Long long ago, rhetoric was a branch of philosophy. As far as I can tell, nowadays there is no philosophical work in the domain of persuasion and argumentation; this is now done in the public-relations and communications, fields that (again as far as I can tell) have very weak philosophical underpinnings.

Assuming rhetoric has died as a philosophical topic, when and how did that occur?

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    It has disappeared after the Renaissance, following the rejection of rethoric as a tool for improving knowledge by the founding fathers of Early Modern Science, like Descartes. For a recent proposed "revival", see Chaïm Perelman's works, e.g. The New Rhetoric : A Treatise on Argumentation (original ed.,1958). Dec 13, 2016 at 15:29
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    The term may have fallen out of fashion, however, there is now philosophy of language. Logic, rhetoric and reason are still the purview of philosophy, as well ontology and epistemology it's domain.
    – MmmHmm
    Dec 13, 2016 at 19:27
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    Informal logic focuses on persuasion and argumentation. It's a relatively niche topic in contemporary academic philosophy, where "logic" usually means formal logic. Stanford Encyclopedia article: plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-informal
    – Dan Hicks
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:42
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    @Mr.Kennedy (and upvoters) if it is just the case that the topics of classical rhetoric are still living in contemporary philosophy, albeit under a different name (or set of names), then an answer that provides an outline of the historical thread would be helpful.
    – Dave
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:57
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    rhetoric was never a branch of philosophy.
    – user20153
    Dec 13, 2016 at 23:37

1 Answer 1


The historical events are complex...

In a nutshell, during Renaissance there were a "revival" of Rhetoric (as part of Dialectic, and thus linked to logic) as a "tool" for discovering new knowledge (a "method") as opposed to traditional Aristotelian logic (syllogism) as the fundamental tool for science.

See e.g. Pierre de La Ramée and his concern with Inventio.

The debate "raged" for more than a century; we can see also Jacopo Zabarella and the debate on methodus and regressus. We can still found it into Francis Bacon's works.

But the "methodological" debate had no "effective" impact : no new scientific discoveries were made possible either by traditional logic or by Rhetoric-based "methods"

Early modern science was made possible by a unique mixture of new ideas, experiences (and experiments) and mathematical (analytical) tools : from Tycho and Kepler, through William Gilbert and William Harvey to the "founding fathers" of new science : Galileo, Descartes and Newton.

With them the "methodus" become mathematics : neither syllogism nor inventio. See e.g. Descartes' search for method.

Some secondary sources :

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    Could you add what (some of) these sources say about the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy?
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 13, 2016 at 18:47

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