Analyzing P &O-T according to P & O-T
I found the "completeness" of The New Rhetoric to be quite impressive, and this more than anything else makes me think that they are recuperating Aristotle rather than pushing off of him towards something completely new. Both Aristotle and P&O-T have such a fondness for the extensive catalog, where every possible type of something is named, analyzed and put in its proper category.
Since it is so complete, I assume that P & O-T have given us the tools to analyze their own rhetorical act: this book. I am especially interested in how the authors treat other arguments through their use of examples. P & O-T note how a focus on the device of another's argument leads to the weakening of this argument (by showing the strings behind it, as it were). This is of course what their whole book does with various examples and it left me (as a reader) feeling that they have a particularly pragmatic orientation and see no argument as intrinsically valid, but only made valid through effective rhetorical technique. This is a different feeling than I got from Burke, and a far cry from Weaver, who seems to judge arguments (in a moral sense) based both upon their means and their ends. Martin Buber's critique of the means to an ends orientation which P & O-T summarize on page 436 could be particularly relevant as an argument against P & O-T's own approach which focuses so much on the value of means, rather than the value of message.
One other interesting facet of The New Rhetoric to look at in this regard is the preponderance of examples from religious texts. Besides the obvious examples, from the bible and the writings of saints and mystics, they also chose to look at the arguments of modern philosophers with a very religious bent, such as Buber and Simone Weil. I imagine that in a context with a very definite religious-secular split such as France, this did not earn P & O-T many admirers. Both sides would likely exclaim with disapproval (for different reasons): "How can they treat arguments on religion like any other argument??!!" While emphasizing the devices that these arguments use deprives them of some of their power, the fact that P&O-T use religious examples in such great number seems to give them importance according to their own ideas of using repetition to make a topic present for the audience. Thus, I was quite confused as to P&O-T's own attitudes towards religion and the legitimacy of religious arguments. Perhaps they wanted it that way.... ~Tor.