Impossibly good looks: A pragma-ontological approach to unearthing the latent rhetorical structure of anti-ageing advertising discourse

George Rossolatos

Abstract


This paper aims at unearthing the appeals, the argumentative schemes and the modes of rhetorical configuration that make up the rhetorical structure of the anti-ageing skin care product category’s print advertising discourse. To this end, the pragma-ontological approach is put forward as an offshoot of the pragma-dialectical perspective in rhetorical analysis and criticism. The pragma-ontological approach adds interpretative depth to the overt argumentation structure of anti-ageing products’ ads on the grounds of fundamental ontology/existential phenomenology. The analysis points to three levels where the ads’ arguments function: an overt level and two covert ones. On the overt level the ads function against the background of mixed ethos/pathos/ logos appeals that buttress an argumentation scheme from values. On a primary covert level, the ads appear to be functioning through an indirect appeal to fear, while resting on an argumentation scheme from consequences. On a secondary covert level, the ads are shown to be appealing indirectly to ontological angst, while manifesting an argumentation scheme per impossibile. The cultural implications for policy-making are highlighted amidst a predicament where anti-ageing claims are attracting heavy criticism.

Keywords


rhetorical analysis; critical discourse analysis; anti-ageing advertising; fundamental ontology; existential phenomenology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2018.46.2-3.02





SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: sss@ut.ee. Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia