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Epistemology and Modern Rhetoric

17th Century


Time Line:

Early Modern English & English Civil War Page

1607- Jamestown, Virginia, is settled as what would become the first permanent English colony in North America.

1618- The Bohemian Revolt


Descartes and Vico



precipitates the Thirty Years' War, which devastates Europe in the years 1618–48.

1633- Galileo sentenced by Roman Inquisition to house arrest for life for heliocentric views.

1636- Harvard University is founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Bacon and Locke



Enlightened Women


“Advances in science, freed from church censorship, created new ways of thinking and new theories about how humans gained knowledge” -Smith (207)

Blaise Pascal invents the mechanical calculator called Pascal's calculator.


The Commonwealth of England ends and the monarchy is brought back during the English Restoration.


The first known operational reflecting telescope is built by Isaac Newton.


Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts



Modern Rhetoric


Early Modern English The popularity of

interesting combination in the

Shakespearean English

17th century. After Queen

mixed with Elizabethan

Elizabeth’s death in 1603

spontaneity and lack of formal people sought to form more structure created an more on


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Historical Events Lorem Ipsum

Issue | Date

Epistemology- is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent a given subject or entity can be known.

more structured ways of thinking and

early modern English throughout the th

established modern English as we

definitive forms of studies.

17 century is heavily based on his

leave an era of arts that ushers in one

Linguistically, scholars wanted

ways of writing and language use.

of freethinking. Philosophers took

proposed grammar rules and

These established conventions after

this time to discuss the epistemology

definitions. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey

an era of experimentation led to

of English and how language and

published the First English

language being more easily learned,

speech connects to knowledge.

Dictionary. Because of Shakespeare’s

much like the vernacular breathing

popularity at the time, the forming of

life into education. So there is an

I should have practiced better rhetoric

parliament increased control.

English Civil War

Although the monarchy took over again 1660, the long parliament of the commonwealth leads to a parliamentary monarchy where a

Dolor Sit Amet

The English Civil War was a

cabinet and a head have

response to King Charles I abuse

governmental leadership. In the

of the parliament and failures as a

meantime, the years Parliament

leader. After the war ended in

ruled allowed for more freedom

1649, King Charles I was

of expression and public

executed and the Commonwealth

speaking, therefore requiring

of England took over, giving the

more rhetoric.


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Descartes and Vico Lorem Ipsum

Issue | Date René Descartes walks into a bar and orders a drink. When he's done, the bartender asks him whether he wants another. Descartes says "I think not." Poof! He disappears.


Cartesian Unity And Humanistic Unity Rene Descartes (1596-1650) “I think, therefore, I am.”

Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) Vico stood on the other side of Descartes in terms of

Rene Descartes was born French and

Philosophy. He believed that without imagination it

raised by Jesuits, a Christian male

would be impossible to make sense of the world and

religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. He is considered one of the greatest thinkers because of his contributions to math including calculus and geometry. His studies in mathematics transcended in his work on philosophy as a “systematic question of all hypotheses back to the first assumptions.” Meaning that we gain knowledge through the study

deliver accurate hypotheses; imagination was crucial to the transformation of society. As opposed to the Cartesian method of verification through observation, Vico thought practical wisdom must be used to appeal to the persuasive qualities that comprise rhetoric. These figures of thought, when mixed properly with certain writing tropes, could hold the mind and soul to attention and encouraged

of reason, not imagination; to study all our

movement. In that sense rhetoric could amplify

beliefs so that we conclude which ones

thought process and impact an audiences emotions

are real and which are false. This is called

enough to persuade them. In court, rhetoric could

“systematic doubt” and paved the road

hold a common social frame, a stasis system.

for discussions of rhetoric in philosophy.

Metaphoringrained in language as a way to make things known by invoking comparisons.

One of Descartes greatest discoveries using this method was the separation of body and mind. The fact that one can question their own existence proves they have a mind.

Dolor Sit Amet

Vico’s redefined Tropes: Metonymy-naming a thing by one of its characteristics. Synecdoche- naming a thing by substituting a part for the whole Irony- literal meaning used to express its opposite


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Bacon and Locke Lorem Ipsum

Issue | Date Don’t tell me what I can’t do!

