An Introduction to Expeditio

Expeditio (derives from Latin, meaning “a freeing,” or “a dispatching from difficulties”), is a rhetorical device which involves elimination of all but one of various possibilities; of which the speaker having set out, and numbered options or possibilities as to why something might occur and then eliminates all but the one that is most feasible.

Expeditio also known as “the speedie dispatcher” is by the unauthored rhetorical manual ‘Ad HerenniumOpens in new window’ regarded as a figure; but in more practical sense, it is of popular consensus amongst rhetors, to be considered a method of argument widely known as the “Method of Residues” especially in the category of refutation.

Examples of Expeditio

If we can accept the term as meaning not just the rejection of all but one of various reasons why something should be done but also of why something was done, then the following excerpt from “The Tell-Tale Heart” works splendidly as a good example:

  • Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon my my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. (5:88)
  • You either came on a bus, a train, or an airplane. Since you are afraid of planes, and you always complain about the price of the train fare around here, you must have come on the bus.
Further Readings:
Silva Rhetoricae, Figures | Expeditio Opens in new window
Brett Zimmerman | Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style: Expeditio Opens in new window
Ad Herennium 4.29.40-41. | Peacham (1577) T4r. | Putt. (1589) 241 (“expeditio,” “the speedie dispatcher”)