A major contribution to rhetorical theory and an important tool of rhetorical criticism, Perelman’s distinction between particular audiences and the universal audience has been misconstrued by his critics and even by Perelman himself. Properly construed, the universal audience is focused on facts and truths and consists of all human beings in so far as they are rational; consequently, discourse addressed to it eschews proofs from character and emotion. In contrast, addresses to particular audiences focus on values; they embrace not only proofs reason, but also those from character and emotion.

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