My worst fear is that one-day I’ll wake up as bacon

John Locke (1632-1704) John Locke was an English philosopher and psyhcian who believed that only experience could provide the materials for reason and knowledge, and

And eat myself. I wouldn’t Everyone is created equal!

even think twice. I know those feels man

experience was the sensing of data in the empirical world (Smith, 215). He saw language as a function of describing the

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

illusions. He thought rhetoric was needed to abolish the corrupting

Francis bacon took the

influences of these four idols and

psychology of Plato, the linguistic

create proper communication and

theory of Augustine, and the

transfer of knowledge through

dialectic approach of Ramus to


experiences discovered first by the senses. Therefore this created the notion that we are all a blank slate at birth and created equal.

create the five functions of the mind called “faculty psychology”: understanding, reason, imagination, appetites, and will (Smith, 212). These functions related together allowed for imagination to transcend reason and life the audience up to higher levels of thinking. Rhetoric provides the images and styles that imagination needs to unify into a transcending argument to illumination beyond pure reason. In order to protect proper human understanding, Bacon created four “idols of culture” that served a purpose in the same way as Plato’s or Augustine’s worldly

Dolor Sit Amet

Idols of the Tribe: Desires and prejudices that are accustom to a culture. Ex. Belief that it is better to be married than single. Speakers can use these prejudices to advance an argument.

Idols of the Marketplace: Causes people to use language in the popular way than in the precise way. “Lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.”

Idols of the Den:

Idols of the Theater: Belief of explanations of the world around us from anything other than what our reason would lead us to believe, like the being fooled by the drama on a stage, one is fooled by a beliefs.

Fallacies that derive from living with a limited view of the world. Built from Plato’s metaphor of the cave. The cavern or den causes humans to search in their limited range of beliefs instead of venturing out of their comfort zone.


Lockes theory on how we remember things. Through abstractions or a pyramid of categories we can retain knowledge. Color would be a category of abstraction because within color we build associations of red, blue, green and many other things to comprise the definition of color.

Internal DiscourseLocke believed components of the mind function by reflection. Internal discourse is engaging in reflection and memory within oneself to properly communicate the experiences of our world. External Discourse- A type of reflection that is corrupted by societal influences. One must take internal discourse and use it to purify external discourse (communication with people).


Enlightened Lorem Ipsum Women

Issue | Date

Madeleine de Scudrey wrote towards women about partaking in conversation in areas of appropriate intellectual discussions. Moved rhetoric to conversation more than public speaking. She taught that women should not exclude themselves from any conversation unless it was one in poor taste. At 2.1 million words, her novel Artamène is considered one of the longest ever written, featuring of course, lengthy conversations.

Margaret Cavendish (1623-1674) studied Locke and Bacon and wrote The Worlds Olio, which was an encyclopedia of feminine conversational technique that taught women to advance social reforms in conversation (Smith, 219). Also that when speaking to your spouse, one should refine from emotional appeals and stick to reason. Her husband was also popular for his writing and military adventures resulting in their exile from England by Oliver Cromwell, who had a military take over Parliament inbetween the Commonwealth of England and the Restoration. Wrote Blazing World, one of the first examples of Science Fiction.

Margaret Fell was an influential Quaker woman who fought for women to have the right to preach in the Quaker church and was jailed multiple times for it. While in prison she wrote Women Speaking Justified where her theory focused on rhetoric as dialogue, prophecy, or counseling. Much of her views were like Plato and Augustine where the preacher must experience divine illumination. Much like Cavendish, Fell’s husband left his position in Parliament due to Oliver Cromwell’s assumption of authority as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. Spent over five years in prison for her work as a Quaker.

Mary Astell (1666-1731) was a political activist, writer, and educator who wrote “A Serious Proposal for Ladies” which included plans for women to attend college. She studied Hobbes’ translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric and believed Rhetoric’s task is to present truth discovered by other means and rationalism was to be embraced. “If all Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born Slaves?”

Dolor Sit Amet


17th Century Rhetoric  
17th Century Rhetoric  

Epistemology and Modern Rhetoric