The phrase “Enlightenment rhetoric” typically denotes discourses bent on rejecting classical oratorical styles in favor of purportedly scientific ones. Likewise, scholars often associate Enlightenment rhetorical styles with the scientific epistemologies that emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This article reconsiders Enlightenment rhetoric by analyzing David Hume’s 1742 essay “Of Eloquence.” More specifically, the article argues that the Scottish Enlightenment context necessitated a rhetoric that compensated for the discursive limitations of new scientific worldviews. In so doing, the article argues that Hume verbalizes the transcendent dimension of classical eloquence in ways commensurate with the emphasis on perspicuity emerging in English culture, a rhetorical maneuver that the author calls discursive transcendence. Hume’s “Of Eloquence” thus serves as a case study demonstrating how an Enlightenment writer advanced a rhetoric that both rejects and pulls from prior rhetorical traditions, constituting a new understanding of Enlightenment rhetoric.

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