A Theory of Presentational Enthymemes

in draft from 28 Sep 2016
Drawing on Longaker and Walker, pp 50 - 80
Developed further by discussions in ENGL 3179/5179

Summary: How it Works

Presentational enthymemes lie in wait for visitors. Visitors encounter material stuff (images, links, drop down panels, movement from page to page) as well as content presented by those things. A cap initiates the inference of a presentational enthymeme. If a cap is effective, the visitor can construct an ideational enthymeme from the presentation. The content becomes claim and data. The warrant may be implied or stated, or perhaps made by the presentation itself. (metonymy)

In more detail

Seeing a presentational enthymeme means inferring it from what's being presented. Think of the encounter with the chalk message outside HS.

From Longaker

To focus on the presentational quality of an enthymeme, ... look at how the material is presented. What does the [audience] see ... first? What does the argument present as its [inferential] conclusion? To focus on the ideational quality of an enthymeme, ... look at its underlying logic. What does the [audience] understand as the evidence? What should the [audience] conclude based on this evidence? (55-6)

Better phasing: What, given the presentation, is the audience being encouraged to understand as evidence? What, given the presentation, is the audience being encouraged to conclude based on that evidence?


To analyze the presentational quality of an enthymeme, ... consider inference as a feature of the rhetor's style. The rhetor caps a discussion ... by giving ... a focused, summative, and usually emphatic statement.... [T]hink of this as the enthymeme's form, [a] stylized gesture of drawing the conclusion. ... In effect, [the] presentational enthymeme summarizes and pulls together in one emphatic statement the ideational substance of the proceeding paragraphs ... and configures it in a particular way to generate a particular conclusion... (57)

When it comes to presentational enthymemes, then, we can borrow the reasoning:

the presentation of an ideational enthymeme can be capped by a visual presentation, a kind of gesture of drawing a conclusion. The presentational enthymeme cap pulls together ideational substance implicit in the page and configures it in a particular way to generate a particular conclusion.

and then view an encounter with a cap as encounter that initiates the inference of an argument.

In a website, caps might be

Or a cap might be a planned encounter with a message.

A cap draws together or orchestrates other materials that the audience is encountering so that that material functions as an argument. The cap, that is, directs a viewer place a claim in relation to data and lets the viewer infer a warrant, reasoning that connects the two.

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