Christian plantin, Les bonnes raisons des emotions
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Christian plantin, Les bonnes raisons des emotions

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Christian plantin, Les bonnes raisons des emotions. Principes et methode pour l’etude du discours emotionne. Peter Lang, Bern – Berlin – Bruxelles – Frankfurt am Main – New York – Oxford – Wien 2011 (review)

Maria Załęska

The famous sentence by Pascal „heart has its own reasons, which the mind cannot understand” (le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas) is the commentary to the many centuries long cultural tradition present in Western Europe, which contradicts the emotions and reason.

The book by Christian Plantin, entitled – in rough translation only – „The reasons of emotions. The rules and the method of research of emotional discourse” is a great monograph on the role of such “reasons of emotions” as a creation of argumentation.

Against the deep-rooted habits of thinking, which exclude emotions from the area of reason, the author shows the specifics of argumentation deriving from emotion and/or based on it. On account of his erudition, grand scale of the theory and the authenticity of the conception, the book is worth presenting to Polish researchers of rhetoric, theory of argumentation and the language specialists, interested in researching the way the emotions are constructed in the discourse.

The book is clearly divided into two parts: Nine theoretical chapters, the theoretical summarization and seven case studies, basing on which the author shows how his model works in practice. As it was mentioned earlier, the title itself is hard to translate. In the original the author says about “good [in the meaning of „exact”, “entitled”] reasons of emotions” (les bonnes raisons des emotions). Knowing about the tradition of suspicion to the emotion as the creation of argumentation the used wording is a real interpretative declaration: the author shows the idea of emotions as the perfect material to formulate arguments. The title conception of discours emotionne hasn’t got a counterpart in Polish language. We don’t have the terms adequate to subtle French diversification of semantic and theory between emotif, emotionnel i emotionne. The closest in meaning seems to be not so very Polish phrase „dyskurs przesycony emocjami”. [discourse full of emotions].

The first chapter of the book is devoted to the terminology of the scope of terms, creating a semantic field of broadly understood “emotion”. The author describes the ideas of affection, emotion, experience (in meaning of non-translatable word of eprouve, or “which was experienced”), humor (in the meaning of old Greek idea of four humors), passion, pathos and feeling (sentiment). There is no idea of “mood” as it hasn’t got the unambiguous counterpart in French language.

The next chapter is describing the rhetorical conception of pathos as a concept and the methods of formulating the evidence by referring to emotions. Author claims that in rhetoric ethos i pathos predominate logos. Maybe that’s a fact, that rhetoric differs from logic on the issue of the meaning of logos, but the specific definitions of rhetoric differ when it comes to the perspective of the emotion in persuasion. The Aristotelian model puts ethos in the centre Author emphasizes that treating ethos and pathos as indirectly similar emotional measures derives from Cicero and Quintilian, and treating pathos as a main measure of argumentation is even later. Author depicts many lists of emotions, counted by the specialists in rhetoric to pathos, and compares them to the actual psychological typologies of basic emotions.

In the third chapter author describes the second emotional component, complimentary to pathos. Ethos, defined as an emotional measure creating trust, is treated both as a piece of evidence of technical nature (probationes technai) and of non-technical nature (one of probationes atechnai) in the purely rhetorical meaning.

Taking into account the methodology declared in the title, the import ant influence of the chapter is also the description of the linguistic factors of ethos in a way characteristic to the French discourse analysis – connecting the basis of ethos with the grammar exponent of a person, power of illocution and subjectivity.

Against the background of the deliberations on the ideas of emotions, the fourth chapter brings the new thread: the thematic of argumentation. Author notes the development of the idea of “argumentation” in theories created after the II World War. The chapter connects two measures taken from the title: emotions and argumentation. Author describes different views of relations between the emotions and argumentations. According to the first one, human is subjected to emotions which he should bear against his will; this kind of emotions make the rational argumentation harder, if not completely impossible. According to the second one, the very emotions make the actions possible and have an important role in formulating the arguments.

The next chapter extenses the thematic of emotions and argumentation to the theory of sophistry. Many types of arguments are categorized as eristic on the account of the assumption that emotions disfigure the reason and lead to negligence in the argumentation. The very names of may eristic arguments (for example: the ad metum argument, “to fear”) refer to different emotions and/or to broadly understood semantic field of emotionalism. Author describes the conception of eristic ethos (ethos fallacieux) and eristic emotions. Is honest argumentation in need of getting rid of the emotional dimension? Is it necessary to eliminate emotions to have the consensus and eliminate the difference in opinions? Author points out the practical impossibility of aleximitic argumentation, lacking the emotional dimension.

