in Contemporary Advertising
ARH Production
Produced, Written & Directed
Alec R. Hosterman
A long time ago,
in a galaxy far, far
(oops, wrong introduction - sorry about that)
Once upon a time…
(dang it, I did it again - just a second)
In the beginning…
(okay, this should work)
Welcome. I’m Aristotle. I’ll be your host as
we explore the world of the Enthymeme. I
have a bit of experience in this arena, with
rhetoric and science in particular.
I wrote a few books in my day. You may
recall Dr. Rice, Alec or Barbara mentioning
On Rhetoric
(it spent 18 weeks on the Athens Times bestseller list)
The Poetics
There are a few others, but I won’t bore you
with those titles. You get the idea.
Instead, I’d like to talk about Enthymemes.
Enthymemes are rhetorical syllogisms
(we’ll talk about these soon), but honestly,
I’m rather vague with a concrete definition.
However, Ann Gill provides a
good one for us: “arguments
in syllogistic form that use
implied premises held by the
audience.” Thanks Ann!
Enthymemes are also called “truncated
syllogisms” since they’re shortened. One or
more premise is “held in the mind.”
I explain them like this: “the conclusion
should not be drawn from far back, nor is it
necessary to include everything…the latter
tiresome because of stating what is obvious.”
Here are a few examples…
“But Brutus says he was ambitious; And
Brutus is an honourable man.” – Mark
Antony from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
- missing link: honourable men are
“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” attorney Johnny Cochran in the O.J.
Simpson trial
- missing link: If the glove doesn’t fit
the defendant, you must acquit him
To understand
let’s first examine
the Syllogism.
(“Armed with her Sword of
Syllogism, Bow of Questions,
and Sonorous Voice which
broadcasts her well-formed
premises to all who may be in
hearing range, Logic leaves
the conundrums of
Parmenides behind…She
follows her trusty dogs, Truth
and Falsehood, as they give
chase to the Problem at hand,
and thus avoids getting lost in
the tangled Woods of
Opinion.” - from B. Becker’s
History of Science website)
I claim that a Syllogism “is wholly from
propositions.” Again, Ann provides a good
synopsis for our talk: “the conclusion is
derived directly from information already
present in the premises.”
(hopefully she won’t ask for royalties)
I use a relatively famous historical figure to
illustrate how they work.
(used with permission from the Socratic Talent Agency)
Here’s the basic layout of a Syllogism
First, there’s a Major Premise:
e.g., “All men are mortal.”
Next, there’s a Minor Premise:
e.g., “Socrates is a man.”
Finally, a logical Conclusion (from premises):
e.g., “Socrates is mortal.”
What we just saw is called a Categorical
Syllogism because we logically deduced a
conclusion based on a comparison of
characteristics (or categories): Men and
Other types of Syllogisms include:
a. Hypothetical
b. Disjunctive
c. Conditional
Let’s try another Syllogism, shall we?
Major Premise: Bad children get spankings.
Minor Premise: You’ve been bad.
Conclusion: You’re going to get a spanking.
To make this an Enthymeme, one of the
premises is eliminated (“held in the mind”).
In this case, children know what will
happen to them if they’re bad.
Bad children get spankings.
You’ve been bad.
You’re going to get a spanking.
And now, the final product: “You’ve been bad,
so you’re going to get a spanking.”
Some Enthymemes are simple, while
others are rather complex.
Sometimes the Major Premise is
eliminated, while other times it’s the Minor
Likewise, and somewhat debated, the
Conclusion is “held in the mind.”
But wait! There’s more…
To make things interesting, I also describe
two types of Enthymemes:
Demonstrative: proving an affirmative or
negative proposition
Refutative: disproving an affirmative or
negative proposition
Demonstrative Enthymemes combine
compatible propositions in order to prove
This type of enthymeme makes assumptions
and draws conclusions. The conclusions, then,
“demonstrate” the logic.
Refutative Enthymemes join incompatible
(opposite) propositions in order to disprove
something or show a contradiction.
This structure positions two opposing
arguments side-by-side so audiences can
see the apparent incompatibilities.
The refutative enthymeme draws
conclusions not from what is assumed, but
what is shown.
Enthymemes are based on 4 kinds of Fact:
1. Probabilities
what is, or supposed to be, usually true
2. Examples
induction provides similar cases, state proposition, and
argue deductively to a particular inference
3. Infallible Signs
argue from inevitable and invariable
4. Ordinary Signs
argue from some or particular universal proposition, true
or false
Enthymemes work because the rhetor and
audience share something in common.
Usually this is knowledge. This knowledge
can be found in:
universal principles (Newtonian physics)
common values (illegal acts)
niche specific (html coding), or
common sense (“fire is hot, don’t touch”)
Enthymemes are communal entities,
created by the society in which they are
spoken, written, or shown.
Like language, they work only when the
community knows and understands what is
left unstated (“held in the mind”).
