Confirmation in Speech and Rhetoric

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Confirmation describes rhetoric designed to convince audiences in favor of one's argument. Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images


In classical rhetoric, the confirmation is the main part of a speech or text in which logical arguments in support of a position (or claim) are elaborated. Also called confirmatio.

Etymology: From the Latin verb confirmare, meaning "strengthen" or "establish."

Pronunciation: kon-fur-MAY-shun

Confirmation is one of the classical rhetorical exercises known as the progymnasmata. These exercises, originating in ancient Greece with the rhetorician Aphthonius of Antioch, were designed to teach rhetoric by providing exercises in increasing difficulty, beginning with simple storytelling and increasing to complex arguments. In the "confirmation" exercise, a student would be asked to logically reason in favor of some topic or argument found in myth or literature.

The rhetorical opposite of confirmation is refutation, which involves arguing against something instead of in its favor. Both require logical and/or moral arguments to be marshaled in similar ways, simply with opposite goals.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples of Confirmation

  • "The few bright meteors in man's intellectual horizon could well be matched by woman, were she allowed to occupy the same elevated position. There is no need of naming the De Staels, the Rolands, the Somervilles, the Wollstonecrafts, the Wrights, the Fullers, the Martineaus, the Hemanses, the Sigourneys, the Jagiellos, and the many more of modern as well as ancient times, to prove her mental powers, her patriotism, her heroism, her self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of humanity--the eloquence that gushes from her pen or from her tongue. These things are too well known to require repetition. And do you ask for fortitude of mind, energy, and perseverance? Then look at woman under suffering, reverse of fortune, and affliction, when the strength and power of man has sunk to the lowest ebb, when his mind is overwhelmed by the dark waters of despair. She, like the tender plant, bent but not broken by the storms of life, now only upholds her own hopeful courage, but, like the tender shoots of the ivy, clings around the tempest-fallen oak, to bind up the wounds, peak hope to his faltering spirit, and shelter him from the returning blast of the storm."
    (Ernestine Rose, "An Address on Women's Rights," 1851)
  • "This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen."
    (Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal")

Explanations of Confirmation

  • Cicero on Confirmation
    "The confirmation is that part of a narration that, by marshaling arguments, lends force, authority, and support to our case. . . .
    "All argumentation is to be carried on either by analogy or by the enthymeme. Analogy is a form of argument that moves from assent on certain undisputed facts through approval of a doubtful proposition due to the resemblance between what is granted and what is doubtful. This style of argument is threefold: the first part consists of one or more similar instances, the second part is the point we wish to have conceded, and the third is the conclusion that reinforces the concessions or shows the consequences of the argument.
    "Enthymematic reasoning is a form of argument that draws a probable conclusion from the facts under consideration."
    (Cicero, De Inventione)
  • Aphthonius on Confirmation in the Progymnasmata
    "Confirmation is showing proof for any matter at hand. But one must confirm neither those things clearly manifest nor those utterly impossible, but those that hold an intermediate position. And it is necessary for those engaged in confirmation to treat it in a manner that is exactly the opposite of refutation. First, one must speak of the good reputation of the proponent; then, in turn, to make the exposition and to make use of the opposite headings: the clear instead of the unclear, the probable for the improbable, the possible in place of the impossible, the logical instead of the illogical, the suitable for the unsuitable, and the expedient in place of the inexpedient.
    "This exercise encompasses all the power of the art."
    (Aphthonius of Antioch, Progymnasmata, late fourth century. Readings from Classical Rhetoric, ed. by Patricia P. Matsen, Philip B. Rollinson, and Marion Sousa. Southern Illinois University Press, 1990)
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Nordquist, Richard. "Confirmation in Speech and Rhetoric." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Confirmation in Speech and Rhetoric. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Confirmation in Speech and Rhetoric." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).