Seminar on Law, Design and Rhetoric

10 May 2019 | h. 10.30-11.20

Faculté de droit et criminologie, UCLouvain, Louvain-la-neuve | MORE 66-67


Law, Design, Rhetoric: some Practical and Theoretical Questions

Rhetorical skills are a crucial ability for a lawyer. How can we use them in order to structure our work? and what are the convergences with design? We are going to explore this relationship with Alvise Schiavon, postdoc researcher at the Faculty of Law, University of Trento



The crisis of the philosophical positivism in the first half of the XX century involved a shift in the epistemic status of design, law and rhetoric which revealed the intimate interrelations among the three disciplines. The digital revolution in the age of fast-growing communication technologies pushed forward the convergence: rhetoric, law and design are now intended as crucial knowledges for understanding and shaping objects and processes in the digital environment.

Rhetoric can be defined as the art of producing reasonable arguments for persuading the listener. At the hearth of it lies the idea of controversy, dialogue and intersubjectivity. It recalls the need to take in consideration the peculiar features of the audience and the importance of developing our thoughts in dialogue with real or virtual contrasting motions.

Rhetoric impacts the study and practice of legal design in several ways. I will focus on two domains: the method of investigating and solving problems of legal design; the way of presenting the results of the job in a persuasive text or speech. As for the method for approaching (tackling) cases concerning legal design, ancient and contemporary rhetoric highlights the importance of mental patterns (loci, placements) helping the inventions of possible solutions; furthermore, it suggests the method of oppositions (or negation) for exploring alternatives and anticipate criticalities. As for the ways of presenting and grounding the resulting opinion in front of different audiences, the basic theories concerning the structure of a persuasive speech and models of argumentation will be sketched.



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Ch. Perelman – L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, La Nouvelle Rhètorique: Traité de l’Argumentation. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1958 (translation The New Rhetoric: Treatise on Argumentation, University of Notre Dame Press, 1969)

S. Toulmin, The Uses of Argument, Cambridge university Press, 1958 (2nd edition 2003)

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D. Walton, Argument Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996.

F.H. van Eemeren – R. Grootendorst – F. Snoeck Henkenmans, Fundamentals of Argumentation Theory. A Handbook of Historical Backgrounds and Contemporary Developments, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, 1996.

E. T. Feteris, Fundamentals of legal argumentation. A survey Theory on the Justification of Judicial Decision, Kluwer, 1999.

R. McKeon, The uses of rhetoric in a technological age: Architectonic productive arts, in Bitzer, Lloyd F. and Black, Edwin (Eds.), The prospect of rhetoric, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

R. Buchanan, Rhetoric, humanism, and design, in R. Buchanan – V. Margolin, (eds.), Discovering design: explorations in design studies, University of Chicago Press, 1995, pp. 23-66.

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R. Buchanan, Design and the new rhetoric: Productive arts in the philosophy of culture, in Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2001, pp.183-206.

R. Buchanan, Strategies of design research: Productive science and rhetorical inquiry, in R. Michel (ed.), Design research now: essays and selected projects, Birkhäuser, Boston, 2007, pp. 55-66.

R. Buchanan, Declaration by design: Rhetoric, argument, and demonstration in design practice. Design Issues, Vol. 17, No. 3, 1985, pp. 3-23.

E. Friess, Designing from data: rhetorical appeals in support of design decisions. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Vol. 24, No. 4, 2010, pp. 403-444


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