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logic and rhetoric in Weaver

Liz Kalbfleisch

When reading about Weaver’s definition of rhetoric, one of the immediately defining features of his definition is the fact that he does and does not separate logic from rhetoric. On the one hand, he says “For the most obvious truth about rhetoric is that it’s object is the whole man. It presents its arguments first to the rational part of man, because rhetorical discourses, if they are honestly conceived, always have a basis in reasoning. Logical argument [italics mine] is the plot, as it were, of any speech or composition that is designed to persuade? (1352, 2nd ed.). This conception of rhetoric seems to resonate with Enlightenment understandings of rhetoric, say, Campbell’s who understood logic and grammar to be parts of rhetoric (907,2nd ed.), as though rhetoric is a master discipline with logic and grammar as sub-parts of it.
But then, on page 1353, Weaver begins an extended discussion of logic that seems, when it mentions rhetoric, to posit logic and rhetoric as an opposite to rhetoric. He says “Logic is merely the mechanism for organizing the data of other provinces of knowledge? and then goes on to explain that man could never convert himself into a pure logic or thinking machine, because “he would be a thinking robot, a concept which horrifies us precisely because the robot has nothing to think about?. Then, in the next paragraph, he seems to binarize logic and rhetoric: “A confirmation of this truth [that man is not purely a logic or thinking machine] lies in the fact that rhetoric can never be reduced to symbology. Logic is increasingly becoming ‘symbolic logic’ (formal logic)…but rhetoric always comes to us in well-fleshed words, and that is because it must deal with the world, the thickness, stubbornness and power of it?. So it seems that here, Weaver is maybe positing two types of logic: regular logic as a reasoning process used in argument, and symbolic logic, a process of symbols manipulated according to a static, rigid system of rules, also known as formal logic. P and O-T in New Rhetoric also address formal logic in relationship to rhetoric. They say that a mid-1950’s conception of reason is more and more confined to the symbolic manipulations of formal logic (TNR, 2-3). Their NR is directed, partially, at re-couping reason from the stronghold formal logic has on it. So it seems that a division of logic into plain logic and formal logic in Weaver is reasonable and that plain logic is the kind that is used along with rhetoric.
But then, at the very bottom of 1353, Weaver says: “Rhetoric has a relationship to the world which logic does not have…?, thus seeming to fit plain logic into a binary opposition to rhetoric. (?)