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Argumentation cartésienne : logos, ethos, pathos

Revue philosophique de Louvain, 106:3, 2008, 459-494.


Starting with the Aristotelian distinction between the three pillars of argumentation, logos, ethos and pathos, we propose an analysis of Cartesian argumentation, as it unveils itself through the totality of his corpus and correspondence. Cartesian logos is based on two distinctions, logic and dialectics, analysis and synthesis, and a need for persuasion due to the insufficiency of demonstration. Cartesian ethos is socratic: it presents itself in a Platonist scene and notably consists in a critique of erudition and numerous clues indicative of the Socratic method. Cartesian pathos reveals a prediscurive and discursive care of the audience, an emotional rhetoric that aims to touch the sentiments of the reader and a sense of controversy that juggles the art of flattery and insult. The conclusion, which demonstrates the nature and the role of Cartesian argumentation in relationship to his philosophy, asks equally the question of the sincerity of the author before giving some hermeneutical suggestions.

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