A Very Brief Look at George Campbell’s The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776)


Determining the needs of the audience takes both synchronicity and diachronicity into account, so that, when meaning-made occurs, that meaning of an object of understanding is neither strictly static nor distinctly historical. What this means, then, is that the audience must encounter an object of understanding in the static present as that which is can be meaningful, but also as having meaning-made that is not static. Essentially, meaning-made is not static, but evolutionary, depending on the meaningfulness an audience makes out of an object of understanding. In other words, when recognizing the evolutionary aspect of meaning-made, the needs of the audience cannot be defined in static terms, but, as George Campbell asserts in The Philosophy of Rhetoric, “as men in general, and as such men in particular” (93). For Campbell, the needs of the audience are composed of understanding, imagination, memory, and passions—taken together, these “needs” of the audience make it possible for an object of understanding to be meaning-made.

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