionally as well as intellectually. Hence the work is either rhetorical or poetical. If it is rhetorical it must be aimed at getting us to do something.
We see in fact that the author has indicated that we ought to honor the dead, just as did Lincoln in his "Gettysburg Address." But a more careful examination will show that while Lincoln is intensely practical in his approach, Emerson is content rather to help us appreciate and contemplate the beauty of patriotism rather than to urge us to do anything about it. This is apparent especially from the tone of the last stanza. Hence we can safely say that this probably is a poetic work.
It does not, however, have any obvious exterior plot. The story which it tells is largely an interior one, since it is not an account of the battle of Concord, but rather the poet's reflections concerning that battle. Hence we must be dealing with a lyric or didactic poem in which plot is reduced to a minimum. Analysis shows, however, that thought is not very central in this poem, since Emerson does not develop intellectual reasons for his conclusions, but rather emphasizes emotional reasons, namely, our sense of shame at forgetting what the dead have done for us.
Hence it would appear that we are dealing with a lyric poem of the type that represents a poet's emotional reaction to an event, in this case the occasion of erecting the monument. We see, too, from the sorrowful tone, that we are dealing with the kind of lyric called the elegy.
The Argument of the Work
Our attempt to appreciate the poem, therefore, must consist in an effort to see bow the writer has made us share in his emotional experience, an experience which ended in a deeper realization of the universal truth that patriotism is a noble and honorable thing.
In applying rule 3 (discovery and definition of terms) and rule 4 (basic statements and their source), we must remember that in a poetic work abstract statements and ideas are replaced by concrete objects of representation. Thus we see that Emerson does not write about "patriotism" or "honor," but about the minutemen, who are an example of patriotism, and the Concord monument, which is an example of honor. Hence in poetic works rules 3 and 4 can be applied along with rule 5 (argument), by inquiring about the objects of representation, namely, plot, character, and thought.
The plot here consists in the poet's gradual realization of the honor due to patriotism through an emotional experience. We see that it is unified because each stage of the poem leads up to this final realization. It is complete since it has a beginning in the first stanza with the poet's mental picture of the battle which took place years before on the spot on which he is standing, a middle in his realization and shame at the neglect and forgetfulness of men shown in the second stanza, and his determination to set tip the monument in the third stanza, and finally an end in his prayer to God, wherein he realizes that true honor is with God who cannot forget. This is complete, not only as a thought, but as an emotion, since the awe and shame aroused in the poem come to rest in the prayerful joy and reassurance of the last stanza. In this way there is a catharsis of the emotion. The plot is also probable, for this succession of emotions comes from the realization of a great truth, each step leading naturally into the next.
This argument or plot is made tip of the several stages of thought and emotion which constitute, as it were, the basic statements of the poem. Thus each stanza can be summarized as a single statement. The ground for these statements is to be found in the poet's experience communicated to us in the poem by concrete, vivid pictures. These pictures serve to define the terms of the poem. Thus "patriotism" appears in the poem in the vivid picture of the minutemen standing at the bridge "with flag unfurled." "Honor" appears in the poem in terms of three actions: men forget the dead, they remember and erect a monument, and finally they pray to God. The poet defines each of these by his use of exact description and of symbol.
Finally we must see how the poet has used words, imagery, symbols and other figures of speech, and the sound of his words and sentences to represent the foregoing objects. We have already seen (see page 116) how well Emerson has used all these means of representation. to produce his work. It is only when we see that every word and every syllable has been chosen with care to bring before us this single emotional experience in order for us to appreciate a great truth that we will truly appreciate this poem.
In a novel or drama the plot would probably be much more prominent, and require more careful analysis, than in a lyric of this sort. Similarly, in a didactic poem we should have to devote much more attention to the play of thought. But in all cases the same objects of representation and the same means of representation will be present in different proportions.
1. A literary genre (literary type, or form) is a commonly accepted grouping of literary works which significantly resemble each other in form or matter.Note: It has been explained in the previous chapter that such types are not fixed natural species, but are groupings of highly individual objects, and that an artist may invent new types or variations of these types. The following definitions, therefore, are nominal rather than real definitions.
2. A complete demonstration (or "thesis form") is the presentation of a proof for a definite conclusion, preceded by an introduction in which the terms of the conclusion are defined, the importance of the problem explained, the principal opinions about it listed, and the proper principles of solution manifested, and followed by a reconciliation or refutation of opposing views by means of the art of distinguishing terms.
3. The dialogue is a dialectical exchange between two or more persons aiming at the clarification of a question and the establishment of principles for its solution.
