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Rhetorical Argument

An introduction to the types of rhetorical arguments and related concepts.


To help you develop a plan for an argument, using stasis theory can help in your invention stage.

In a discussion of a problem or issue, stasis theory asks you and your fellow debater to come to an agreement on an issue.  For example, people have various opinions about sexism and racism. Let's take sexism, for example. Some people do not feel that sexism exists while others are adamant that it does. To come to an agreement, you could apply stasis theory by first asking if it really exists or happens (fact). Next, you and your friend would need to define and discuss what acts make up or constitute sexism (definition). Then, you have to look at the character or nature of the act. Is the issue hurtful or not (quality: right or wrong)? Finally, is there something that should be done about this concern (policy: plan of action)?  These questions help develop the issue at hand.  


Stasis theory was developed by an ancient rhetorician named Hermagoras, an ancient Greek in the 3rd century BC. He proposed four questions to help analyze or study a problem or issue, and those questions can be used as an invention help. Aristotle, another ancient Greek and philosopher and rhetorician from the 4th century, is often associated with the idea of stasis theory, and he used it primarily in the invention stage.  The theory was later refined by Cicero, and orator, and other others.

The word stasis means a state of balance or stability, and its origin is Greek for "standing / stoppage." Stasis theory is a four-question method of invention developed by Aristotle and Hermagoras, both ancient Greek philosophers and rhetoricians.  Applying this theory allows for people to get to the point or basis of an issue. To achieve stasis, the people involved have to reach an agreement on the components of a given matter or issue.

The questions or categories of stasis include:

  1. Fact or conjecture:  Does the issue exist?  Is it real?
  2. Definition: What is the meaning or nature of this matter?
  3. Quality:  Is this a serious concern?  Who is affected?  What are the costs?
  4. Policy:  What action should be taken regarding the issue or concern?  What policies are needed to resolve the issue?

Stasis theory is a rhetorical method or way to decide what is the point of a possibly controversial issue. The objective or intent of stasis theory is to come to an understanding or agreement to which participants can agree in order to address an issue or concern. Using the theory can help with invention in writing, and answering the questions can generate ideas in the writing process.  


Sample Student Essays:

Stases Worksheet with Examples