Strategic maneuvering through persuasive definitions: Implications for dialectic and rhetoric

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Persuasive definitions - those that convey an attitude in the act of naming - are frequently employed in discourse and are a form of strategic maneuvering. The dynamics of persuasive definition are explored through brief case studies and an extended analysis of the use of the "war" metaphor in responding to terrorism after September 11, 2001. Examining persuasive definitions enables us to notice similarities and differences between strategic maneuvering in dialectical and in rhetorical argument, as well as differences between the role of strategic maneuvering in normatively ideal argument and in actually existing argument. This will avoid the double standard of comparing ideal dialectic with actual rhetoric, or vice versa. The results of the analysis suggest possibilities for a rapprochement between dialectical and rhetorical approaches to argumentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-416
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Definition
  • Dialectic
  • Normative argument
  • Persuasive definition
  • Pragma-dialectics
  • Rhetoric
  • Universal audience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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