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ditions compelling do so only by the de- nial of anything which transcends the immediacy of circumstances. Those who argue from the essential nature of things, however, must assume essences which lie beyond the immediate realm of per- ception.

One’s habitual mode of argument, then, reveals the underlying structure of thought and assumptions about the world. Along with bases of argument, Weaver developed three other aspects of rhetorical style: ultimate terms, or those terms which anchor the discourse as be- ing unquestioned goods (god terms) or evils (devil terms); pertinences, or those topics or dimensions of a topic which the speaker considers relevant; and reso- nances, or a stylistic similitude with those figures or systems of authority.87 The use of language did more than reveal one’s assumptions about the world, however. For Weaver, language was sermonic.

To speak is not merely to express one’s view of the world but “to handle the world, to remake it if only a little, and to hand it to others in a shape which may influence their actions.”88 When a speaker invites others to participate in the use of lan- guage, moreover, “...the listener is being asked not simply to follow a valid reason- ing form but to respond to some presen- tation of reality. He is being asked to agree with the speaker’s interpretation of the world that is.”89

Rhetoric “creates an informed appeti- tion for the good”90 and its “function is an art of embodying an order of desire.”91 Language shapes man’s understanding of reality and to adopt his language—its patterns, its pertinences, resonances, and assumptions with regard to valid and compelling reasoning—is to enter his world and dwell there. Mastery of lan- guage, quite literally, is mastery of the world.

Central to the Ethics is the distinction between rhetoric, or the manner in which language has persuasively conveyed as-


sumptions about the world, and dialec- tic, or the manner in which those assump- tions about the world are tested and sub- jected to criticism. Rhetoric is the vehicle by which the truth is communicated; dia- lectic is the method whereby truth is discovered.

It is not possible to separate rhetoric from dialectic. “What a successful dialec- tic secures for any position...is not actual- ity but possibility; and what rhetoric thereafter accomplishes is to take any dialectically secured position (since posi- tive positions, like the ‘position’ that water freezes at 32° F., are not matter for rhetori- cal appeal) and show its relationship to the world of prudential conduct.”92 In the second chapter of the Ethics, Weaver com- pared and contrasted the arguments raised during the trial of John T. Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee. The position taken by the prosecution, which included Wil- liam Jennings Bryan, was that the Tennes- see State Legislature had passed a law which was clearly within the purview of its authority and that Scopes had vio- lated that law. Scopes’s defense, led by Clarence Darrow, argued that evolution was correct. The result was that “The law of the State of Tennessee won a victory which was regarded as pyrrhic because it was generally felt to have made the law and the lawmakers look foolish.”93

The lesson is a powerful one for conser- vatives both in Weaver’s time and in the present. It is not enough to be right. One must also be compelling. The lesson for rhetorical scholars and ethicists is equally significant. There is no ethical rhetoric apart from a dialectically secured posi- tion. To speak well of that which is evil is unethical regardless of the particular application of a rhetorical device. Ethical rhetoric must rightly affect the soul, and “a soul which is rightly affected calls that good which is good; but a soul which is wrongly turned calls that good which is evil.”94

This is not, however, the conclusion of

Winter 2006

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