Walzer, Arthur.  George Campbell:  Rhetoric in the Age of Enlightenment.  Carbondale: SIU Press, 2002.  Print.

  • On Method:  Walzer is doing spirited, old-fashioned archival research in this book.  He notes that “I present this book as an historical reconstruction of an important rhetorical text, that is, a work that, in Edward Schiappa’s definition, attempts to reconstruct an important text as much as possible ‘in the words and mindset’ of the original author, as distinguished from a modern appropriation, which would interpret an author in the interpreter’s philosophical framework” (2).
  • Walzer draws attention to the fact that Campbell’s  Philosophy of Rhetoric (PoR) was comprised of a series of Campbell’s lectures . . . this causes an incoherence in the book in that there is no distinct emphasis or point that provides the reader a strong unifying concept/theme.  This, in some ways, explains the sometime contradictory nature of Campbell’s rhetorical theory.
  • What is Campbell doing in this book?  He’s not chucking the classical system of rhetoric out the window; rather, he’s attempting to develop a more nuanced, more specific, more rhetorically relevant theory of reception and audience for the Enlightenment context.  Said differently, W. wants to demonstrate in his work that C. is utilizing the Empiricist philosophy of Scottish Common Sense philosophy in order to redefine the topoi from the perspective of reception and audience.
  • Walzer’s approach also ensures that the deep connections between Campbell’s secular treatment of rhetoric and his own lived experience as a Christian minister are laid bare in his research.
  • W. draws explicit connections between Campbell and Locke/Hume/Reid in order to demonstrate how C. was connected to the 18th century European Enlightenment tradition.
  • Main controversies in the discipline concerning Campbell that are worked through in this book:  1) Bitzer-Bormann debate over Campbell’s sources; 2) the debate over Campbell’s supposed abandonment of classical rhetoric; 3) Barbara Warnick’s connection between the PoR and other Scottish belletristic rhetorical treatises; and 4) Campbell’s status as the father of “current-traditional” rhetoric in the field of composition.
  • W. argues that the PoR was a rhetorical treatise that aimed at recognizing plurality and negotiation.  W. claims that Campbell worked in the vein of Locke, Hume, and Reid (Scottish Enlightenment) and the Classical tradition (specifically Cicero and Quintilian) to create a rhetoric that valued both the production of rhetorical treatises as well as their delivery – and most importantly, their reception (audience-centric rhetoric).


  • W. claims that Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory was the most “comprehensive embodiment of classical rhetoric ever written” and that C. revered the book, intending his own work to extend Quintilian’s own by providing psychological insight (from 18th century European empiricism) as an addition to the classical tradition.
  • Enlightenment philosophy found its way into Enlightenment rhetoric because it provided a more nuanced account of the human nature – an account buttressed by psychological truisms (or so they thought) that exist across all cultures for all humans.  This theory also considered rhetoric not from the position of the composer or the act of composing but instead from the perspective of reception – of the audience[2. In other words, how do you connect your words and arguments to the psychological universals – discovered through Enlightenment empiricism – that all men held alike?].  This theory of reception utilized Lockean/Humean experimentation with human stimuli in order to provide a theory of “response” that could account for the causation of rhetorical efficacy[3. No wonder many of the speculative realists turn to Maturana/Varela and Hume before to posit a physical, material rhetorical ontology].
  • The turn toward response and reception means a turn toward the emotional/imaginative appeals and a turn away from the logical appeal and the enthymeme[4. The enthymeme because of its culturally situatedness.].
  • C.’s idea of rhetorical efficacy depends on the Empiricists focus on the sensory impressions; as such, he intends – in PoR – to sketch out how a speaker can move the audience with language use in much the same way that the senses are moved in the physical world (4).

Chapter One

  • This chapter provides a rhetorical biography of Campbell’s life and career.  Specifically it discusses his work at the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, PoR, and his tenure as a Professor of Divinity.  C. highlights how contemporary scholarship has placed an emphasis on Campbell’s work on language use and style instead of locating Campbell on a longer continuum of philosophy and rhetoric that extends back to ancient times.

Chapter Two

  • In this chapter W. sketches out the context, or “intellectual milieu” that Campbell was writing/teaching during.  This chapter pays close attention to the role of Enlightenment philosophy and the ways that the British Empiricists heavily influenced his rhetorical treatises – especially in terms of the creation of belief and the enactment of taste.
  • Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding was the first book to really begin lying the foundations of psychology, epistemology, and rhetoric.  This was typical of the Empiricist/Common Sense turn – a science-driven, methodologically articulated way to revision the contributions of the ancients.  They wanted to develop a “philosophy of mind” that included designations like “Reason”, “Imagination”, and “Memory.”    For rhetoricians, this psychology of mind was approached through a consideration of the ways that language effected belief.
  • W. claims that Locke’s work had the putative purpose of providing a “normative epistemology” for the mind’s operations; however, in effect, Locke develops a “descriptive psychology” rooted in the human experience.  Hume accepts Lock’s project; however, he places a greater importance on the “phenomenological quality of stimuli” or the ways that the mind experiences things-in-the-world (either impressionistically – primary experience – or ideally – via “absent impression” or through the imagination) (20).  In this equation, believability is achieved far more often through impressionistic mind-world relations.  This leads to his interest in data/observation/description and a turn to the importance of strong representational language.
  • Hume claimed that the imagination – and the ideas produced by it – followed three principles of association (or “uniting principles”)[1. 1) uniting principle – the imagination isn’t coerced into belief; rather, it is “gently” pushed . . . as such, it has a tendency to accept things that are less unfamiliar.]: 1) resemblance (ideas that are alike are easy to imagine together); 2) contiguity (temporal or proximal closeness means easier association); and cause and effect (because of #1’s 1 & 2, causation is closely linked to the closeness of objects).
  • What is Hume’s work?  An extension of Lockean empiricism to the point of extreme skepticism.  Locke’s account:  mind forms ideas based on sense impressions, these ideas and time spent reflecting on them constitute the minds contents, the mind actually doesn’t have a connection to reality (because of the mediation of mind).  Reid challenges this perspective by claiming that to believe anything beyond our “common senses” is absolutely absurd . . . it cannot be done.  Rather, our senses provide us with “a reliable knowledge of reality, the thoughts and feeling of which we are conscious are our thoughts; that what we remember happened; that we have a degree of freedom of will; that the laws of nature are uniform over time and place” – these are the principles that form the basis for Scottish common sense realism and speak against some portions of Locke’s theory.
  • Locke and Reid on the distinction/relation between ideas and reality:

