Topic (rhetoric)

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Topic (from ancient Greek τά τοπικά ta topiká , derived from ancient Greek τόπος tópos "place, place, place") is a technical term of rhetoric that goes back to Aristotle and describes a system for categorizing and finding patterns of argument (so-called topoi ) for the purpose of persuasion .

The topic term in classical rhetoric

In Greek antiquity, topik meant the doctrine of finding the material for the purpose of rhetorical treatment of any object, but in particular the systematic compilation of general terms and sentences (Topen, Latin loci communes), which are used as a guideline or guide for working out speeches the identification and choice of appropriate evidence should serve. In particular, the topic is a system with which "art-appropriate evidence" (Latin: probationes artificiales) can be developed. The topic is thus the first systematic recording of those processes that underlie the formation of generally recognized beliefs. It also covers the use or methods of changing beliefs for the purpose of persuasion (Latin: persuasio).

Topics and conviction

From the point of view of the history of ideas, the topical system can be seen as a forerunner of modern methods for analyzing, using and changing the attitudes of individuals and groups. The system of classical rhetorical topics has particular overlaps with modern cognitive behavioral therapy , in particular with the particularly widespread technique of “ cognitive restructuring ”. The proximity to the topical system of ancient rhetoric is little known in psychological research, although the Socratic dialogue based on the understanding of the topical is recognized as a central method for questioning dysfunctional cognitions in today's behavioral therapies.

Development history

The topic was treated by the later Greek rhetoricians and grammarians and, with preference, by the Romans, for example by Cicero in his writings "De inventione" and "Topica". In the Middle Ages the topic got lost in empty gimmicks.

In recent times a special treatment of the topic has been given up completely as ineffable. However, this decision was by no means undisputed. Giambattista Vico criticized the neglect of the topic, since without it no rich speech would be possible.

“Criticism is the art of truth, but the topic is that of rich speech. Those who are practiced in finding the medium in the subject or in teaching - the scholastics call it medium , which the Latins call argumentum - have, as they are used to speaking, all the points where the arguments are ready, such as the letters of the alphabet go through, thus already the ability to see without further ado what can be done convincingly in each case in the present case. Those who have not achieved this ability hardly deserve the name of a speaker [...] "

- Gian Battista Vico : De nostri temporis studiorum ratione [Latin: About the spiritual study of our time / About current education]

In grammar , topic is the study of the passages that belong to the individual words in the sentence and the sentences in the period. However, like some other uses of the word “topic”, this definition does not belong in the field of meaning that this word has in the system of classical rhetoric.


Original texts:


Collective works:

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ueding, Gert: Classic Rhetorik, Munich 2000
  2. ^ Wagner, Topik (2009), Col. 605.
  3. Ueding, Gert et al .: Outline of Rhetoric, Stuttgart 1994 (page 230 ff.)
  4. Ueding, Gert et al .: Outline of Rhetoric, Stuttgart 1994 (page 234 ff.)
  5. Ueding, Gert: Classic Rhetorik, Munich 2000 (page 33ff. And 79ff.)
  6. Beate Wilken: Methods of Cognitive Restructuring, 2006
  7. Gian Battista Vico : De nostri temporis studiorum ratione: On the nature and way of spiritual education . 2nd unchanged edition. Scientific Book Society , Darmstadt 1974, ISBN 3-534-02028-6 , pp. 31 .