Richard Whately

British rhetorician, logician, economist, and theologian (1787-1863)

Richard Whately (February 1, 1787October 8, 1863) was English logician and theological writer, and served as archbishop of Dublin.

Correct use is not founded on Grammar, but Grammar on correct use.



Elements of Rhetoric (1828)


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  • Of Rhetoric various definitions have been given by different writers; who, however, seem not so much to have disagreed in their conceptions of the nature of the same thing, as to have had different things in view while they employed the same term.
    • Introduction, p. 1
  • In the present day, however, the province of Rhetoric, in the widest acceptation that would reckoned admissible, comprehends all "Composition in Prose;" in the narrowest sense, it would be limited to "Persuasive Speaking."
    • Introduction, p. 4
  • Cicero is hardly to be reckoned … for he delighted so much more in the practice, than in the theory, of his art, that he is perpetually drawn off from the rigid philosophical analysis of its principles, into discursive declamations, always eloquent indeed, and often highly interesting, but adverse to regularity of system, and frequently as unsatisfactory to the practical student as to the Philosopher.
    • Introduction, p. 10
  • Concerning the utility of Rhetoric, it is to be observed that it divides itself into two; first, whether Oratorical skill be, on the whole, a public benefit, or evil; and secondly, whether any artificial system of Rules is conducive to the attainment of that skill.
    • Introduction, p. 12
  • No one complains of the rules of Grammar as fettering Language; because it is understood that correct use is not founded on Grammar, but Grammar on correct use. A just system of Logic or of Rhetoric is analogous, in this respect, to Grammar..
    • Introduction, p. 17
  • Though the easiest popular way of practically refuting … any Fallacy is, by bringing forward a parallel case, where it leads to a manifest absurdity, a metaphysical objection may still be urged against many cases in which we thus reason from calculation of chances; an objection not likely indeed practically to influence any one, but which may afford the Sophist a triumph over those who are unable to find a solution.
    • Part I, Ch. II, § 5, p. 76
  • On the whole, the arguments which it requires the greatest nicety of art to refute effectually … are those which are so very weak and silly that it is difficult to make their absurdity more palpable than it is already.… The task reminds one of the well-known difficult feat of cutting through a cushion with a sword.
    • Part I, Ch. III, § 8, p. 166
  • There is, I conceive, no point in which the idea of dishonest artifice is in most people's minds so intimately associated with that of Rhetoric, as the address to the Feelings or Active Principles of our nature. This is usually stigmatized as "an appeal to the Passions instead of the Reason;" as if Reason alone could ever influence the Will, and operate as a motive, which it no more can, than the eyes, which show a man his road, can enable him to move from place to place; or than a ship provided with a compass, can sail without a wind.
    • Part II, Ch. I, § 2, p. 180
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