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PHC | Rhetoric | Warnicles and Folleticus

This is a copy of my notes from a seminar presentation I gave on Adam Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.
I posted it primarily so you'd realize he taught rhetoric.


* Smith, Adam. Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. (Glasgow Edition) Ed. J. C. Bryce and A. S. Skinner. Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1985.

* Bevilacqua, Vincent M. “Adam Smith’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.” Studies in Scottish Literature, 3 (July, 1966), 41-60.

* ___________. “Adam Smith and Some Philosophical Origins of Eighteenth-Century Rhetorical Theory.” Modern Language Review, 63 (July, 1968), 559-68.

* Howell, Wilbur Samuel. “Adam Smith’s Lectures on Rhetoric: An Historical Assessment.” Speech Monographs, 36 (November, 1969), 393-418.

* Purcell, William M. “A Reassessment of Adam Smith’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.” Central States Speech Journal, 37 (Spring 1986), 45-54.

I. The Man--ADAM SMITH, 1723-1790.

II. Three Interpretations of Smith’s Lectures

A. Howell- “… earliest and most independent expression of the new rhetoric.”
1. Smith was independent
a. Didn’t view rhetoric through the eyes of the ancients.
2. Smith’s differs from 18th Cent. French [ergo, belletristic] rhetorics (Rapin, Bouhours, Rollin) in two ways:
a. He made rhetoric the general theory of communication.
b. He borrowed from previous rhetorics what he considered valid for his own generation and added fresh insights of his own as he saw fit.
c. Therefore, it is more general and more independent. (more Scotch?)
i. … must be viewed thus if it is to achieve status as a learned discipline.

B. Bevilacqua- “… style alone is the pressing concern of rhetoric.”
1. Three leading assumptions common to mid-eighteenth-century philosophy and rhetoric :
a. Style is a verbal manifestation of the natural powers of the mind.
b. Logic and Rhetoric are related intellectual functions founded on common mental faculties.
c. Propriety of expression is an essential quality of style.
2. The relationship between “Investigation” and “Invention.”
a. Baconian influence.
b. Impact on rhetoric.
C. Purcell- “… a rhetorical treatise which is belletristic is different from a belletristic treatise which includes a treatment of rhetoric.”
1. Direct refutation of Howell. (Smith is classical.)
2. Not a theory of rhetoric.
a. Perhaps a perspective on rhetorical criticism. (viz. Bevilacqua)
b. Nice closing quote. (See quote #5.)

III. The Lectures
A. Thematic considerations.
1. A diagram. (Of course!)

2. Landscape of the Lectures.

B. Smith’s Method: Common Sense.
a. See quote #6.
b. The large scope of his pedagogy.
i. Grammar/History/Rhetoric/Logic/Anthropology/Aesthetics/ Belles Lettres/and Psychology.
ii. Perspective on Rhetorical criticism. (See quote #7.)

C. Smith’s Overarching Goal: English Eloquence.

D. A Thematic Outline

#2-#7 Preliminary Concerns

#8-#10 Introduces and exemplifies his method

#11-#12 Defines and amplifies his method

#13-#16 Description of Objects

#17-#19 Historical (or Narrative) Style

#20-#21 Poetry

#22-#30 Oratorical Style

IV. Our Assessment--(An agenda proposed)

Historical Importance

Contribution to Rhetorical Theory

Who wins the debate--Bevilacqua, Howell, or Purcell?

(1) In his recent study of Smith’s lectures on rhetoric, Vincent M. Bevilacqua, taking cognizance only of Smith’s denial of the importance of invention and arrangement in ancient rhetorical theory, argues that the denial is based upon Smith’s misunderstanding of the rhetorical works of Cicero and Quintilian; and that, “in accord with his misinterpretation, Smith proposed not a traditional theory of rhetoric, … but a stylistic-belletristic one.” “Indeed,” adds Bevilacqua, “in Smith’;s lectures style alone is the pressing concern of rhetoric and the area of greatest artistic latitude.” But the charge that Smith did not understand the ancient doctrines of invention and arrangement is destroyed by Smith’s whole discussion of judicial oratory; and, as I have shown, the assertion that style alone is in his view the pressing concern of rhetoric would hardly serve to express what he conceived the pressing concerns of rhetoric to be (413).

(2) [Smith’s Lectures] … decreed that the new rhetoric must abandon the ritualistic form of the Ciceronean oration and must adopt the simpler pattern of proposition and proof. And it required the new rhetoric to turn away from the artistic proofs and the topical machinery of the old rhetoric, and to adapt itself to non-artistic arguments and direct proofs instead. Only in two respects was Adam Smith silent upon the issues confronting the new rhetoric: he did not openly condemn the syllogistic orientation of ancient rhetorical theory or purpose (sic) inductive procedures in its place; nor did he stress that probable arguments, as ancient and modern phenomena in popular discourse, must learn in the new age to conform to higher stan-dards of validity than they had done before. these two issues were to be squarely faced and creatively resolv-ed by George Campbell and were to produce Campbell’s major contributions to the new rhetoric (417-18).

(3) By the mid-eighteenth century both the scientific method of investigation and the natural inventive capacity of the mind were widely recognized as modes of “invention” applicable to investigation in all subjects, and thus rendered superfluous duplicate systems of investigation for both logic and rhetoric. … true discovery of the unknown is beyond the scope of mere rhetorical invention (recollection) and is in fact exclusively the result of an empirical examination of the subject itself (565-6).

(4) Smith’s marked attention to the philosophic bases of style resulted, then, from his extension of the moral-aesthetic precept of propriety to rhetoric. … Smith’s rhetorical criticism of the style of Addison, Shaftesbury, Cicero, and Demosthenes thus focused on the appropriateness of their mode of expression (style) to their thought, character, situation, and times. In this emphasis, Smith’s criticism of the belles-lettres reflects his underlying assumption that propriety of expression is essential to perfection of style and is the rhetorical-aesthetic standard by which it should be judged (567).

5) Inquiries into rhetoric of the type implied in the Lectures ultimately led to the formulation of the trivium of modern rhetorical theory, … [Blair, Campbell, and Whately]. The Lectures, incomplete as they are, foreshadow what was to come (52 & 3).

(6) The Nobleman of Rome would, then, find himself greatly superior to the far greater part of [a] man-kind; He would see at Rome 1000 who were his inferiors for one who was even his equalls … He would have an air of superiority in all his behaviour. As he spoke generally to his inferiors he would talk in a manner becoming one in that Station. … His discourse | would be pompous and <o>rnate and such as appeard to be the language of a superior sort of man.
At Athens on the other hand the Citizens were all on equall footing …(158).

(7) [T]he perfection of stile consists in Express<ing> in the most concise, proper and precise manner the thought of the author, and that in the manner which best conveys the sentiment, passion or affection with which it affects or he pretends it does affect him and which he designs to communicate to his reader.
This you’ll say is no more than common sense, and indeed it is no more. But if you’ll attend to it all the Rules of Criticism and morality when traced to their foundation, turn out to be some Principles of Common Sence which every one assents to … (55).