Harrington, Elbert. “A Modern Approach to Invention.” Quarterly Journal of Speech XLIII December (1962): 373-78. Print.

  • A lovely quote starts this article out:  “Seldom is an idea new; the time always is” (373).
  • H. notes that often teachers of rhetoric (during the time when this was written) refuse to accept responsibility for the teaching of invention as they believed their duty was to emphasize the stylistic ornamentation of ideas . . . not the ideas themselves.  Those who did teach rhetoric often relied on the Aristotelian topoi or wrote commonplaces as sites of invention.  This too elides the importance/significance of invention.  Though the topics are useful as analytics to begin the research process and commonplaces are useful methods to organize thought via the preservation of information, neither necessarily help the rhetor discover an argument.
  • A definition of what constitutes a “liberal” person:

  • To be a good rhetor H. recognizes that individuals must be both liberally educated and have a good “development of character” (375).
  • Rhetoric has sometimes been thought of as deductive logic (Whately, Aristotle).
  • Inductive reasoning was championed by Bacon.  Though useful, you can’t every prove and induction with an induction . . . as such, induction becomes a study in probabilities or probabilistic reasoning and allows for flexibility in the acceptability of claims/arguments based on context.
  • H. calls invention the “establishment by the speaker or writer of a proper relationship to his subject” (577) and rhetoric – writ large – is a counterpart to inductive inquiry and epistemology.

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