Stasis Theory: Asking the Right Questions
I. Stasis theory: getting at the “heart of an argument” or finding where an argument “rests.”
A. Stasis is another Greek and Roman heuristic; it provides a way to understand an issue through definition, division, comparison, and contrast.
B. What is important to remember is that stasis includes an association of concepts: how we define a problem is related to the solutions designed to solve the problem and then how we weigh the costs and benefits.
C. Stasis stems from the canon of invention, which has to do with the way we invent or construct ideas based on the ambiguities that exist in any moment.
D. Stasis derives from a Greek word meaning “to stand.”
E. To discover the point of stasis we have to find ways to listen to what people are saying, reserving judgment rather than moving too hastily to a conclusion; stasis is ultimately about how participants “share worlds” through symbolic forms.
F. Stasis “marks the place where two opposing forces come together, where they rest or stand in agreement on what is at issue (hence, the appropriateness of the Latin term for stasis, constitutio, which can be translated as a ‘costanding or a ‘standing together’)” (Crowley and Hawhee 72).
G. In order to locate stasis we have to consider all the available arguments; “Rhetors who do take the time to find all the available arguments can be assured both that their position is defensible and that they have found the best evidence to support it” (72).
H. Using the rhetorical tool of stasis enables a process:
1. Clarifies thinking about the point in dispute.
2. Forces one to think about the assumptions and values shared by members of their targeted audience.
3. Establishes areas in which more research needs to be done.
4. Suggests which proofs are crucial to the case.
5. Perhaps even points the way toward the most effective arrangement of these proofs.
I. 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the case to exclude women’s ski jumping as a new event: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1963447,00.html; http://www.wsj2010.com/
~Write about where you think the arguments “rest.”
II. Stasis and contrary arguments; different ways to find key arguments.
A. What arguments are available to us on any issue?
B. When we start to explore the available arguments on an issue we confront what the Sophists called dissoi logoi or “countervailing arguments”; for every claim there is a counterclaim.
C. One of the ways to work with dissoi logoi is through comparison of theoretical and practical questions.
1. A theoretical question addresses the “origins and natures of things” (75):
a. “What are the essential differences between men and women?”
b. “Are women biologically unable to compete in ski jumping?” (Raises questions for contemplation and discussion rather than action.)
2. Practical questions always concern what people should do (75):
a. Should women be included in sporting events?
b. Should women be included in Vancouver 2010 ski jumping event?
c. Impacts how we act; what are the consequences of a decided course of action?
3. This is where stasis questions are helpful as they help us to get at a range of issues, from general theoretical principles to practical application of these principles.
D. Two ways to think of stasis: defining an issue and discovering key arguments.
E. We move forward in our attempts to define the issue and agree on different dimensions to the issue; though sometimes we may find ourselves stuck in the process.
1. Conjecture: does it exist? Did it happen? Questions of fact, “guess,” or “inference” (87).
Does the thing exist or is it true?
What is its origin?
What cause produced it?
What changes can be made in it?
2. Definition: division and partition: topics that help to divide up the discourse.
What kind of thing or event is it?
To what larger class of things does it belong?
What are its parts? How are they related?
3. Quality: determine the worth of an issue by comparing with other issues or contrasting ideas; how much does the community desire it? (90)
a. Is it a good or bad thing?
b. Is it better or worse than some alternative?
c. Is it more or less honorable or base than some alternative?
d. Questions of quality help us to get at competing values and attitudes surrounding an issue, allowing us to define the urgency, immediacy, and power dynamics in a situation.
4. Questions of policy: rhetor proposes that some action be taken or regulated (or not) by means of policy or law.
a. Should action be taken?
b. How will the proposed actions change the current state of affairs?
c. How will the proposed changes make things better or worse?
d. We might also ask forensic questions (based on what exists); should some state of affairs be regulated by some formalized policy?
e. What policies can be implemented? Which cannot? What are the merits of competing proposals? What are their defects?
f. How is my proposal better than others?
F. We can also find stasis through what are called stock issues: soup metaphor.
1. What is the ill: women are not being allowed into the Olympic ski jumping competition.
a. Quantity: who does this problem impact—130 women from 16 nations capable of competing in ski competition and future competitors.
b. Quality: problem is severe in that ski jumping excludes present and future female competitors.
2. Who is to blame for the problem?
a. The system might be to blame: IOC rules are antiquated and need reform; sport might be to blame, not enough world championship competitions.
b. Attitudes might be to blame: popularity of the sport; belief in essential differences between men and women.
3. Cure: what is the solution? Allow women to compete, finding ways to build up the sport and bring more top competitors.
4. Cost: what will it cost? What is the cost of including women in 2010 Olympics, funding ski jumping as part of each national team, and running sports that include women jumpers?
1. Build up the sport?
2. Build a following?
3. There may be initial costs in the beginning, but once there is integration of women the benefits will outweigh the costs.
G. As you think about this process in relation to your project try to find where arguments rest.
1. First, move through process to discover where you think arguments rest in relation to your issue.
2. Consider the theoretical and practical questions to get at broad as well as specific concerns.
3. Compose a letter to the editor considering what are the most important and timely elements of your case.