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Chaim Perelman


Chaim Perelman (1912-1984), a Polish philosopher was one of the major argumentation scholars in the century. He became the first youngest full professor of Philosophy at Brussels. This paper explores major philosophical achievements of Perelman.


Perelman conducted his initial research in logical positivism that aimed to prove verificationism by logical and empirical statements. An empirical study of justice concluded that applications of law involved value whereas value is not subject to logic. Perelman rejected positivism that explained the rationale for the value judgement.

In collaboration with Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca and Perelman developed ancient rhetoric to be fundamental logic in value Judgements. They published a study on rhetoric argumentation that entailed arguments from law, philosophy, politics, journalism and ethics. As a result, they established general techniques for an argument.

The new Rhetoric is on the basis of argumentation with a goal influence on an audience in a coherent manner. Also, the orator chose the information to be delivered and the kind of approach to influence the audience. Moreover, the universal audience is flexible. Thus, proposals could be enacted using certain content and objectives for a particular audience. Orator should consider the facts and reasons that could determine the approach to the audience.

Use of values determines the level of influence that would lead to audience adherence that is a major intention for the new rhetoric. Perelman view of value is different from the ancient rhetoric particularly that of Aristotle, which contains three speech forms namely deliberative, forensic and epideictic. Perelman contrast Aristotle’s view by contrary opinion on epideictic rhetoric superiority attention. Epideictic form increases adherence to the conditions it supports by virtue of exposition to the stronger values. The persuasiveness of argumentation on all speech arguments attempt to establish a centered principal backed by the values acceptable to the audience.

All argumentation according new rhetoric must begin from unanimous agreement on the related issues. Consecutively agreements have two categories, first; truths, facts and presumptions; second hierarchies, values and loci of preferable. Abstract and concrete values may compose the beginning. Finally, presence creation from available ideas with regards to an agreement upon the given audience is also a starting point. Distinguishing agreements as primary or secondary is acceptable.


The new definition of rhetoric, a forgotten word is among the many contributions that led to Perelman achievements’ resulting to his recognition as a contributor to contemporary discourse. Also, due to unwavering commitment, Perelman published seven rhetoric philosophy and justice works.

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