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Johnson's Assertions and Concessions: Moral Irresolution and Rhetorical Performance

John Richetti

in Samuel Johnson

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654345
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745003 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654345.003.0004
Johnson's Assertions and Concessions: Moral Irresolution and Rhetorical Performance

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Johnson often enough in his moral writings entertains propositions in order to display his rhetorical abilities, defending notions he elsewhere refutes or rejects. His essays are essentially dialogical, testing or refining conventional opinions and illustrating the moral dangers of complacency and certainty. Moral statement for Johnson is dynamic and paradoxical, consistently opposed to absolute or abstract finality. Genuine moral knowledge requires for Johnson a balance of assertion with concessions and qualifications that undermine all absolute principles. Johnson's moral essays do not seek to illustrate general moral truth, but rather to dramatize the search for particular kinds of truthfulness.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; prose style; performance; contradiction; rhetoric; paradox; concessions; skepticism; uncertainty; truthfulness

Chapter.  5453 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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