The enthymeme is well known in rhetorical theory as a three-part syllogism from which one premise has been elided. The enthymeme works because the listener supplies the “missing piece,” thereby participating in the very argument by which she is persuaded. This enthymeme is widely believed to derive from Aristotle, but previous scholars have shown that the “truncated syllogism” view of the enthymeme is both un-Aristotelian and impracticable. In this article, I review problems with the syllogistic enthymeme and reasons for its improbable longevity before proposing a view of the enthymeme that derives not from the syllogism but from the legal narratives produced by early Greek orators. The enthymeme is best understood not through its deductive structure, but its emplotment. This model makes sense of Aristotle's comments without relying on a discredited syllogistic frame to explain how ancient orators argued.

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