7. The Universal Audience

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1 7. The Universal Audience 31 dialogue or the person engaged in deliberation can be considered as a particular audience, with reactions that are known to us, or at least with characteristics we can study. Hence the primordial importance of the universal audience, as providing a norm for objective argumentation, since the other party to a dialogue and the person deliberating with himself can never amount to more than floating incarnations of this universal audience. 7. The Universal Audience Argumentation aimed exclusively at a particular audience has the drawback that the speaker, by the very fact of adapting to the views of his listeners, might rely on arguments that are foreign or even directly opposed to what is acceptable to persons other than those he is presently addressing. This danger is apparent in the case of a composite audience, which the speaker has to resolve into its constituent parts for the purposes of his argumentation. For a composite audience, such as a parliamentary assembly, will have to be regrouped as a single entity to make a decision, and it is extremely easy for the opponent of an incautious speaker to turn against him all the arguments he directed to the different parts of the audience, either by setting the arguments against each other so as to show their incompatibility or by presenting them to those they were not meant for. This explains the relative weakness of arguments that are accepted only by particular audiences and the value attached to opinions that enjoy unanimous approval, particularly approval by persons or groups who agree on very few matters. Naturally, the value of this unanimity depends on the number and quality of those expressing it. Its highest point is reached when there is agreement of the universal audience. This refers of course, in this case, not to an experimentally proven fact, but to a universality and unanimity imagined by the speaker, to the agreement of an audience which should be universal, since, for legitimate reasons, we need not take into consideration those which are not part of it. Philosophers always claim to be addressing such an audience, not because they hope to obtain the effective assent of all men-they know very well that only a small minority will ever read their worksbut because they think that all who understand the reasons they give will have to accept their conclusions. The agreement of a universal audience is thus a matter, not of fact, but of right. The basis for relying on the adherence of those who submit to the data of experience or to the light shed by reason is the speaker's affirmation of that which

2 32 THE NEW RHETORIC corresponds to an objective fact, of that which constitutes a true and even necessary assertion. Argumentation addressed to a universal audience must convince the reader that the reasons adduced are of a compelling character, that they are self-evident, and possess an absolute and timeless validity, independent of local or historical contingencies. "Truth," according to Kant, "depends upon agreement with the object, and consequently, with respect to this object, the judgments of all understandings must be in agreement." Every objective belief can be communicated, because it is "valid for the reason of every man." It is only such an assertion that can be affirmed, that is, be expressed "as necessarily valid for everyone."46 In fact, a judgment of this sort is deemed to be binding on everybody, because the speaker himself is convinced that it does not admit of any question. This Cartesian certitude has been described very expressively by Dumas:, Certitude is that complete belief, which entirely excludes doubt; it is necessary, universal affirmation; in other words, the man who is certain does not conceive the possibility of preferring the contrary affirmation, but imagines his affirmation as necessarily commanding the acceptance of everybody in the same circumstances. In short, it is the state in which we are conscious of thinking the truth, which is precisely this universal constraint, this mental obligation; subjectivity disappears, and man thinks as intelligence, as a man and no longer as an individual. The state of certitude has often been described with the help of such metaphors as light and luminosity; but the illumination brought by rational certitude carries its own explanation. It means rest and relaxation, even if the certitude is a painful one, as it puts an end to the tension and the worry of search and indecision. With it comes a feeling of power, but also of annihilation; one feels that prejudice, passion, and individual caprice have disappeared... In rational belief the truth becomes ours and we become the truth.s? It is to be observed that where rational self-evidence comes into play, the adherence of the mind seems to be suspended to a compelling truth, and no role is played by the processes of argumentation. The individual, with his freedom of deliberation and of choice, defers to the constraining force of reason, which takes from him all possibility of doubt. Thus, maximally efficacious rhetoric, in the case of a universal audience, is rhetoric employing nothing but logical proof. Rationalism, with its claim to completely eliminate rhetoric from philosophy, announced a very ambitious program which would bring 46Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, GB\V\V, vol. 42, p Dumas, Traite de psycho log ie, vol, II, pp , 200.

3 7. The Universal Audience 33 about the agreement of minds through universal yielding to rational self-evidence. But the exigencies of the Cartesian method had hardly been stated when Descartes, in the name of these exigencies, made some very questionable assertions. How, indeed, does one distinguish between true and false self-evidence? Does a person suppose that there is really objective validity in what convinces a universal audience, of which he considers himself the ideal representative? Pareto has made the penetrating observation that the universal consensus invoked is often merely the unwarranted generalization of an individual intuition;" For this reason it is always hazardous for a writer or speaker to identify with logic the argumentation intended for the universal audience, as he himself has conceived it. The concepts that men have formed, in the course of history, of "objective facts" and "obvious truths" have sufficiently varied for us to be wary in this matter. Instead of believing in a universal audience, analogous to the divine mind which can assent only to the "truth," we might, with greater justification, characterize each speaker by the image he himself holds of the universal audience that he is trying to win over to his view. Everyone constitutes the universal audience from what he knows of his fellow men, in such a way as to transcend the few oppositions he is aware of. Each individual, each culture, has thus its own conception of the universal audience. The study of these variations would be very instructive, as we would learn from it what men, at different times in history, have regarded as real, true, and objeciiueli] valid. If argumentation addressed to the universal audience and calculated to convince does not convince everybody, one can always resort to disqualifying the recalcitrant by classifying him as stupid or abnormal. This approach, common among thinkers in the Middle Ages, is also used by some modern writers.w There can only be adherence to this idea of excluding individuals from the human community if the number and intellectual value of those banned are not so high as to make such a procedure ridiculous. If this danger exists, recourse must be had to another line of argumentation, and the universal audience must be set against an elite audience, endowed with exceptional and infallible means of knowledge. Those who pride themselves on possession of a supernatural revelation or mystical knowledge, as well as those who appeal to the virtuous, to believers, or to men endowed with grace, show their preference for an elite audience; this elite audience may even be confused with the perfect Being. 48 Pareto, The ivlind and Society, vol. I, 589, 599, pp. 354, E.g. Lefebvre, A la lumiere du materialisme dialectique, I, Loqique [ormelle, logique dialectique, p. 29.

