Expeditio


Expeditio (ex-pe-di’-ti-o): After enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one (=apophasis). Although the Ad Herennium author lists expeditio as a figure, it is more properly considered a method of argument [and pattern of organization] (sometimes known as the “Method of Residues” when employed in refutation), and “Elimination Order” when employed to organize a speech. [The reference to ‘method’ hearkens back to the Ramist connection between organizational patterns of discourses and organizational pattern of arguments]).


It was night. It was cold. Strange things were happening on the off ramp. Strange things were happening everywhere, and that was strange. My car changed colors. The freeway turned into a shallow creek teeming with state-raised trout, and 100s of people panning for gold up and down the former freeway. The deer and the antelope were playing together on the range outside of town—it was like Noah’s Ark had sailed by on the freeway river, brining the animals together. I expected to see a rabbit and a coyote playing horseshoes. And then, the rising sun inched out of the East with a warning written on it in English. Why only English, when the whole world can see it? The warning said: “Let that be a warning to you.” Perhaps the English-speaking world needed to hear this— to take heed and respond.

In order to respond appropriately in the face of the crumbling world order, we set about determining what “that” is. This? The Three Kings from Orient far? Cheating on your wife? Drinking too much! Linoleum floors? Taking two hits of industrial strength LSD. Let’s take a look at these possibilities and determine whether they’re likely answers to our question: What is that? First, “This?” Definite idiot material—this and that are equally vague and don’t get us anywhere. Second. “Three kings from Orient far.” How could the “Three Kings” warrant a warning? They were nice guys who gave Jesus presents that gave his manger a good smell and gave him some money so he could get a jump start in life, and maybe afford a room at the motel next door to the manger. What’s to worry about that? Third. “Cheating on your wife” Well, easier said than done. A little adultery isn’t going to tear the world apart. Look at Jimmy Carter—he took a wrong turn and the world is still here. So, “no” to adultery. Fourth. “Drinking too much.” You can’t drink too much! I’d like to meet the knucklehead who came up with this. I‘m not even going to waste my time commenting on it. It gets a gigantic no! Fifth. “Linoleum floors” There’s some possibility here. If you wear socks on linoleum, you’re doomed. But, linoleum is pretty much a thing of the past. Why would the sun project a linoleum message to the entire solar system if it only pertained to a tiny minority of people who might slip, fall ant get a concussion? Accordingly, we have to rule this out, although it does have some merit.

So, that leaves LSD. That should be a warning. As the world has gone off the rails right under our noses, it must be the case that our water supply has been spiked with acid. I don’t know about you, but I can hear the cheese in my lunch sandwich singing the “Cheddar Daddy Blues.” Also, my fingers have turned into wriggly red worms. Let that be a warning to you! The only thing to do right now is to play Pink Floyd and sit on the floor. Everything will be back to normal in 12 hours. When we come down from the trip, we need to figure out why we all saw the message on the sun. But in the meantime, as your Mayor, I encourage you to enjoy the music, the hallucinations, and the camaraderie.


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

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