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Some of Aristotle's examples of general topoi (koinoi topoi) in the Rhetoric


In classical rhetoric, the stock formulas (such as puns, proverbs, cause and effect, and comparison) used by rhetors to produce arguments. Singular: topos.

Aristotle identified two types of topoi (or topics): the general (koinoi topoi) and the particular (eide or idioi topoi).

See also:


From the Greek, "common place" or "turn"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Virtually all commentators on classical rhetoric agree that the concept of topics occupied a central place in theories of rhetoric and invention. . . .

    "Commonplace topics provided orators with a stock of familiar material to which audiences often responded positively. . . . Walter Mondale's use of the television commercial line 'Where's the beef?' to attack rival presidential aspirant Gary Hart during the 1984 primaries illustrates one way in which a commonplace expression can combine argument, emotion, and style."
    (James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)

  • "Aristotle listed, described, and illustrated dozens of topoi, or commonly used lines of argument. Like the checklists for insuring that no important facts are overlooked, the topoi insure that no line of argument is overlooked."
    (Michael H. Frost, Introduction to Classical Legal Rhetoric. Ashgate, 2005)

  • "What the writer of a rhetoric has to do is to round up the patterns that do inform the coherent use of our language, to place them in some sensible order, and to discuss their logical implications. . . .

    "There are clearly recognized patterns in time, and fictional techniques utilize them commonly. There are also clearly recognized patterns in space, and descriptive writers use them. . . . Then there are logical patterns. From the logical conventions of induction we derive the pattern of 'details' and of 'illustration.'"
    (Dudley Bailey, "A Plea for a Modern Set of Topoi." College English, Nov. 1964)
Pronunciation: TOE-poy
Also Known As: topics, loci, commonplaces

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