Logic and Rhetoric

Logic and rhetoric are essential tools for effective communication. The three stages of the trivium are all about language: Grammar teaches the structure of language; Logic teaches right reasoning with language; and Rhetoric teaches the adornment of language with power and beauty for persuasion. All of our students take Formal Logic, Material Logic, and Rhetoric.

Our logic and rhetoric curriculum is based on the work of textbook author, Martin Cothran, who teaches his own texts for these classes. Students learn a systematic course in formal logic, not a sampling of logic topics. Traditional formal logic is an in-depth study of the syllogism, taught in the classic three-part method. Students learn the four logical statements, the four ways statements can be opposite, the three ways they can be equivalent, the seven rules for validity, and the medieval chant for the 19 valid arguments.

Students learn Christian epistemology and also study famous arguments from history, such as Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”, C.S. Lewis’ “trilemma”, St. Thomas Aquinas on the existence of God, David Hume on the problem of evil, and many others.

Martin Cothran’s Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle is a guided tour through the first part of the greatest single book on communication ever written: Aristotle’s Rhetoric. To the ancients, rhetoric was the crowning intellectual discipline. It took the knowledge the student had gained over the course of his years of schooling and the understanding of logical principles gained from the study of traditional logic and molded them into powerful tools of persuasion. To Aristotle, the art of rhetoric was the chief weapon in the service of truth.

Unlike much of modern communication theory, Aristotle did not overemphasize technique. He understood that, although the construction and delivery of a speech or a piece of writing are important, there is a certain body of knowledge a person must have at his disposal in order to communicate effectively. That is why Classical Rhetoric is more than just a course in English or public speaking; it is those things, but it is much more. It involves a study of the fundamental principles of political philosophy, ethics, and traditional psychology. A student learns not only how to give a political speech, but also the elements of good character; not only how to give a legal speech, but also the seven reasons people do things; not only how to give a ceremonial speech, but what incites specific emotions under different circumstances.

Classical Rhetoric also familiarizes students with three model speeches as examples of the three branches of classical oratory: the “Appeal of the Envoys to Achilles,” from Homer’s Iliad; the “Apology of Socrates,” from the dialogue of Plato; and Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address“. Students will also be asked to analyze Marc Antony’s “Funeral Oration,” from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, as an example of a great speech that defies categorization. It is indeed a privilege to study logic and rhetoric under Mr. Cothran, whose texts are used in schools throughout the country.