Rhetoric and Logic Essay

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Considered narrowly, logic is concerned with the analysis and evaluation of the ‘following from’ relationship between premises and conclusions of arguments whereas, considered widely, it is about the overall goodness of arguments from an evidential perspective.

The wide sense of logic, therefore, takes an interest in the evidentiary acceptability of premises. ‘Rhetoric,’ in its broadest meaning, is about affecting audiences through the use of symbols (not just linguistic symbols). All kinds of discourse, as diverse as poetry, narratives, and instruction manuals, as well as visual art objects and music, may be said to have rhetorical aspects. ‘Rhetoric’ also has a narrower meaning in which it is associated with appropriateness of arguments used in persuasion. Thus, logic in the wide sense and rhetoric in the narrow sense (hereafter ‘logic’ and ‘rhetoric’) have arguments as their overlapping subject matter.

Logical analysis focuses on clarifying premises and conclusions, identifying unstated premises, and discerning patterns of reasoning. Logical evaluation depends on criteria built on the concepts of acceptability, plausibility, probability and necessity. Rhetorical analysis is concerned with identifying a speaker, an exigency, and an audience (see Bitzer 1968)). Evaluation from a rhetorical perspective is concerned with how well speakers fit their discourse dealing with the exigency facing an audience. Accordingly, rhetoric takes into account the historical situation of a discourse as well as the psychological disposition of the target audience.

Arguments need to be evaluated from both logical and rhetorical perspectives. One way to bridge the gap is for each subject to borrow principles from its counterpart. Thus, many elementary logic books include rhetorical principles, and many rhetoric primers include a chapter on the elements of logic. Another possibility is to nest both rhetorical and logical components in an encompassing theory of argumentation. One attempt at this is the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation developed by van Eemeren and Grootendorst (see van Eemeren 2010), and another is Tindale’s (2004) comprehensive rhetoric- based theory of argumentation


  1. Bitzer, L. F. (1968). The rhetorical situation. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1, 1–14.
  2. Tindale, C. (2004). Rhetorical argumentation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  3. van Eemeren, F. H. van (2010). Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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