« PreviousContinue »
discourse. Both processes are controlled by the same principles : in one case the principles operate in the direction of purpose or effect, through thought out to
thought, to the purpose or effect of the discourse, — the first as synthesis, the second as analysis. Composition and reading are simply applied rhetoric; and both subjects must be held together in a common principle throughout our discussion. Discourse is an interesting and profitable topic considered as mere theory, if this be possible; but its practical value becomes imperative when we consider that we are constantly making or interpreting discourse, — talking, writing, or speaking ; or listening or reading. Especially does its value appear in the higher processes of composing and of reading. One cannot write or speak with assurance and effect without a consciousness of guiding laws; neither can he read with appreciation without a knowl
Since composing and reading are but rhetoric in practice, there is but one discourse study, having its two phases of science and art, or theory and practice. Hence rhetoric is not excluded from any part of the territory of discourse, that is, language in its adaptation to the purposes of utterance ; only this : rhetoric cannot practice while it is preaching, although it must THE ORGANIC ELEMENTS.
In getting our fingers firmly around the subject-matter we have necessarily felt of the organic elements. Discourse, in producing an effect on another mind, uses ideas as a means, and language as a medium. We have already noticed that in words and sentences
meaning ; and that in discourse this form and meaning are not consciously separated, but move together in producing the effect. If words may be defined as language forms expressing ideas, and sentences as language forms expressing thought, then a discourse may be defined as a language form expressing thought in the process of producing a definite change in some mind addressed. The ideas presented are the direct means to the end, while the language is chiefly means to the
Such, then, are the organic elements. Discourse cannot exist without either, nor unless they coöperate in a definite order. In writing a discourse, the author is first prompted by a desire to put another mind in a certain condition ; then he orders his thoughts to that end ; after which he clothes them in language. This order cannot be reversed. Of course the impulse to produce the change is not dropped to work out the matter of the discourse and express it properly ; for all of this workmanship to the end sought must be done under the moving and shaping force of the desire to reach the end. In fact, in the stress of composition the author is not conscious that he uses language, being wholly occupied and moved as the recipient is to be occupied and moved. This explains what was said at the outset ; namely, that a language form has its unity in the fact that it expresses a unity of consciousness. The unity of consciousness in discourse is the moving impulse which shapes discourse to its end. While it has three elements, two are absorbed in the other, — in a consciousness of the end to be realized.
In reading, the language element comes first, and then the thought appears ; after which the effect is produced. Yet they do not occur this way in an order of time but in an order in which each conditions the other. We cannot realize the thought except in. and while perceiving the language, and no effect is produced except in and while gaining the thought. So far as time is concerned, language, thought, and effect move abreast as organically one. Language cannot be received before the thought, as its perception consists in conceiving the thought ; and the thought cannot precede the effect, for the effect is in receiving the thought. In reading, one cannot survey the language throughout, and then go back and review the thought, and finally receive the effect which the discourse is to stand for.
But after a reader has realized the change which the thought and language are adapted to produce in him, then, if he should turn to make a critical estimate of the discourse he surveys it in the order of its composition. In coming upon a strange machine, the observer makes such a survey of it as will indicate to him its purpose, for instance, to sew with. His attention
now rests on the point at which the sewing is done, and from that point outward he reconstructs the machine in the order of its invention. Thus the reader moves inward to the point that moved the writer, and then, if he make a critical estimate of the discourse, he must move outward with the author in the process of construction. And really in the ordinary process of reading for what the discourse contains, and not for purpose of estimating the discourse, — for instance, as a child would read, — the purpose, the motive, in the discourse first occupies the recipient. The child feels first, last, and all the time the life in what he reads or hears ; he does not know, if able to read with ease, that language is involved in the process. He lives in an immediate consciousness of what moved the writer to utterance.
Survey the matter as we please and we are driven at last to put down as the established order in the discourse movement, the purpose or motive, the matter, and then the language. At least this is the only order in which a discussion of discourse can move ; no estimate or analysis can be made of thought and language until the specific aim is ascertained. But it must be remembered that the separation of elements and the order of discussion is a necessity for the purpose of discussion only; that in the actual discourse itself they move together as a unity of life, thought and language being gathered up and fused in an experience in the writer to be reproduced in the reader.
The organic relation of the elements in discourse appears clearly in comparing discourse with other objects. Discourse is like all other objects in expressing thought. The tree, the mountain, the sky, the rainbow, all say something to us when we look upon them.
“ To him who in the love of nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
Likewise with the forms of man's creation ; the bridge, the engine, the statue, the cathedral speak a language to him who holds communion with them.
But while all objects express thought, all do not exist for that purpose. The street car is the embodiment of thought and must express it; but its work is to carry passengers. A house manifests the thought of the builder; but its use is to live in.
Some objects, however, are not only like discourse in expressing thought but in existing for that very end. The Angelus and the Statue of Liberty exist for the sole purpose of speaking to man. The ship expresses thought incidentally ; the flag that floats over it, on purpose. Thus discourse falls within a large number of things having for their purpose the expression of thought; it expresses thought to communicate it, as do all the fine-art forms, architecture, sculpture, painting, and music.
But discourse is cut out from all of these by the peculiar form through which its thought is expressed
-language. In the other forms of expression there is some natural resemblance or symbolic property ; but language is purely arbitrary, which is both its loss and its gain. If one should express the thought of a house