Another Topoi – Reality . . . .

reality check sign  There is a “reality wall” in life.

The classical theorists saw “topoi” as part of the rhetorical category called “inventio” and/or “memoria.”   “Inventio” is the rhetorical canon which speaks of creativity in structure, wording, presentation, and argument.  “Memoria” has nothing to do with “memorizing,” but with the ability to retain all kinds of information, facts, arguments, ideas, quotations, etc. for use at a later time.

Some of the classical rhetorical theorists trained their students to be able to argue either side of an issue with little time for preparation.  The speaker’s ability to create and recall was foundational to their effectiveness.

In order to do that, the students were taught to use “topoi.”  The “topoi” or “places” were “mental artillery storehouses” where the “argumentative ammunition” was stored.  Where ideas, wording, arguments, shared audience constructs could be found and used.

So if a student were asked to stand up and argue for or against the “pro-life” position, their minds would search the storehouse shelves for ways to go about that.  One of the “mental shelves” would contain a “shell” which said “REALITY.”  That word kicked off argumentative thoughts in the speaker’s mind . . . .

There are those who would like to live in the world of fantasy, who avoid the reality that all life begins at conception.  Those who live in this fantasy world come back to reality when it comes to what they clearly know and recognize in the world of nature.  In the world of nature, they are realists, but when it comes to a fetus, they move into the world of fiction.  Those who live in the world – which they would like it to be – cannot even establish a line as to when a baby is actually a baby.  Their fantasy world is willing to take the life of a baby up to moments before its actual delivery date.

The argument is being made on the “universally shared thinking of people” that acknowledges that a person can face reality or live in the world of “unreality,” or fantasy.

Whether the listeners agree or disagree with the point being made, the argument is not the point of using this topos.  The point is that the argument is framed using the topos called “reality.”

A speaker could make an argument on the other side of the issue using the same “topos.”  It would go something like this.

There are those who would like to live in the world of fantasy and ignore the reality that there are real issues in the lives of people which give significant reason and cause for a person to consider an abortion.  Some would like to imagine a world where all the decisions of life and death are simple – are black and white.  The fact is, there are those who live real lives and have to make hard decisions after a rape, incest, or hearing the doctor give that mother the sad news about her baby.  That’s the reality, the facts which they must face in real-time!


The “topoi” are neutral and can be used to make either argument.  The topoi are generally accepted categories of thought which can be called up when developing a speech or a message.  If you would like to see this topos used in a powerful speech, read the “Give Me Liberty” speech of Patrick Henry!*

Likewise, as you are developing a speech or a biblical message, you can call up this “topoi” or category of thought to . . . .

  • develop content
  • create an introduction
  • design a conclusion
  • make an argument
  • give clarity
  • expand on a point
  • drive a truth or principle
  • etc.


Some Off-The-Cuff Examples

That is what the world would like to tell you — get your feet back in the real world of everyday life — you can’t live like that — there will be people who will take advantage of you if you think like that.

No?  The truth is, they are right in that there will be people who will take advantage of you when you think and act like that.  This world is not a friend of grace.  But the real world is more than what we see with our eyes.  There is a God in heaven who rules in the affairs of men — that is the reality.


I would like to tell you that after you become a Christian that life will get easier.  However, that is not the real world — the real world that the Christian will experience.  Don’t get fooled by that fantasy which some would like to peddle. . . .


Saul wasn’t living in the real world.  He was living in a world of his own making.  He thought David was his enemy and someday would take the throne.  That is what happens to some people when they become jealous or envious.


John 12:9 states . . .

“Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;
Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem”


After seeing the rising of Lazarus the Pharisees said what?  Did what?  They are not much different than some today who would rather deny what is actually facing them that follow the unmistakable implications of what has really just happened.  For some, you can line up ten people who tell them do not go down this path, it is a mirage – but they will ignore everyone and do it anyway.



You can do that.  You can think that.  But you are not facing reality.  You are on the “yellow brick road.”  What you think is going to happen is fiction and non-fiction will be what you face when you . . .


Here is a mental template of words and phrases relating to “reality,” and which can help generate thoughts.

  • Reality & Fantasy
  • Real World Or The World You Want It To Be
  • Fact or Fiction
  • Actuality or Delusion
  • Truth or Hope
  • Imagination
  • What It Is or What You Wish It To Be
  • Real
  • Factual
  • Realistic
  • Solid
  • The truth is
  • La-La-Land
  • Dreamland
  • A “Wish It To Be” world
  • Alice-in-Wonderland thinking / approach
  • “Yellow Brick Road” thinking / approach
  • “Beam me up, Scotty.”
  • The Land Of Make-believe
  • fiction and non-fiction
  • “the delusive phantom of hope” — Patrick Henry

*”Give Me Liberty” or Give Me Death – by Patrick Henry

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. . . . Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. . . . In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free . . . .Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

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