4 34 THE NEW RHETORIC The elite audience is by no means always regarded as similar to the universal audience. Indeed, the elite audience often wishes to remain distinct from the common run of men: if this is so, the elite is characterized by its hierarchic position. But often also the elite audience is regarded as a model to which men should conform in order to be worthy of the name: in other words, the elite audience sets the norm for everybody. In this case, the elite is the vanguard all will follow and conform to. Its opinion is the only one that matters, for, in final analysis, it is the determining one. The elite audience embodies the universal audience only for those who acknowledge this role of vanguard and model. For the rest it will be no more than a particular audience. The status of an audience varies with the concepts one has of it. Certain specialized audiences are readily assimilated to the universal audience, such as the audience of the scientist addressing his fellow scientists. The scientist addresses himself to certain particularly qualified men, who accept the data of a well-defined system consisting of the science in which they are specialists. Yet, this very limited audience is generally considered by the scientist to be really the universal audience, and not just a particular audience. He supposes that everyone with the same training, qualifications, and information would reach the same conclusions. The same holds good when we are dealing with morals. '-IVeexpect our judgments to be confirmed by the reactions of others. However, the "others" to whom we appeal are not just any "others." We make our appeal solely to those who have duly "reflected" on the conduct we approve or disapprove. As Findlay says: We make our appeal above the unreflecting heads of present company, to the great company of reflecting persons, wherever they may be situated in space or time.p" This sort of appeal is criticized by J.-P. Sartre in his remarkable lectures on the audience of a writer: vve have said that the writer addresses himself, in principle, to all men. But, immediately afterward, we observed that he is only read by some of them. From this gap between ideal public and real public originates the idea of abstract universality. In other words, the author postulates a perpetual repetition over an indefinite future of the handful of readers he has in the present... recourse to infinity in time tries to compensate for the failure in space.r et urn to the infinite of the reasonable man of the sevenr-, :=-~=-=--:~:.-."c,i:rality by Convention;" Mind, LIII, new series, 1944, p ::-:'::-. ~.._ ~L~:.~ U2~ Basis of Ethics, p. 84.

5 8. Argumentation Before a Single Hearer 35 teenth century writer, extension to infinity of the writers' club and of the public of specialists for the nineteenth century writer)..., By concrete universality, on the other hand, is meant the totality of men living in a given society.v Sartre upbraids writers for neglecting the concrete universality to which they could, and should, address themselves, in favor of an illusory abstract universality. But is it not Sartre's universal audience which will have to judge the merits of this criticism and decide whether or not the writer has been harboring up to now a voluntary or involuntary illusion, whether up to now he has failed in his self-appointed "mission"? And it is Sartre's universal audience he himself addresses when he wants to explain his views on this question of abstract and concrete universality. We believe, then, that audiences are not independent of one another, that particular concrete audiences are capable of validating a concept of the universal audience which characterizes them. On the other hand, it is the undefined universal audience that is invoked to pass judgment on what is the concept of the universal audience appropriate to such a concrete audience, to examine, simultaneously, the manner in which it was composed, which are the individuals who comprise it, according to the adopted criterion, and whether this criterion is legitimate. It can be said that audiences pass judgment on one another. 8. Argumentation Be/ore a Single Hearer All those who, in antiquity, proclaimed the primacy of dialectic over rhetoric, recognized the philosophic significance of argumentation addressed to a single hearer, and granted its superiority over that addressed to a vast audience. Rhetoric confined itself to the technique of the long, sustained speech. But this kind of speech, with all the oratorical action involved in it, would be both ridiculous and ineffective before a single hearer. 52 It is normal to take his reactions, denials, and hesitations into account, and when he notices them the speaker does not think of evading them. He has to prove the contested point, apprise himself of the reasons for his interlocutor's resistance, and thoroughly understand his objections. Discourse, of necessity, degenerates into dialogue. That is why, according to Quintilian, dia- 51 Sartre, Situations, vol. II, pp Quintilian, I, II, 29; cf. also, Carnegie, Public Speaking, and the distinction between "one-way communication" and "two-way communication" made by Riezler, in "Political decisions in modern society," Ethics, LXIV (1954),

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