In this same vein, Enthymemes can fail if
the receivers do not make the connection.
The more you work with Enthymemes, the
more they become obvious and clear.
And addictive.
And annoying.
(at least to those who hear you mumble “okay, that’s the minor premise
and there’s the conclusion, so the major premise must be…”)
Wow. We’ve covered a lot thus far.
Let’s do a quick review:
1. I’m dead.
(nothing new there)
2. Syllogisms contain a major premise, a
minor premise, and a conclusion, the
most common type being categorical.
3. Enthymemes are “truncated syllogisms”
since one premise is “held in the mind” of
the audience.
4. There are two types of Enthymemes:
demonstrative and refutative.
5. Enthymemes are based on four types of
facts: probabilities, examples, infallible
signs, and ordinary signs.
6. Enthymemes function in communities of
rhetors that share similar knowledge.
Having fun yet?
I am.
(can’t you tell from my smile??)
In my time, Enthymemes were mainly used
in the rhetoric (spoken word) of the day.
Since this is the 21st century, I thought it
might be fun to see if we could identify
Enthymemes in that curious thing you call
advertising. Let’s begin with some
propaganda posters from WW I and WW II.
Premise: “Lend
them [the soldiers]
a hand.”
Premise: “Buy war
(unstated): You
can do your part
and help fight in
the war by buying
war bonds.
(unstated): Nonunified armies
Premise: Together
we [the
branches of
armed forces]
Conclusion: We
stand together
Premise (unstated):
Wasting fuel
supports the enemy.
Premise: “When you
ride ALONE you ride
with Hitler [which
wastes fuel that
could be used by
American troops
battling Hitler].
Conclusion: Joining a
Car-Sharing Club
conserves fuel and
supports the
American troops.
Premise: If Germany
wins the war,
religious freedom will
Premise: War Bonds
help in the war effort.
Conclusion (unstated):
Buying war bonds
saves religious
These posters were a good introduction
because they primarily relied on pathos:
a. either the fear of something happening
based on an action
b. the patriotism from doing “one’s part” in
the war
Are you beginning to see how the
interpretation of visual and verbal symbols
is crucial to seeing the logic of the
Interpretation is key. Likewise, one may
interpret the premises slightly differently
and still end up with the same overall
conclusion. That’s the power of symbols!
Let’s now look at some current ads…
Premise: Cubist
paintings are
Premise: This Cubist
image utilizes
Reeboks are classic
(or wearing them makes you
feel like a classy individual, or
that you have class, depending
upon interpretation)
Premise: In a crisis,
sometimes people
“have to take matters
into your [their] own
Premise: Those in a
crisis “grab new
body-heat activated
Degree Gel.”
Conclusion (unstated):
Degree Gel keeps
you calm in
moments of crisis.
Premise (unstated):
America needs new
Premise: “Help is on the
Conclusion: John Kerry
will be that help [in the
form of new leadership].
Here’s a television commercial that takes
advantage of enthymematic reasoning.
Because television commercials are not
print discourse, our conception will be
slightly more interpretive:
Premise: Jake B. was a victim of identity
Premise: Citibank protects their card holders
from identity theft with Citi Identity Theft
Conclusion (unstated): Using Citibank credit
cards and you won’t be a victim of identity
theft, like Jake B.
So we’ve come to the end of our video. What
have you learned?
Do you now see how enthymemes are used
in venues other than traditional speech,
argumentation and logic?
Do you now understand how they function?
Are you now able to see enthymemes in the
most common of places?
If you walk away from this video and
remember only one thing, this should be it:
Knowing how enthymemes work in
advertising allows viewers to better
understand the role persuasion plays in
politics, advertising, history, speech acts,
visual communication, and other common
discourse arenas.
I think my work is done here. I’m going to
go ponder something now (that’s what we
philosophers do).
Go forthwith and become a critical
consumer. You have the tools. Don’t be
afraid to use them.
Hmmm…was that an enthymeme?
The End.
Cast (In Order of Appearance)
Aristotle appeared as himself
Ann Gill appeared as herself
Socrates appeared as himself
Print Advertisements
Degree Gel
Sen. John Kerry
Penguin Trainer
Alec R. Hosterman
All Other Images Donated by
Our friends on
Equipment Provided by
Aristotle. (1991). On rhetoric: A theory of civic discourse (G.
A. Kennedy, Trans.). New York: Oxford University.
Gill, A. (1994). Rhetoric and human understanding.
Prospect Heights: Waveland.
The producer / director / writer would like to thank his wife Heather, his
mother-in-law Sharron, and Microsoft for their help in catching typos,
as well as Dr. Rice for his suggestions and technological expertise.
No animals or Greek statues were harmed in the making of this movie.
Due to the success of his treatises and
university, Aristotle hasn’t been seen since
filming ended in mid July. He released this
statement through his agent: “I must think.”
No word on the topic.
Socrates still drank the hemlock.
Advertising is still around.
Aristotle will return.