(image: https://c4.staticflickr.com/9/8220/29967427355_59647d5ae5_k.jpg)
Encounter with an argument cap. The unstated claim is carried by encountering the message at this place: A sidewalk outside of HS, at a point where viewers can choose to turn left to HMU, turn right, or go straight. The stated warrant for a need to act is carried by "Limited Quantity !!!" in the yellow thought bubble, and "still." The two phrases together also produce an argument for the value of the season tickets. On Flickr

A Theory of Presentational Enthymemes

in draft from 28 Sep 2016. rev 3 Oct 2017
Drawing on Longaker and Walker, pp 50 - 80
Developed further by discussions in ENGL 3179/5179 2016

A Distinction

Make a distinction between the ideational enthymeme and a presentational enthymeme.

Every argument has ideational content and a presentational form. (54)

More than one ideational enthymeme is inferable from a single presentational enthymeme. More than one presentational enthymeme can be designed from a single ideational enthymeme.

The presentation of an ideational enthymeme is capped by a visual presentation, a kind of gesture of drawing a conclusion. The presentational enthymeme cap pulls together ideational substance implicit in the artifact and encourages implied views to configure it in a particular way to generate a particular conclusion.

Summary: How Presentational Enthymemes Work

Presentational enthymemes lie in wait for an intended audience. They do not announce themselves as arguments. The are not necessarily chosen by an audience. They do not state a claim or explain a warrant. They are designed so that the intended audience will use shared presuppositions and shared knowledge to construct the argument.

They are encountered in particular situations and that encounter is part of the argument. It's the rhetorical situation.

In more detail

Seeing a presentational enthymeme means inferring the enthymeme from what's being presented.

From Longaker

What, given the specifics of 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 get to the ideational enthymeme, consider the text's underlying logic. What is the reader to understand as data/evidence? What is the reader to understand as claim? What warrants are being activated? The artifact may be designed so that the audience is not expected to critically develop the ideational enthymeme. It may be designed to complicate a critical development of the ideational enthymeme.


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)


In a website, caps might be

In real space, caps might be

Or a cap might involve creating a planned encounter with a message

Use of Pisteis

As you consider the use of pisteis, stand outside the rhetorical exchange to get a sense of the interaction rather than a mental state.

Consider the appeals the presentational enthymeme draws on. This would include the appeal made by the caps: sudden encounter? vivid and salient colors or design in a field of posters? chasing a cursor around a screen? clicking on an image - which is to touch … What’s being invoked in each? An appeal to emotions? to character? to a line of reasoning?

Validity and Persuasive Strength

Longaker 62-66, including sidebar.

By looking at fallacies in the ideational enthymeme behind the presentation, we're actually checking our construction of the enthymeme. But because the presentational enthymeme shapes that construction, the fallaciousness lies in the presentational side of things. That is, presentational enthymemes might be constructed so that intended viewers will create a fallacious enthymeme.

An enthymeme can be fallacious but still be persuasive. Or it can be valid but not persuasive. "Enthymemes ... can be judged as relatively weak or strong, depending on the audience's degree of ... adherence to the reasons and presuppositions of the claim" (64). We see this in my analysis of the chalked sidewalk message below.

The list of fallacies that Longaker presents are fallacies that are in common circulation and use. They are part of the presuppositions that our culture more or less works with. We all use them in common argument, and we tend to overlook their use. When we get critical of each other, we may point them out to weaken the validity of a presentational enthymeme. But as rhetorical analysts, we're obligated to locate them and consider how they work.

Fallacies are common errors in the line of reasoning that (tend to) render an argument invalid. Validity is a function of the line of reasoning, and the fallacies Longaker lists are common - in wide circulation - ill-suited lines of reasoning.


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