George Campbell (minister) bigraphy, stories - Ministers

George Campbell (minister) : biography

December 25, 1719 - April 6, 1796

George Campbell (December 25, 1719 – April 6, 1796) was a figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, known as a philosopher, minister, and professor of divinity. Campbell was primarily interested in rhetoric, since he believed that its study would enable his students to become better preachers. He became a philosopher of rhetoric because he took it that the philosophical changes of the Age of Enlightenment would have implications for rhetoric.


Campbell as an enlightened thinker

While Campbell's literary life was dominated by pedagogical and pastoral concerns, it is apparent that his mind was tempered by the values of the Enlightenment. Campbell believed that the Enlightenment was the ally to a moderate, rational, and practical Christianity, rather than a threat. His faith required that his religious evidences to be complete while his enlightened thinking required faith to give it purpose.

Throughout Campbell's literary career, he focused on enlightened concerns such as rhetoric, taste, and genius—perhaps a result of his time in the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. His attempt to align rhetoric within the sphere of psychology resulted from Francis Bacon's survey of the structure and purpose of knowledge. The Philosophy of Rhetoric illustrates the Baconian influence of inductive methodology but also scientific investigation—two major concerns of the Enlightenment.

As well, Campbell's appeal to natural evidences was a similarity in process shared by most of the great minds of the Enlightenment. This is seen throughout his writing, with particular emphasis on placing methodology before doctrine, critical inquiry before judgment, and his application of tolerance, moderation, and improvement.

Campbell and faculty psychology

Campbell embraced the philosophical empiricism which John Locke established in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Following the example of Locke's humanistic sciences, Campbell set forth an analysis of rhetoric through the scope of mental faculties. He believed that a rhetoric grounded in empiricism would become efficient because of the incorporation of the cognitive processes. The human senses are the basis for the validity of belief; thus a rhetorical theory based in faculty psychology would establish that rhetoric is capable of making a reader experience a concept with the same "vivacity" and automaticity as that of the senses.

Campbell, like most theorists of the Enlightenment, believed in a universal human nature: the "general principles [of taste] are the same in every people".Philosophy of Rhetoric, Harper, 1849 (1776), p. 441. He gives the example of tropes and figuration which "are so far from being the inventions of art, that, on the contrary, they result from the original and essential principles of the human mind". This facet of human nature has remained constant throughout history so it must be universal trait. Based on premises similar to this, Campbell claimed that human beings act according to clear and obvious motives and rhetoric should be, in turn, directed towards similar operations of the mind.

In order to persuade effectively, Campbell believed that the orator should adapt his or her discourse to the needs of the audience, for as he states: "whatever be the ultimate intention of the orator, to inform, to convince, to please, to move, or to persuade, still he must speak so as to be understood, or he speaks to no purpose". He classifies the needs of the audience into four different categories:

  • Understanding: Elucidating a subject by explanation and proof
  • Imagination: Exciting admiration by style, resemblance, detail, and sublimity
  • Passions: Involving, motivating, associating images
  • Will: Persuading to action by combining argumentation with vivacity

The purpose of discourse is derived from the powers of the mind to which they appeal (understanding, imagination, passions, will), rather than the classical three, which are based on the public purpose of oration. The classical categories (see Cicero and Quintilian) are the demonstrative, to praise or blame; the deliberative, to advise or dissuade; and the forensic, to accuse or defend. In considering each of these, Campbell believes that not only understanding and memory of the audience must be taken into account, but the orator must as well provide particular attention at stimulating their passions. To incorporate this was as an obvious concern for Campbell, who believed that effective preaching must be measured by its effects on the audience.

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