Elements of Reasoning, The

Edward P.J. Corbett / Rosa A Eberly  
Total pages
May 2000
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Elements of Reasoning, The
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The second edition of The Elements of Reasoning retains the accessible and succinct approach that made the first edition the best treatment of the essentials of argumentation. It presents the principles that govern the composition of effective argumentative discourse and includes brief examples, with analyses that show students the underlying structure of the argument presented and the ways in which the rhetor was persuasive.


  • Gives clear and focused instruction in the basic principles of deductive and inductive reasoning, without unnecessary detail.
  • Emphasizes the roles of the topoi and stases in the invention of reasoned arguments.
  • Presents the classical strategies of argument, including the dialectic method, argument by analogy, argument by testimony or authority, the syllogism, and the enthymeme.
  • Serves as a tool for teaching students how to read and analyze argumentative discourse and how to choose the appropriate argument in a given case.
  • Includes analyzed examples of effective argumentative discourse.
  • The most succinct and least expensive introduction to reasoning and argument currently available.

New to this Edition

  • New focus on reasoning and public action is reflected in a new chapter, “Becoming a Citizen Critic.”
  • New examples of rhetorical reasoning in public discourse from print media and from radio.
  • New samples of the discourses of citizen critics show students that they don't have to be “somebody famous” to participate in civic discourse.
  • Reflects recent scholarship on histories of rhetoric, particularly rhetorical pragmatism and comparative rhetorics.

Table of Contents


1.Reasoning: Are You For It or Against It?

The Powers of Reasoning.

Elemental Questions.

Pluto and Plato.

Fine Language and Geometry

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

The End of Reasoning.

Internal and External Reasoning: An Example.

Rhetorical Inventions Beyond “For or Against.”

Reasoning Practice.

2.Invention: Places, Paths, and Structures of Reasoning.

An Introduction to the Specific Elements.

Places of Reasoning: Topoi.

Paths of Reasoning: The Stases.

Structures of Reasoning.

From Invention to Judgment.

Stases and Time.

Reasoning Practice.

3.Conjectures: Places to Begin.

The Primary Stasis.

A Trove of Conjectural Claims.

How to Spot a Conjectural Claim.

Three Types of Conjectural Claims.

Reasoning Practice.

4.Definitions: They Can Change Everything.

Rhetoric and Definitions.

Dictionary Definitions.


Stipulative Definitions.

Specific Means of Defining.

Reasoning Practice.

5.Causes and Consequences: A Sense of How the World Works.

How Could This Happen?

Reasoning from Effect to Cause.

Reasoning from Cause to Effect.


Post-Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.

Chance as a Causal Factor.

Chance and Causality, Myth and Cosmology.

Some Guideline for Causal Reasoning.

Causality and the Ends of Reasoning.

Reasoning Practice.

6.Values: Judgments Grounded in Nature and Consequences.


Supporting Value Claims: Nature and Consequences.

One Example of Claims about Value: Music.

Another Example: Family Farms.

Weighting Criteria.

Guidelines for Reasoning about Values.

Reasoning Practice.

7.Procedures and Proposals: Actualizing the Potential for Change.


“Houston: We Have a Problem.”

A Modest Proposal.

Feasibility, Plausibility, Credibility.

Guidelines for Reasoning about Procedures and Proposals.

Reasoning Practice.

8.Becoming a Citizen Critic: Where Rhetoric Meets the Road.

Diversions of Reasoning.

Spectator Culture, Consumer Culture, Democratic Culture.

Reasoning to Invoke Citizen Critics.

What Is a Citizen? And a Citizen of What?

The Enthymemes of This Book.

Reasoning Practice.