On the Art of Finding Arguments: What Ancient and Modern Masters of Invention Have to Tell Us
About the ‘Ars Inveniendi’
ABSTRACT: This paper deals with what has been called “ars inveniendi” (‘art of finding’) in antiquity, medieval and early modern times. A survey of different techniques of finding
tenable and relevant arguments is presented (among them, the Topical tradition, Status theory, Debate theory, Encyclopedic systems, Creativity techniques). Their advantages and disadvantages
are critically compared. It is suggested that a mixture of strategies of finding arguments should be used. Finally, a few remarks showing the relationship beween the strategies
of finding arguments and creativity in general are given.
KEY WORDS: Ancient rhetoric, art of finding, ars inveniendi, brainstorming, creativity, debate theory, encyclopedic systems, invention, Lasswell formula, status theory, topical
1. GENERAL REMARKS
In this paper I want to present and discuss several techniques for finding arguments. More particularly, I shall deal with what has been called ‘ars
inveniendi’ (‘art of finding’) in antiquity, medieval and early modern times. As far as terminology is concerned, I am going to use ‘argument’ in a rather
narrow sense: according to this usage, an argument is a statement brought forward to confirm or attack a controversial claim. Of course, during the finding process we are not looking for all conceivable
arguments in that sense, but only for plausible ones. A plausible argument is a statement which is both tenable and relevant (cf. Naess, 1975,
p. 144). Different techniques of finding arguments impose more or less restrictive requirements on arguments as to their tenability and relevance.
Some require very strong restrictions (e.g. the arguments must be true and…