The types of arguments used and positions taken are relatively limited. Quintilian gives us a catalog not only of this information, but also which rhetoricians use what kind of arguments.
Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory.Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book III Chapter 6.
A “cause”, that which is argued, always has a root in some sort of “status”, or position (Quintilian III.6.1). Before dealing with means of argument, Quintilian will try to identify the different kinds of positions. The term “status” is one of many identifying the position taken in an argument (Quintilian III.6.2). “The position of the cause will be that which the pleader regards as the chief object to be gained, and the judge as the chief object of attention, for it is on this that the cause will take its stand” (Quintilian III.6.9). Quintilian then moves into several technical arguments about what a judge, plaintiff, or defendant might accept or admit to. He later (Quintilian III.6.23) discusses other rhetoricians and the ways they would define and classify causes, beginning with only asserting one (Quintilian III.6.29) to more (Quintilian III.6.31ff). He cites the names of the rhetoricians and weighs their positions, making this a potentially very valuable resource.
After a lengthy catalog, Quintilian concludes, “I am aware that those who shall read the ancient writers with attention will find still more positions, but I am afraid that what I have said on this subject has exceeded due bounds” (Quintilian III.6.62). Admitting that his own views and categories have changed over time (Quintilian III.6.65), Quintilian lays out his current interpretation of the types of cases. All he describes fit into simple syllogisms. A proposition is true or false and leads to another proposition. These syllogisms are all rooted in “whether a thing is, what it is, and of what species it is” (Quintilian III.6.80). This framework is the one used by Cicero. Quintilian traces these questions through several different types of cases, observing that though the facts and charges vary, all types of inquiries are essentially similar.
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