An Introduction to Contrarium

Contrarium (etymologically from Latin, literally “contrary,” or “reciprocal”), is chiefly regarded as an inferenceOpens in new window of contraries by means of juxtaposingOpens in new window two thoughts process, or two contrary statement, usually to prove one as opposed from the other.

Contrarium has been a subject of lingering deliberation amongst RenaissanceOpens in new window and MedievalOpens in new window scholars, as to its precise definition, as well as its categorization Opens in new window before concessively naming the device both as a figure of speech Opens in new window and a figure of thought (method of argumentation), and the device is thereafter grouped under the same catalogue with antithesisOpens in new window, antithetonOpens in new window, anthypophoraOpens in new window, apophasisOpens in new window, enthymemeOpens in new window, as well as, prosapodosisOpens in new window.

Notable Examples of Contrarium
  • “If a person has not placed much hope in chance, what great harm can chance do him?”
  • “When they outnumbered us, they were no match for us; now that we outnumber them, do we fear that they will conquer us?”
Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae: ContrariumOpens in new window
Pondering on Problems of Argumentation: Twenty Essays on Theoretical Issues, as edited by:Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen | Contrarium in Roman RhetoricOpens in new window
Ironia: Medieval and Reinaissance Ideas on Irony, by Dilwyn Knox | Ironia And Types of Opposition: ContrariumOpens in new window
Cicero, (Topica p 47 – 49); Quintilian (5.10.2.); Rhetorica ad Herennium (4.25 – 26).