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I. A. Richards – Preparing for Combat

July 3, 2014

“The old Rhetoric was an offspring of dispute; it developed as the rationale of pleadings and persuadings; it was the theory of the battle of words and has always been itself dominated by the combative impulse. Perhaps what it has most to teach us is the narrowing and blinding influence of that preoccupation, that debaters’ interest.

Persuasion is only one among the aims of discourse. It poaches on the others – especially on that of exposition, which is concerned to state a view, not to persuade people to agree or to do anything more than examine it. The review and correspondence columns of the learned and scientific journals are the places in which to watch this poaching at its liveliest. It is no bad preparation for any attempt at exposition … to realize how easily the combative impulse can put us in mental blinkers and make us take another man’s words in the ways in which we can down him with the least trouble.”


(from The Philosophy of Rhetoric [1936])


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