The Story‎ > ‎

The Elements of a Proposition

2011 David Hirsch Speech at National Archives II (video).

2010 Virtual Book Signing™ at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop (video).

The Elements of a Proposition,
A Story of Logically Persuasive

How to Logically Structure and Credibly Demonstrate

The six elements are simple to express but not so simple to internalize:[1] They were nearly lost in the dust bin of history. Euclid used the six elements of a proposition to prove geometric propositions (though, as far as is known, Euclid did not explicitly describe the technique). This is also how Lincoln (starting in 1854) tried cases and gave speeches. He too did not directly explain how his speeches mean. Lincoln's language was embedded into the ancient six-element structure. Thomas Jefferson also studied Euclid, and used the same structure. Properly used, geometric logic embeds beauty within a foundation of iron logic. Honesty and credibility exude. Once the six elements are internalized, writer's block tends to disappear. Naturally beautiful, persuasive communication results.

Enunciation: “The enunciation states what is given and what is being sought from it.”

Exposition: “The exposition takes separately what is given and prepares it in advance for use in the investigation.”

Specification: “The specification takes separately the thing that is sought and makes clear precisely what it is.”

Construction: “The construction adds what is lacking in the given for finding what is sought.”

Proof: “The proof draws the proposed inference by reasoning scientifically from the propositions that have been admitted.”

Conclusion: “The conclusion reverts to the enunciation, confirming what has been proved.”

[1] Proclus, A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements, Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by Glenn R. Morrow [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970], 159.