Rhetoric of faith and patterns of persuasion in Berkeley's Alciphron

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Abstract

In this article I consider George Berkeley's Alciphron (1732) from the standpoint of the literary techniques and rhetorical procedures employed, as evidence for placing this composition within the tradition of Christian apologetic rhetoric. The argument develops around three main issues: 1) Berkeley's employment of the traditional rhetorical tool of attacking his opponents using their own weapons; 2) Berkeley's resort to a perennial tradition of pre-Christian or non-Christian wisdom, in order to validate his Christian-theistic claims; and 3) Berkeley's 'argument from utility' (considering the beneficial effects that accepting Christianity has had over the centuries on people's lives, making them better, wiser, happier, and more virtuous, as well as the social peace and harmony that living by Christian standards brings about - it is preferable to adopt the Christian faith than not). These three theses are discussed in light of the history of Christian apologetic rhetoric, with references to the works of St. Augustine, St. Justin Martyr, Origen, St. Thomas Aquinas and other Christian authors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-561
Number of pages18
JournalHeythrop Journal - Quarterly Review of Philosophy and Theology
Volume47
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006

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