Ratiocinatio


Ratiocinatio (ra’-ti-o-cin-a’-ti-o): Reasoning (typically with oneself) by asking questions. Sometimes equivalent to anthypophora. More specifically, ratiocinatio can mean making statements, then asking the reason (ratio) for such an affirmation, then answering oneself. In this latter sense ratiocinatio is closely related to aetiologia. [As a questioning strategy, it is also related to erotima {the general term for a rhetorical question}.]

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

What exactly was Kennedy getting at when he uttered this famous and memorable phrase?

I think he was interested in instilling a desire for national service and a patriotic willingness to put the USA before one’s self.

This is well and good up to a point, but people need a balance of self-interest and patriotism–the individual and the group–autonomy and connectedness. In many respects putting your country before yourself, stultifies the need for individualism and autonomy.

So, I believe the quote should be rephrased: “Ask what your country can do for you and what you can do for your country.” The both/and approach satisfies and balances two conflicted needs and opens a prospect for greater satisfaction.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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