If the parties defend set positions which are formally opposed it is a debate, and if this debate is open to voluntary participation it is a forum. If the positions are not formally opposed, then it may be called a symposium, conference, or panel.
4. The essay is a short prose composition (although it is sometimes in verse) which may be in any of the four modes of discourse. When collected in topical order it is a journal.
5. Deliberative or political rhetoric is intended to lead an audience to make a decision about some future action; judicial or forensic to make a judgment about the merits of a past action; ceremonial or occasional (epideictic) to evaluate some present person or situation as honorable or dishonorable.
6. History and biography as a literary form pertain to rhetoric since they aim to persuade us to act in accordance with a wider experience of human vice and virtue, but the establishment and explanation of facts requires a skillful dialectical method, and a knowledge of the sciences.
The autobiography, "profile," memoir, diary, and confession are special forms. The character sketch may also be typical rather than individual.
7. The epistle or letter is an essay written to a particular person.
8. Tragic literature is a representation of a heroic action in which human virtue is tested by the most serious trials that expose human pride and thus produce a catharsis of sorrow and fear ending in a serene contemplation of the divine order in the world.
9. Comic literature is a representation of human action in which human vainglory is exposed by ridiculous and not serious situations so as to produce a catharsis of any unseemly emotion ending in a delightful contemplation of human dignity and social order.
10. A tragedy is dramatic imitation of a serious and complete action in language appropriately rich which by incidents arousing pity and fear produces a catharsis of these emotions.
11. A comedy is an imitation of an action which is complete but not serious in language appropriately rich which by incidents exposing the ridiculous produces a catharsis of the unseemly emotions by which men are made ridiculous.
12. An epic is like the tragedy, but narrative not dramatic in form.
13. The comic epic is like the comedy, but narrative in form. When it parodies the style of the epic it is a mock-epic.
14. A romance is drama or narrative in which the marvelous in love or adventure is emphasized.
15. The farce is an extravagant comedy, the melodrama an extravagant romance, the parody an extravagant imitation of another work of literature.
16. A mystery play (Middle Ages) is one based on a mystery of the Christian religion, while a miracle play is one based on a miraculous incident in the life of a saint.
17. A myth is a narrative which seeks to explain historical, theological, natural, psychological, or moral truths in a metaphorical fashion. Fairy-tales are myths in which Christian writers replace the pagan gods by "little people." Fables are stories in which animals or even inanimate objects are personified. A folk-tale is my story handed down by tradition.
18. The parable is a narrative in which the things actually narrated, taken as a whole, are a metaphor for a hidden meaning. When this comparison extends even to details, the narrative is an allegory.
19. Proverbs, epitaphs, and epigrams are short statements of moral truth made striking by some figures of speech. When collected to form an extended work they are wisdom literature.
20. The novel is any longer narrative in prose. Most typically the novel is a comic epic in prose, but frequently it is tragic, or romantic, or even didactic, or it emphasizes the description of character.
Special forms of the novel are the picaresque (comic and adventurous), the historical romance (making use of historical material), the realistic, naturalistic, social protest novel (descriptive and ethical in purpose), the mystery and murder novels (in which the discovery of the crime is the chief element of the plot), the horror novel or Gothic novel (melodramatic and sensational), and various types of novels in series.
21. The short-story is like the novel but it does not treat an action which is truly complete, but rather an episode. In verse it is usually called merely a short verse-narrative.
22. The lyric poem is a short work in verse which approaches the nature of music since it principally represents emotion, that is, a transient state of character.
23. An elegy is a lyric representing sorrow for the dead or commemorating past happiness.
There are also patriotic songs, songs of conviviality (drinking songs, etc.), wedding songs (epithalmia), love songs, and comic songs.
24.The soliloquy is a lyrical poem or speech in which the character dwells on his own thoughts and feelings in a reflective mood.
25. The ode is a lyric of more elaborate form written in praise of a person, ideal, or thing.
26. The ballad is a lyric which makes use of narrative. The dramatic monologue is a lyric which resembles an episode of a play.
27. The descriptive poem is a lyric (sometimes, however, rather long) in which emotions are shown through the description of nature.
28. A pastoral (ecologue, bucolic poem, idyl) is a poem which contrasts the virtues of the simple country life or of ancient times with modern luxury and vice.
29. A didactic or philosophical poem is one in which the element of thought is emphasized in the representation, rather than plot or character.
30. The sonnet is a lyric in 14 lines of iambic pentameter verse divided into a contrasting octet (8 lines) and a sextet (6 lines).
