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The Enthymem ( Greek : ἐνθύμημα enthýmema "the considered, the hearted, the argument") is a concept of rhetoric or argumentation that goes back to Aristotle .

One also speaks of a “enthymemic probability conclusion” or “rhetorical” or “dialectical” conclusion, i.e. H. an end to unexpressed premises.


The first treatment of a theory of enthymem can be found in the pseudo-Aristotelian rhetoric textbook Rhetorik an Alexander , which was probably written by Anaximenes of Lampsakos . There the enthymeme is a means of persuasion that proves that the opponent contradicts himself or that his statements or actions violate socio-moral principles (in contrast to his own).

Aristotle coined the term most effectively . Because of ambiguities and interpretational misunderstandings, in the subsequent rhetoric tradition and to this day, however, enthymic terms that contradict each other and with his term can be found.

In Aristotle's rhetoric , the enthymeme is the most important means of persuasion, namely rhetorical proof, in which the premises are accepted opinions by the audience. The premises of enthymemes do not deal with any scientific subjects and are accordingly mostly not necessary and generally applicable, but only as a rule. Aristotle also characterizes the enthymeme as an argument made up of probabilities and signs ( An. Pr. II 27 70a2). Presumably this means the following: Because of the subjects treated, the premises of the enthymem (almost always) do not necessarily apply (unlike scientific premises).

As a result, the conclusion is only likely to apply ( necessitas consequentis ). In the tradition, however, the nature of the inferential relation was also regarded as merely probable ( necessitas consequentiae ). In this case, enthymems are not necessarily valid inferences.

In addition to the logically necessary enthymem, Aristotle also knows the special form of certain circumstantial inferences that do not necessarily apply (such as: 'It has rained because the street is wet').

Aristotle explains that because of the speaking situation and the target group, enthymemes are shorter than other arguments. Therefore, premises that are known to all are often left out. (Rhet. I.2, 1357a7-18) The demand that the enthymeme must have fewer premises leads to the so-called syllogism truncatus doctrine that the enthymeme consists of one premises. This requirement was understood against the background of the syllogism theory of Aristotle, in which an argument always consists of two premises. This view is characteristic of the Middle Ages, can be found in Avicenna and Al-Farabi and possibly goes back to Alexander von Aphrodisias .

Usage today

The four-part structure of the strict syllogism is seldom used in speech, but the argument is reduced to three or two steps; the missing remainder (the proposition , one of the two premises or the conclusion ) is added "in thought" by the listener. In many writings on rhetoric, only this abbreviated line of evidence is specifically called Enthymem; the complete proof is then called syllogism, even if not in the Aristotelian sense.

In part, the entymemic probability conclusion is differentiated from the deliberate fallacy (" eristic syllogism") and only pointed out that shortened conclusions are characteristic of persuasive argumentation and advertising language. Elsewhere it is pointed out that the shortening of the course of evidence can serve to deliberately conceal a weakness of the argument, if z. For example, a premise is left out which, if formulated, would appear unbelievable to the listener.

Examples from everyday life

a) completely

There will be rain ( proposition / objective of proof ); because when the air pressure drops, there is rain ( first premise / major sentence ). Now the air pressure has fallen ( second premise / sub-principle ), so it will rain ( conclusion / conclusion ).

b) shortened

There will be rain; the air pressure has fallen. If the air pressure drops, it will rain.

c) missing premise

He is not bribable. After all, he's a civil servant. (The premise is missing: no civil servant can be bribed.)


Individual evidence

  1. Metzler Philosophielexikon, 2nd edition (1999) / Enthymem
  2. Bußmann, Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft, 3rd ed. (2002) / Enthymem.
  3. Ludger Jansen: enthymêma , in: Christoph Horn / Christof Rapp (eds.): Dictionary of ancient philosophy Munich 2002, p. 137.
  4. Christof Rapp: Aristoteles. Rhetorik , Berlin 2002, Vol, II: pp. 194-208.
  5. Christof Rapp : Aristotle's Rhetoric , The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Christof Rapp: Aristotle. Rhetorik , Berlin 2002, Vol. 1: pp. 323-335. Vol. II: 223-240.
  6. Christof Rapp: Aristoteles. Rhetorik , Berlin 2002, Vol. 2: p. 187f. It is uncertain whether Quintilian's syllogism imperfectus (Inst. Orat. V 10.3) can already be understood in this way. See ibid. P. 188.
  7. Metzler Philosophielexikon, 2nd edition (1999) / Enthymem
  8. Bußmann, Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft, 3rd ed. (2002) / Enthymem.
  9. So the previous version here.

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