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Stasis Theory & Practice

Stasis in rhetoric is a tool to help decide what is at stake in an argument and can also serve as a tool for invention. The word “stasis,” from the Greek, meaning “standstill” or “conflict,” in rhetorical terms indicates the point in an argument that must be resolved in order for a discussion to come to a conclusion.

There are four types of stasis:

  • Questions of fact and conjecture
    • Did/does something happen?
    • What is its origin?
    • Is there an act to be considered?
    • What produced it?
    • What changes can be made?
  • Questions of definition:
    • What is its nature?
    • How can the issue be defined?
    • To what larger class of things or events does it belong?
  • Questions of quality:
    • What is its quality or nature?
    • How serious is it?
    • Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
    • Is it honorable or dishonorable?
  • Questions of policy and procedure:
    • Deliberative: What action(s) should be taken?
    • Deliberative: What should we do?
    • Deliberative: How will the proposed changes make things better? Worse? How? In what ways? For whom?
    • Forensic: Should some state of affairs be regulated (or not) by a formalized procedure?
    • Forensic: Which procedures can be implemented? Which cannot?
    • Forensic: What are the merits of competing proposals? What are their defects?

There are many advantages to considering stasis in your reading and in your work:

  • Allows you to clarify your thinking about a point or an issue in dispute
  • Allows you to consider assumptions and values that other readers, writers, and community members might hold
  • Establishes areas where more research and effort needs to be focused
  • Distinguishes points that are crucial to an effective argument or advocacy
  • Guides you toward composing an effective arrangement for your argument or advocacy

See also Stasis Theory, Purdue OWL.