WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

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 inventionThe 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?
    • Is there a third side to the story that people aren’t noticing?
  • Questions of quality
    • What is its quality or nature?
    • How serious is it?
    • Is it honorable or dishonorable?
    • Is there a third side to the story that people aren’t noticing?
  • 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.

The Stasis Doctrine Applied to Yogi Bear
“To return for a moment to Jellystone Park, conjectural stasis would have us ask whether Yogi Bear was responsible for the disappearance of the picnic basket, definitional stasis whether he grabbed it and snaffled the contents, qualitative stasis whether the bylaws of Jellystone Park prohibit the theft of picnic baskets, and translative status whether the alleged theft should be tried in a human court or whether this thieving wild animal should be summarily shot by a park ranger.”
(Sam Leith, Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric From Aristotle to Obama. Basic Books, 2012)