Rafael Jiménez Cataño – “Ragione e persona nella persuasione. Testi su dialogo e argumentazioene“

Nora Goleshevska, PhD

Rhetoric and Communcation E-Journal, issue 22, April 2016, http://rhetoric.bg/, http://journal.rhetoric.bg/

Rhetoric, Argumentation, Communication, Anthropology

Prof. Rafael Jiménez Cataño, PhD was born in Mexico. He is a Doctor in Philosophy, Full-time Professor of Rhetoric at the Communication Faculty of Holy Cross University, Rome.

His latest book is Ragione e persona nella persuasione. Testi su dialogo e argomentazione (Roma, 2012).

Some recent papers were presented at conferences: “The Role of Goodwill in Conflictive Communication” (Bucharest 2005), “The Critical Value of Trust” (Rome 2009), “Resources to Manage Stereotypes and Similar Issues” (Padua 2010), “Taking Care of Identity through Politeness” (Brasov 2014), “The Relevance of Human Being’s Comprehension in Persuasion” (Warsaw 2015), “Dialogue in View of Human Caring” (Nancy 2015).


Approaching the rhetorical reason:

Rafael Jimenez Cataño’s studies on dialogue and argumentation

Rafael Jimenez Cataño’s book “Reason and person into persuasion. Texts on dialogue and argumentation” (“Ragione e persona nellapersuasione. Testi su dialogo e argomentazione”, Edusc 2012, pp.150) is a contemporary multidimensional and erudite study on classical rhetorical subjects approached with contemporary anthropological sensitiveness. The book sprung from a dialogically formulated examples of traditional academic genres – contributions to conferences and papers from conventions as well as an extensive number of articles published over the last decade in academic journals in a number of different languages;

The essays, which refer to linguistic and classical rhetoric themes, reconsider notions such as dialogue, argumentation and persuasion that reflect not only to rhetoric as a discipline, but also to the concept of the human, i.e. to the very basis of humanities. The explicit intention of all texts is to observe, from a dialogical point of view, the phenomenology of both – reason and person as they appear into the persuasion condition. A consistent rhetorical approach to both concepts combines philosophical analysis with the analysis of concrete forms of social communication. Besides, the coherent rhetorical critique of reason turns back to the dialogue as a basic human condition.

The book’s structure is divided into two parts. The first one is dedicated to definitions and plurality of truth seen from a dialogical point of view. It’s mainly based on articles published for the first time in Spanish, in the rubric “The Benediction of Babylon” [1] of the Mexican journal “Ixus” whose rubric editor was Jimenez. The chapters from the second part of the book include texts on dialogue, rhetoric and argumentation presented at recent symposia where Jimenez interprets the relation between the person and persuasion.

Following the Babylon metaphor, the first two chapters of the book enlighten the phenomenon of plurality of viewpoints and the tradition of dual discourses. (p. 45) Jimenez places the anthropological significance of confidence, of human belief(s) and capacity / the wish to understand into the very heart of contemporary studies, in a dialogue and argumentation.

It should be noted that Jimenez‘s comprehension of dialogue is multidimensional. It’s not limited to the consideration of the traditional rhetorical genre. Besides, it proposes an heuristic approach that gives “possibility to link life to a speculative reason” (p. 126). On the one hand, dialogue is seen as an anthropological condition of the human (founded into the authentic (interpersonal) relationship between a man and a man) and thus – a substantive premise for the persuasion. On the other hand, its everyday/quotidian dimension shows that every single dialogue is “a competition between different reasons… where sense needs to be distinguished, in particular, into the every case” (p. 46). In this line of thought should me mentioned Jimenez consideration of the volatility of the notion of Other and alterity. (p. 124)

Jimenez’s consideration of the rhetoric as “persuasion of a person to another person” sets up the dialogical situation as an implicit premise of the human condition. From that rhetorical perspective reasoning is not a sufficient procedure for the dialogical partner’s persuasion because the phenomenology of persuasion needs a human in its multidimensionality – reasons(s) as well as belief(s) and capacities to confide in and understand (p. 40) [2]. Although the demonstration and the formal reasoning may be valid in themselves, without a reference to a recipient, the effectiveness of persuasion cannot be studied without the respect to the circumstances in which the argument takes place.

Thereby Jimenez invites the reader to reconsider the critical value believe has for understanding and summarizes two significant aspects of the rhetorical reason that emerged in persuasion. The first one is that “the resources of the reason do not exhaust the realm of the human cognitive resources” and the second – the “human intelligence doesn’t coincide with the reasoning itself” (p. 8-9) [3]. Therefore, Jimenez’s framework offers a definition of the human that could be assumed as intentionally non-Eurocentric.

