Figures of Reasoning:
A Primer on Appeals to Logos for the ‘JTL’ Project (4 of 4)

Although most evangelicals are thoroughly familiar with the discourses of Jesus, we may not be as well-versed in the terminology associated with reasoning and rhetoric. In order to aid in this process, I’ve used the resources at Silva Rhetorica to compile a list of figures of reasoning. While these are not the only figures of speech that could apply, they do cover many of the major types.

Aetiologia — A figure of reasoning by which one attributes a cause for a statement or claim made.

“I mistrust not the judges, for they are just.”
“So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” — Romans 1:15-16

Anthypophora — A figure of reasoning in which one asks and then immediately answers one’s own questions.

“But there are only three hundred of us,” you object. Three hundred, yes, but men, but armed, but Spartans, but at Thermoplyae: I have never seen three hundred so numerous.” — Seneca

Apophasis — The rejection of several reasons why a thing should or should not be done and affirming a single one, considered most valid.

“Seeing that this land was mine, you must show that either you did possess it, being empty, or made it your own by use, or purchase, or else that it came to you by inheritance. You could not possess it empty when I was in possession. Also, you cannot make it your by use or custom. You have no deed to prove your purchase of it; I being alive it could not descend upon you by inheritance. It follows then that you would put me from my own land before I am dead.” — John Smith

Commoratio — Dwelling on or returning to one’s strongest argument.
Contrarium — Juxtaposing two opposing statements in such a way as to prove the one from the other.

“Are we afraid to fight those on the plains whom we have hurled down from the hills?”

Dirimens copulatio — A figure by which one balances one statement with a contrary, qualifying statement.
Enthymeme — The informal method of reasoning typical of rhetorical discourse. A truncated syllogism.

“We cannot trust this man, for he has perjured himself in the past.”
In this enthymeme, the major premise of the complete syllogism is missing:

  • Those who perjure themselves cannot be trusted. (Major premise – omitted)
  • This man has perjured himself in the past. (Minor premise – stated)
  • This man is not to be trusted. (Conclusion – stated)
  • Expeditio — After enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one.

    “You either made, purchased, or stole the bomb. Since you lack the intelligence to make it and the funds to purchase it, it can only be that you have stolen it.”

    Paromologia — Admitting a weaker point in order to make a stronger one.
    Proecthesis — When, in conclusion, a justifying reason is provided.

    “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” — Matt. 9:13

    Prosapodosis — Providing a reason for each division of a statement, the reasons usually following the statement in parallel fashion.

    “Yes, I may have been a petty thief, but I am no felon.”

    Published by

    Joe Carter

    Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

    • Martin LaBar

      Well, these are unique posts!

    • Phil Readmore

      Hey, I appreciate your website and what you’re trying to do here–it is very interesting and maybe someday if I ever get a blog going I could contribute. However, I probably don’t need to point out this one major flaw in the execution. Blogs tend to come and go, and a lot of the links I clicked went to blogs that no longer existed. Ideally, this would be best suited in a centrally located wiki format, with authors able to contribute whether they have a blog or not, and there being no possibility of losing a huge chunk of data because one author’s writings go “poof”.

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