Chaim Perelman by Alan G. Gross, Ray D. Dearin

By Alan G. Gross, Ray D. Dearin

Introduces within the rhetorical conception of 1 of Aristotle's most vital heris.

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35) Before we examine Perelman’s view of knowledge in detail, it is helpful to consider his critique of the shortcomings found in earlier theories. After surveying the epistemologies set forth by the rationalists, empiricists, and logical positivists, Perelman concluded that these philosophies all failed to grasp one fundamental fact: While it is possible to quantify physical phenomena, the same cannot be said for mental phenomena. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant had recognized that intensive magnitude is of a wholly different order from extensive magnitude.

What do these categories mean? Together, fact, truth, and presumption constitute what we regard as real. It is a fact that the earth is a planet; it is a truth of Newtonian physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction; it is a presumption that the quality of an act reveals the quality of the person. Values embody the preferable, the guidelines for the way we judge ourselves and others. If we are French, for example, we may prefer the abstract values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, as well as the concrete values of things quintessentially French: French cuisine, French philosophy and literature, France itself.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.

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