3080, Reading Responses

Reading Response Pullman Chapter 3

Pullman begins chapter three by illustrating that deliberate practice leads to improved performance because it isn’t just repetition. It allows one to improve their skills by constructing new ideas via a process of trial and error. Pullman also mentions the five canons of rhetorical performance, which include, invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Each of these canons affects the intensity of an argument. The most interesting canon that Pullman illustrates is that of memory. He notes that memory doesn’t merely allow you to regurgitate what you read or hear, but it helps one become more persuasive and accepting of other arguments. I also found it interesting that the way in which an argument is presented (the medium) plays a major role in the acceptance of the argument. Since people read and think differently it is important how you decide to deliver a message. For instance, a teenager would be more inclined to read a twitter post rather than read a lengthy article from The New York Times.

In this chapter Pullman introduces dialectic, which he considers a mental discipline. I think that it is important to understand why Pullman delves so deeply into dialectic because it isn’t something that can be easily taught. This mental discipline involves testing beliefs in order to correct values and opinions. Therefore, this means that dialectic is a technique that involves investigation. Not only is it important for testing beliefs but when evaluating or creating arguments, “Dialectic is the conversational equivalent of reading against the grain.” (pg. 131)

Pullman’s suggestions on  the ways in which Plato and Aristotle taught dialectic is also quite interesting because it illustrates the complex, yet ornate beauty of rhetoric. Plato taught dialectic in such a way that did not explicitly define the rules of it. Instead, he provided a series of examples to narrow down the idea of dialectic. On the other hand, Aristotle believed his “method of invention was superior.” (pg. 135) Aristotle created topics that illustrates various patterns that would promote further invention. I can appreciate this method more because it did not provide students with solutions, instead he taught them how to create their own. I believe that the creation of new ideas and the application of them to rhetoric help lead to a successful and more orchestrated mastery of the art.


  1. I wonder if Pullman was touching on “practice makes perfect” with idea of “deliberate practice leads to improved performance because it isn’t just repetition.” Would Pullman agree with the statement “practice makes perfect”? Or would simply practicing be considered mere “repetition” therefore unable to actually improve the overall performance?
    Another interesting highlight you make is the importance of medium. This is something very important when convincing an intended audience. I actually believe that both audience and medium are very similar in their purposes when considering a potential argument. If we pick the wrong medium, like targeting an audience of teenagers with The New York Times, it signifies that maybe we do not truly know our audience enough and need to go back to the drawing board. Both are essential for delivering successful rhetoric and becoming persuasive.
    It is also interesting how you examine dialectic and rhetoric in general as something hard to teach and learn. This seemed noticeable in the last few days of class when we were practicing dialectic conversations and topoi. Even when we thought we had the hang of something, a new problem or thought would emerge, further complicating the idea. It does seem like one of the cases where “deliberative practice” would come in handy. The more thoughtful we are with our learning, the more we understand and actually learn.

    1. Mrs. A

      If we practice poor technique (or lazy technique) won’t we perfect those poor techniques? Can that be said to be “perfection”? or can that be said to violate the spirit of the maxim “Practice makes perfect”?

  2. What sticks out to me in your response is something you probably intended as a throwaway line your audience would read, accept, and move on. But based on our recent class discussions I am going to attempt to read your line “a teenager would be more inclined to read a twitter post rather than read a lengthy article from The New York Times.”

    Of course, I found myself immediately agreeing with this sentence and ready to move on. But then I thought: well, I’m a teenager and I read NYT articles on occasion and don’t even use Twitter! I don’t think I’m better for it and I probably am missing out on a lot by not using Twitter. This got me thinking about our in-class discussion around how our society today writes so much more than it reads. Is Twitter vs. NYT a part of this? Is the NYT style outdated or will we always have the patience for reading long articles? Should we?

    I do think that we should. But this comes only from my personal experience with reading and how it improves my writing — when I read more, my writing is better. But I do think that Twitter is an interesting exercise in dealing with audience. How much tailoring to audience can someone do in 140 characters? A tweet is essentially using the space NYT uses just for its headlines for the tweet’s entire point. What sort of implications does this have — bad? Good?

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