Antirrhesis

An Introduction to Antirrhesis

Antirrhesis (derives from Greek meaning “refutation” or “counter-statement”), as uniquely defined by PeachamOpens in new window; Antirrhesis is a figure of speech by which the orator rejecteth the authority, opinion or sentence of some person; for error or wickedness of it.

The antirrhesis which belongs to the family of figures of confutation, is characterized by its aptness to repell heresies, wrong comment or accusation, it also reject what may be termed as evil counsel, awkward or perverse sentiment.

Antirrhetic speech may be regarded a form of verbal violence, expression of enforcement and of sacrifice as described by PolybiusOpens in new window, in terms of discourse directed “against those that have betrayed their friends and kinsmen,” and by HermogenesOpens in new window as vehement speech directed against exiles. In either case, Antirrhesis is poised to repel the wickedness of aversion and the perilous stake of discourse against those that would destroy the identity of community, the reason of faith, or the establishment of laws.

Notable Examples of Antirrhesis
  • “TRUE! __nervous__very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses__not destroyed__not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?”
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart
    Job to his wife saying to him blaspheme God and die, made this answere saying:
  • “thou speakest like a foolish woman.”
  • — Job.2.10
    This occurred when Apostle Paul rehearsing the common saying of the Epicures: Let us eate and drinke, for to morrow we shal die, which he rejected by saying:
  • “Be not deceived (saith he to the Corinthians) evill words corrupt good manners.”
  • 1. Cor. 15.32
  • “I have been mocked and censured as a scare-monger and even as a war-monger, by those whose complacency and inertia have brought us all nearer to war and war nearer to us all.”
  • Winston Churchill
Further Readings:
Henry Peachum., The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Schemas AntirrhesisOpens in new window
Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 207.
Hermogenes, On Types of Style (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, c. I81, 1987 ed.)
Polybius, Histories (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 19977 ed., 22.8)