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Promise of Reason

Promise of Reason

Studies in The New Rhetoric

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Edited by John T. Gage


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
272 pages, 6 x 9, 7 illustrations


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About the Book

No single work is more responsible for the heightened interest in argumentation and informal reasoning—and their relation to ethics and jurisprudence in the late twentieth century—than Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s monumental study of argumentation, La Nouvelle Rhétorique: Traité de l'Argumentation. Published in 1958 and translated into English as The New Rhetoric in 1969, this influential volume returned the study of reason to classical concepts of rhetoric. In The Promise of Reason: Studies in The New Rhetoric, leading scholars of rhetoric Barbara Warnick, Jeanne Fahnestock, Alan G. Gross, Ray D. Dearin, and James Crosswhite are joined by prominent and emerging European and American scholars from different disciplines to demonstrate the broad scope and continued relevance of The New Rhetoric more than fifty years after its initial publication. 

Divided into four sections—Conceptual Understandings of The New Rhetoric, Extensions of The New Rhetoric, The Ethical Turn in Perelman and The New Rhetoric, and Uses of The New Rhetoric—this insightful volume covers a wide variety of topics. It includes general assessments of The New Rhetoric and its central concepts, as well as applications of those concepts to innovative areas in which argumentation is being studied, such as scientific reasoning, visual media, and literary texts. Additional essays compare Perelman’s ideas with those of other significant thinkers like Kenneth Burke and Richard McKeon, explore his career as a philosopher and activist, and shed new light on Perelman and Olbrechts- Tyteca’s collaboration. Two contributions present new scholarship based on recent access to letters, interviews, and archival materials housed in the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Among the volume’s unique gifts is a personal memoir from Perelman’s daughter, Noémi Perelman Mattis, published here for the first time. 

The Promise of Reason, expertly compiled and edited by John T. Gage, is the first to investigate the pedagogical implications of Perelman and Olbrechts- Tyteca’s groundbreaking work and will lead the way to the next generation of argumentation studies.


John T. Gage is a professor of English at the University of Oregon. His other books include The Shape of Reason and In the Arresting Eye: The Rhetoric of Imagism.


“Gage’s excellent collection is notable for gathering international contributions from a range of disciplines into a single volume. It is one of the few volumes to feature scholars from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East side-by-side, demonstrating not only the international appeal but also the continuing intellectual pull of The New Rhetoric. . . . In putting international approaches together, Gage succeeds in opening up a multidisciplinary, transnational conversation, and provides a path for this dialogue to grow and develop in the next 50 years and beyond.”—Rhetoric & Public Affairs

“If anyone needs to be persuaded of the lasting impact Chaïm Perelman’s thought still has on contemporary philosophy, rhetoric, science, and beyond, some fifty years after the appearance of The New Rhetoric, this book is a perfect guide. From sixteen essays by leading experts, there emerges a magnificent panorama of the various interpretations, extensions, and applications inspired by that treatise. The collection is made unique by the touching personal memoir by Perelman’s daughter Noémi that opens it.”—Manfred Kraus, lecturer in classics and rhetoric at the University of Tübingen, Germany 

“Leading scholars of Chaim Perelman’s work from a variety of disciplines prepared these essays on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The New Rhetoric. They sharpen understanding of Perelman’s key concepts, explicate the ethical norms underlying the work, and extend the reach of Perelman’s theories and their practical implications. Anyone interested in Perelman and contemporary argumentation theory will want to be familiar with this book.”—David Zarefsky, Owen L. Coon Professor Emeritus of Argumentation and Debate, Northwestern University.

Promise of Reason shows that the work of Chaim Perelman and Lucy Olbrechts-Tyteca, in its current and historical context, continues to challenge our understanding of the potentials and pitfalls of deliberation through argumentation. The New Rhetoric is simultaneously foundational and cutting edge. The collection pursues issues until now ignored in Perelman scholarship, ranging from the role Olbrechts-Tyteca played in the text to specifics of Perelman’s biography. It is an exciting and engaging collection, and will, as it is intended to do, reawaken interest in The New Rhetoric.”—Patricia Roberts-Miller, professor, department of rhetoric and writing, University of Texas at Austin

"The Promise of Reason, written by famous specialists from all over the world, brilliantly illuminates Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca's seminal work by emphasizing its defense of reason in the public sphere, and by analyzing its close relation to ethics. Confronting New Rhetoric with various rhetorical traditions, it also extends its realm to fields such as the visual and the new media, encompassing science and religion as well as literature or education. ThePromise of Reason both accounts for the importance of the in exploring the role of reasoning and communication in human affairs, and shows how it can help us analyze contemporary issues and practices."—Ruth Amossy, Tel-Aviv University, chief editor of Argumentation et analyse du discours