Cause and Effect in Rhetoric (Part 5)


fragment of "WW1 Causes." (Harris Morgan 2007, Sep. 21, Wikimedia Commons)

This section of the blog article “Cause and effect in rhetoric” discusses how cause and effect arguments enter into Rhetorical Praxis and Pedagogy.

It discusses the value of rhetorical cause & effect reasoning to the concsciousness of those who practice rhetoric, and to those who teach and learn rhetorical practice

For the introduction to the article, go to Cause and Effect in Rhetoric Part 1.

Links to other sections of this article:

Part 1: Introduction, Causal Reasoning, Social Constructionism

Part 2: Speech Act Theory and Contemporary Rhetorical Theory

Part 3: Rhetorical Criticism

Part 4: Rhetorical History

Part 5: Rhetorical Praxis and Pedagogy

Part 6: A Typology of Cause-Effect Arguments in Rhetoric

part 7: Social Biases and Disciplinary Power Implications

Rhetorical praxis and pedagogy

The Rhetorical Act - Campbell & Huxman (2008)

The Rhetorical Act - Campbell & Huxman (2008)

Of what importance is rhetorical cause and effect to the concsciousness of those who practice rhetoric, and to those who teach and learn rhetorical practice?

Yoos discusses how rhetoric’s effectiveness is a topic of great concern to those whose profit and power depend on rhetoric: advertisers and politicians (and even comedians).


(Yoos, 2007, p. 145)

Polling has the intention of testing marketing and political messages for their effects on audiences, and yet these have been shown to be imperfect tools for measuring rhetorical effectiveness on a future event, such as the actual purchase of a product or the actual vote on election day.

To help students to design effective rhetoric for a sustainable career or business or community, they need to know more than how to discover the possible immediate effects of rhetoric.  They need a long-term perspective on how rhetoric can interact with social forces over time.

To understand effects over time, the study of rhetorical history and rhetoric of social movements is useful.  It can provide some historical knowledge of what has been effective and why.  This is where rhetorical criticism and history can contribute to rhetorical teaching and practice.

But if one really wishes to sharpen one’s rhetorical skill and knowledge for a future effective performance that has a desired impact, one needs to enter the rhetorical, critical, and historical process oneself.  One can’t just study the great rhetors of the past.  One needs to prepare to become a major character in a future drama of rhetorical action.

A “faith” in rhetorical cause and effect is fundamental to the process of a rhetor’s rhetorical formation. The process is based on the belief that a knowledge of rhetorical principles and powers, and personal skill in deploying them, are likely to increase the chances that one will be more effective in achieving one’s desired rhetorical effects.

Two kinds of learning are required to enable a rhetor to improve a rhetor’s rhetorical effectiveness:

  • rhetorical examples, principles and theories from teachers or books or peers (pedagogy)
  • experiential learning through which one performs rhetoric in realistic situations and then reflects on what occurred during and after the performance (praxis), with or without the aid of a teacher or mentor.

This type of rhetorical scholarship focuses on the link between the present and the future. It examines the connection between rhetorical purposes and strategies (illocution) and continually makes hypotheses about the potential, future, possible, and yet uncertain rhetorical effects.

The rhetor engages in rhetorical inquiry and action with a growing understanding of the possible effects of rhetoric on immediate audiences (teachers, peers, the real audiences of one’s experiential learning), as well as on the future (beyond the educational situation, in society).    Even the examination of past rhetorical action, and the practice and development of skill, are focused on how one can form oneself or other rhetors to perform more effectively in future situations.

Go to Part 6: A Typology of Cause-Effect Arguments in Rhetoric


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