The sixth chapter describes and interesting theoretical problem: if the negative influence of emotions on argumentation should be formulated as a theory of sophistry (in the frames of eristic) or rather as a moral anthropology of discourse? Author depicts the pessimistic answer of Port Royal, according to which the heart is the doom for the soul and the optimistic theory of Mill, according to which the passions are directing the mind without dooming it.

The seventh chapter describes the emotions in action: their feeling and expressing in the context of many different situations and communicative stimulus. The chapter connects the theory of emotions in argumentation and in conceptions of language communication with the psychological concepts. It also describes the basic models of emotion in theology, philosophy, psychology and rhetoric. The author uses also the terminology of emotions and of this, which he calls “the terminology of emotional orientation”.

The abovementioned chapters lead to the construction of the model of argumentative discourse expressing emotions. The French terminology is more precise than Polish in this point. It includes five basic terms defining the statement in any way connected with the feelings: emotionnant ‘emotioning’ and emotionnel, emotif, emotionne. The author uses mostly the three latter: discours emotionnel as non-intentional communicating of the emotions, discours emotif as intentional communication by the emotions and discours emotionne that could be defined as the statement marked emotionally or “full of emotion”.

The ninth chapter concerns the creation of the emotion in the discourse, beginning with the conception of the classical rhetoric and ending with modern interdisciplinary models. This chapter is especially interesting in accordance with the connection between the rules of linguistic and psychological analysis in constructing the emotional situation.

As recapitulation the author summarizes the described theoretical model, which is then used in the following seven analytical chapters. The case studies are devoted to different emotions (rage, fear, anger and the transition from apathy to pride) in specific argumentative and relation of reason and emotion in chosen genres of speech (open letter, a story and political campaign).

Although the books is devoted to one of the oldest threads in cultural reflection – relations between emotions and the reasonable mind – it wasn’t, to this time, the subject of such cohesive and balanced analysis, referring to the theory of argumentation. The extent of factors taken into consideration, described in the outlooks of many scientific fields and theoretical conceptions show the erudite knowledge of the author. As one can see in the bibliography, the book is the finale of a very long research program.

This elaboration is not limited to the survey of source literature. Author offers an authentic conception of these relations and creates his own theoretical and methodological tools. The proposed here multi-factor model of emotion analysis in argumentation is characterized by inside cohesion. In relation to the last works this very model transforms and integrates the current lines of thought. It hasn’t been constructed as a way to see the emotional point of view or the point of view of the argumentation in that matter, but sees both of these factors as unbreakably bonded.

As a result of such integration there arises a new, promising research paradigm which can get the current Line of thought about the relation of emotion and argumentation and may predict the new subfield of research. This new paradigm of understanding the phenomena is emphasizing the issues which were not the subject of any research or were researched fragmentarily. The specific value of this work is the used interdisciplinary perspective: including the conceptions of theology, philosophy, psychology and rhetoric into the deliberation on emotion and, at the same time, maintaining the cohesive approach in the theory of argumentation. It leads to the significant development in this field not only by the answers the author provides but also by the questions which let us to redefine our field of interest. The style of this paper, mirroring the quality of theoretical reflection reminds the best models of rhetorical claritas in its famous realization of clarite francaise. The precision of expressions and care for the definition lets one to test out the proposed ideas in the analysis of following articles and potential theoretical development during the detailing the semantic fields of the definitions and deepening their understanding.

In such a broad way of analyzing the subject some discussion is unavoidable. The main concern is the descriptions of relations between the rhetoric and argumentation. The author (p. 85) contradicts the argumentation in rhetoricy (as a part of inventio) to argumentation built against the rhetoric. The rhetoric is understood as the practice of self-interested speech is treated here as an offensive practice and attributed to the speaker and the argumentation (not “theory of argumentation”) is understood as a set of rules used to the critical evaluation of the arguments, understood as defensive and attributed to the judge. The abovementioned diversification is reasonable as a categorization of two fields of research – rhetoricy and theory of argumentation.

As the opposition of two communicative practices (what would the opposition of argumentation and rhetoric point out) it brings some reservation. Rhetoric hasn’t got only the offensive functions and the assumption that the “judge” (understood as the member of the tribunal not as a theoretician of argumentation) is not rhetorical.

The reviewed work is the important contribution to the described field of interest as putting the unorganized threads in order and on the other side – it gives new momentum by the inspiring theoretical and methodological propositions. In the account of the substantive value of the book and the attractive subject one should wish this book to be translated into Polish as soon as possible. It would enable the broad circle of interested researchers to include in the exciting “discourse full of emotions” and deliberate on the subjects included in the study.

FAR 2011 No. 3 (26) July-September

Rhetoric and political polemics


Uniwersytet Warszawski
Katedra Italianistyki
ul. Oboźna 8
00-332 Warszawa