  • In Campbell you get a synthesis of Reid’s common sense philosophy with Hume’s emphasis on the “vividness” of speech to heighten – through psychological connection – the level of belief.
  • Taste is rendered a sense through considering how perception and aesthetics operate in tandem almost immediately, involuntarily, and (here’s the rub) universally (28). From Gerard.
  • Super important:  “Because the sense impression is the basis for the origin and validity of belief, a rhetorical theory based on this psychology would emphasize that rhetoric is the art capable of making discourse resemble a sense impression” (31).  This is the basis of Campbellian resemblance theory:  the orator presents discourse in such a way that it “resembles” an effective, motivational, belief-inciting nonlinguistic sense impression . . . thus tapping into the psychological reservoir of belief and creating a successful rhetorical act (31).

Chapter Three

  • This chapter explains the most important/visible rhetorical theory that Campbell produced in PoR.  W. again emphasizes the relationship that Campbell maintains with the ancients and Enlightenment philosophy in this chapter.  He also highlights how Aristotelian and Quintilian estimates about the efficacy of a rhetorical treatise can be better thought through Campbell’s notion of reception.  Said differently, Campbell instantiates faculty psychology into an account of belief that provides an easy way to understand how the “motives of audiences” are commiserate with the “purposes of rhetoric” (3).
  • In making a distinction between logic/philosophy and rhetoric, W. claims that, “The Enlightenment would count as genuine knowledge only what is certain, while rhetoric acknowledges and celebrates competing views and seeks the best solution in context where probably knowledge is recognizes as the highest attainable standard” (34).  Further, Enlightenment epistemology was all about universal, transcultural knowledge while rhetoric was decidedly local (recall the Aristotelian enthymeme).
  • W. claims that C. was after a synthesis of theory and practice in PoR.  He accepts much – or even most – of the ancient tradition of describing rhetoric as an art; as such, his work in this piece is to develop rhetoric as a branch of scientific knowledge (37).
  • Campbell’s different rhetorical purposes (organized by appeals/habits to mind):

  • Importance of Campbell’s second chapter of Book I:

Chapter Four & Five

  • This chapter is an interpretation of Book I, chapters IV, V, and VI from PoR.  Specifically, W. highlights how Campbell used Locke’s theorization of “natural logic” in order to reconsider the function/role of evidence and assent.  This chapter also considers “imagination[1. A concept that is absolutely necessary for audience agreement because imagination is the way that an idea presents itself to a prospective audience.  Campbell calls this the “imaginative appeal”],” “resemblance,” and “vivacity” in detail.  W. also claims that Campbell’s theory of “vivacity” connects well with Hume’s concept of the “lovely idea” (which is itself a recapitulation of Quintilian’s concept of “sound advice”).
  • On the relationship between logic & rhetoric:  Campbell is confusing for two reasons.  First, he is difficult because he tends to use terms that seem familiar, but in his terminology aren’t; second, and more importantly, collapsing the psychological and the epistemological (or conflating how we come to belief with the question of whether our beliefs meet the criteria of genuine knowledge . . . “truth”) is extremely common in Campbellian rhetoric.  Both these confusions arise because Campbell seeks to resolve the distinctions between philosophy and rhetoric so that Ancient Rhetoric, Enlightenment empiricism, and divinity could be brought together in psychological terms:  he wanted to believe that what “was psychologically effective was also more likely to be true” (49).
  • Bacon’s program was to move the “old logic” of the ancients – a logic based on verbal constitution – toward the “new logic” of “works” or material experiments/practices that yielded the bases for hypotheses and conclusions based on induction (51).
  • Difference between “intuitive” knowledge (read evidence) and “demonstrative” knowledge in Lockean thought:  “intuitive” – knowledge that is based on self-evident propositions (a priori?), “demonstrative” – knowledge based on valid deductions drawn from “first principles” (53).  In Campbell’s language:

  • Chapter 4 Summary:

  • Bitzer’s reading of Campbell:  C. wanted to use the notion that ideas could be made to resemble “sense impressions” by rhetorical means if they elicited a level of “vivacity” in the reader in the act of reception (64).  This is a unique and novel move by C. because it shows him attempting to bring Humean epistemological theories into concert with rhetorical theories of the time . . . all the while rejecting Lockean/Cartesian mind-centricity.

Chapter Eight

  • This is an important chapter that explains Campbell’s relationship to style.  W. claims that Campbell’s (often maligned) theory of style is really a synthesis between ancient articulations of style and Campbell’s own work on vivacity [8. A response that is so strong it resembles the sensory response of conventional senses.  Note this is achieved through particular stylistic choices that create an aesthetic/taste that resonates with the universal human psychological faculties.] and animation.  All of this work happens under the auspices of a reception-oriented theory of rhetoric .
  • Comparison of Vivacity and Animation re:style –

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