The role of rhetoric in interpreting persuasive discourse

On May 23, 2022, Jean Wagemans presented part of his research on the hermeneutics of argumentative discourse at GTR22, the 21st edition of the Trento Days on Rhetoric. This edition focused on the theme of Rhetoric, Communication, and Social Responsibility and was organized by Serena Tomasi, Federico Puppo, and Maurizio Manzin.

Wagemans, Jean (University of Amsterdam)
The role of rhetoric in interpreting persuasive discourse

This presentation develops a general method for interpreting persuasive discourse consisting of four hermeneutical stages. Different from existing theories of interpreting persuasive discourse, which are normatively informed in that they start from an ideal of reasonableness that deviates from how people evaluate persuasive messages in concrete cognitive environments, the proposed method builds on insights about the production of persuasive discourse, i.e., on the art of rhetoric. By specifying which of these rhetorical insights can be helpful in which hermeneutical stage, it is shown how the practical art of rhetoric can be transformed into a theoretical art, more specifically, for the purpose of providing a cognitio (analysis) and aestimatio (evaluation) of the opus (work) that has partly been produced based on sets of rhetorical instructions or ‘rules of the art’.

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