Richard Whately

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Correct use is not founded on Grammar, but Grammar on correct use.

Richard Whately (February 1, 1787October 8, 1863) was English logician and theological writer, and served as archbishop of Dublin.


  • Weak arguments are often thrust before my path; but although they are most unsubstantial, it is not easy to destroy them. There is not a more difficult feat known than to cut through a cushion with a sword.
    • As quoted in Anecdote Lives of the Later Wits and Humourists (1874) by John Timbs, Vol. 2, p. 44

Elements of Rhetoric (1828)[edit]

Text online

  • Of Rhetoric various definitions have been given by different writers; who, however, seem not so much to have disagreed in their conceptions of the nature of the same thing, as to have had different things in view while they employed the same term.
    • Introduction, p. 1
  • In the present day, however, the province of Rhetoric, in the widest acceptation that would reckoned admissible, comprehends all "Composition in Prose;" in the narrowest sense, it would be limited to "Persuasive Speaking."
    • Introduction, p. 4
  • Concerning the utility of Rhetoric, it is to be observed that it divides itself into two; first, whether Oratorical skill be, on the whole, a public benefit, or evil; and secondly, whether any artificial system of Rules is conducive to the attainment of that skill.
    • Introduction, p. 13
  • No one complains of the rules of Grammar as fettering Language; because it is understood that correct use is not founded on Grammar, but Grammar on correct use. A just system of Logic or of Rhetoric is analogous, in this respect, to Grammar..
    • Introduction, p. 17
  • Cicero is hardly to be reckoned … for he delighted so much more in the practice, than in the theory, of his art, that he is perpetualy drawn off from the rigid philosophical analysis of its principles, into discursive declamations, always eloquent indeed, and often highly interesting, but adverse to regularity of system, and frequently as unsatisfactory to the practical student as to the Philosopher.
    • Introduction, p. 19
  • The easiest and most popular way of practically refuting... any Fallacy is, by bringing forward a parallel case, where it leads to a manifest absurdity. A metaphysical objection may still be urged against many cases in which we thus reason from calculation of chances; an objection not likely indeed practically to influence any one, but which may afford the Sophist a triumph over those who are unable to find a solution.
    • p. 52-53

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