The definitions of other verse forms and of the complicated "French forms" of verse will be found in the books mentioned in the bibliography.
TEACHING AND STUDY SUGGESTIONS
The principal task of the first semester should be the preparation of a documented term paper; of the second semester, the writing of an essay in literary criticism, or an original literary work with a self-criticism.
- Unit 1: Scientific and Dialectical Discourse (pp. 183-198)
- A. Reading:
The student should read several essays and magazine articles with a view to contrasting methods of treatment. He should then choose a topic for a term paper and prepare a bibliography of works to be read in order to gather material for writing on this topic.
- B. Composition:
The student should make an outline of the essay or term paper to be written, giving careful attention to its logical completeness and following the form of the exposition given on pages 185-186. (See also E.G.C., pp. 3717-440 and K. and D. IV, pp. 198 ff.)
- C. Speaking:
The student may present a brief preliminary talk on his topic based on the outline already prepared, making a special effort for clarity. The class should raise questions and objections, which can then be incorporated in the final paper.
A debate, symposium, or forum may be planned by a committee which will make use of the material of these talks.
- D. Grammar.
During this year there should be diagnostic work on grammar. It is supposed that the entire theory of grammar has been covered in previous years so that after diagnosis of the individual student's defects by the teacher, the student should be required to review these problems himself. In preparing the outline of the term paper special insistence should be placed on parallel sentences and correct punctuation. (See also the section on argumentation in K. and D. IV, pp. 240 ff., etc.).
- Unit II: Rhetorical Discourse (pp. 198-207:)
- A. Reading:
Reading with special attention to style. If English literature is being read during this year, compare Elizabethan, neoclassical, romantic, Victorian, and contemporary style. If American literature is being read, then consider, for example, the difference in style between Washington Irving, Hawthorne, Melville, and Emerson on the one hand, and a similar group of contemporary writers on the other.
- B. Composition:
The student should rewrite the formal term paper as a Popular talk aimed at a particular audience. He should consider how to keep the clarity of his formal presentation while gaining in color and interest. See K. and D. IV, p. 33 ff. on exposition).
There should be class discussion on the problems of analyzing an audience, and of concealing the rhetorical appeal.
- C. Speaking:
The student should deliver his paper as a short speech. There should be discussion of the difference between written and oral style, and the problems of expressive delivery.
- D. Grammar:
Review should concentrate on sentence structure and variety. (See E.G.C., pp. 11-19 and K. and D. IV, pp. 240-281).
- Unit III: Poetics: Narrative Forms (pp. 207-2291):
- A. Reading:
Discussion of the drama, epic, novel, short-story, and short verse-narrative. The principal theme of discussion should be to show the organic unit), of each work provided by the action and catharsis. The characters and thought should be shown as required for the action. Then the use of language, symbolism, meter should be shown functionally, not as a mere series of "beautiful passages" or rhetorical figures. The difference between the narrative forms in the subject selected and its treatment should be thoroughly explored.
- B. Writing:
The student should write, a critical essay on a single work showing its organic unity. An effective device is to ask why the totality of the work would have been injured by a different treatment of its various features.
Alternatively the student may attempt to write an original work, with a short essay in self-criticism explaining why he has constructed his work in this way.
- C. Speaking:
Students should read scenes from plays and explain and discuss their efforts at interpretation, Special attention should be given to the art of reading aloud and its use as family entertainment.
- D. Grammar:
See K. and D. IV, pp. 133 ff. and grammatical problems in narration. On appropriate vocabulary, review E.G.C., pp. 18 ff.
- Unit IV: Poetics: Lyric and Didactic Forms (pp. 207-221):
- A. Reading:
Detailed analyses of lyric and didactic poems from English or American literature. Emphasis should be on the organic unity of each poem, but contrast and comparison of moods and styles will assist appreciation. Special attention should be given to diction, rhythm, and melody of the verse.
- B. Composition:
Students should attempt the writing of the prose-poems and verse-poems of a lyric and descriptive character. There should be detailed class discussion of the results. After discussion the student should attempt to improve his poem.
- C. Speech:
Students should listen to records of poets reading their own poems and discuss their interpretations. Then students should prepare a concert of oral poetry. Better readers should give solos, others should take part in a verse chorus. The writing of an oral poem with choral and solo parts as a part of senior graduation program might be undertaken.
If possible a formal debate or set speeches should form a part of the senior class activities or graduation program. These should grow out of class discussions and should not be merely individual activities, but an expression of the school community.
- D. Grammar:
See section on description in K. and D. IV, p. 111, or other rhetoric text.
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