- Conjecture asks: Is there an act to be considered?
- Definition asks: How can the act be defined?
- Quality asks: How serious is the act?
- Policy asks: Should this act be submitted to some formal procedure?
Upon agreement of all questions, rhetoric can take place. Without an understanding of each of the above terms, there is no basis for argument; without an actual problem, understanding of the problem, or agreement on the seriousness of the problem, then there is no justification to try to solve it through policy. Rhetoric, to generalize, is the attempt to persuade an audience of what should be done about an issue.
The interesting thing about these ancient rhetorical questions is that they are absolutely true for modern rhetoric as well. No matter the topic, there must be an understanding of the basic principles of the problem. In a sense, devising answers to these questions is the most fundamental step to creating a rhetorical argument; it is a brainstorming process, of sorts.
In addition to understanding conjecture, definition, quality, and policy, one can also delve deeper into these issues. There are important questions to be considered within the initial questions.
- Conjecture: Where did it come from? What is its cause? Can it be changed?
- Definition: To what larger class does it belong? What are its parts and how are they related?
- Quality: Is it good or bad? Is it better or worse than something else?
- Policy: What actions are possible or desirable? How will proposed actions change the current state of affairs? How will the proposed changes make things better or worse? How and in what ways?