Such a dialogical (re)vision of anthropology [4] provides a rhetorical critique of reasoning that goes beyond the concept of reason used as emancipative power (of the humans from the nature: emotions, desires, prejudices). Within the dialogical situation both the truth and the reason emerge in their weakness – the reason as soft or emphatic (p. 17; p.129-130) and the truth – as weak. Jimenez steps on classical definition on truth as adaequatio intellectus et rei (Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Israeli) [6] reinterpreting the concept whiting it’s plurality that does not reside in the truth itself but in a human way of knowing reality (p. 124)

The idea for plurality of truth in argumentative dynamics allows Jimenez to deconstruct the tradition of what he defines as “Babylonic axiology” – a comprehension of the plurality of languages in light of rhetoric of redemption (as a symbol of the second Fall of man. It also presents a common expression for chaos and confusion, p. 50) [5]. As it shows the sustainable rhetorical structure of the Babylonic axiology, the book contextualizes the dialogue’s condition into the challenging context of the world nowadays: anti globalists (p. 52) and fundamentalist [7]. The prospective to rethink language diversity as richness allows Jimenez to turn the Babylon’s metaphor upside down. He interprets the Babylon Myth in terms of benediction which influences the process of knowing and understanding the Other (p. 57)

The second leading node of the book focuses its attention on the argumentative aspects of the relations between the person and persuasion underlining the existential and personal aspect of persuasion as condition of its receptivity. Such an assumption underlines the role of ethos as a persuasive medium in both meanings – the ethos of the interlocutor, his character and credibility (p. 39) and also the role of the ethos of the dialogical partner and his capacity and will to understand – (i.e. the goodwill – eunoia or “buona volonta” p. 93).

By reformulating the Aristotelian notion for rhetoric [8] that underlines the efficiency and instrumentality of the ars bene dicendi, Jimenez proposes to think rhetoric as the “art to allow the truth to emerge as true”. Such interpretation of a person – persuasion relations is a step forward in the practical philosophy of dialogue. [9]

As important arguments that appeal to the character of the arguer, Jimenez identifies the ethotic arguments as a persuasive tool that requires a function of credibility. Cataño’s analysis demonstrates how persuasive strategies based on traditional figures of speech, as metonymy and analogy, are widely used for the formation of public opinion.

A significant part of Jimenez’s study on ethos as persuasive medium is dedicated to the argumentative strategy based on metonymies and their uses (p. 98) His invention is the metonymic structure – a certain structure that links a set of artistic entities (borrowed from the poetic experience) to the human condition itself. The entities he identifies are text/poetry, body/person, caress/affect, adventure/love, assembly/communion, binge/festivity, performance/ piece of music and of that”. These structures are defined as real metonymies – association between two concepts in which the first element from the pairs is already a reality for the second. Another argumentative strategy Jimenez identifies is the strategy based on analogy (similarity). Within this structure the alterity of the Other [10] plays a crucial role (p. 117).

Jimenez also takes time to analyze how these strategies work when they are corrupted. He observes the manifestation of the corrupted usage of argumentation by analogy within the stereotype (argumentum ad ignorantum, the cliché, a taxonomic mistake) explaining its effectiveness with the lack of human’s “courage to use his/her own understanding and goodwill”. Another interesting example where argumentative strategy is compromised is when metonymy becomes wishful thinking.

The leading dialogical intention of the book is implicit also on the level of its referential variety. It integrates the traditions of Luigi Pareyson, Pope John Paul II, Adelino Catani, Carlos Pereda, Douglas Walton, George Steiner, Octavio Paz, Michael Ende ect.., dialogizing with contemporary schools as New rhetoric, but also Post-Enlightenment thought and the “program” of a weak thought. Thus, the book is addressed to the academic audience in the field of philosophy and rhetoric, anthropology and argumentation, but also to professional communicators from all spheres of the human activity – politic, economy, education etc.


[1] From the original title in Spanish La benediction de Babele”.

[2] The significance of both – belief and beliefs for Jimenez’s study on dialogue and persuasion („The human has believes but also believe“) could be related to a set of contemporary studies in that direction as Jean Paul encyclical letter “Fides et Ratio” Derrida’s “Foi et savoir”.

[3] Shouldn’t be an overinterpretation if we conclude that from a dialogical and persuasive point of view the (pure) reasoning is a reduction of the being.

[4] Book review of Giovanni Cogliandro su La Civiltà Cattolica. p. 615.

[5] Symbol of malediction, kingdom of fallen humanity and evil’s presence.

[6] See also Recensione di Lucia Salvato – „L’analisi linguistica e letteraria“, anno XXI 1/2013, Universita Catolica del Sacro Cuore

[7] Axiology of Anti-globalization movement – overthrows the axiology of Babylonic Myth that is a central line into the rhetoric of redemption of the Anti-globalization movement takes the idea that the world should be changed. In this way too defeat an enemy and construct new world (SF Florence) a defense against the process of (re)unity of the word dominated by the capital.

[8] as capacity to discover the persuasive medium adequate for the certain audience, See Recensione di Giovanni Cogliandrosu La CiviltàCattolica, p. 615.

[9] Book review of Giovanni Cogliandro su La Civiltà Cattolica, p. 615.

[10] The one that has different age, gender, taste, language, country, religion (p. 124).

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