Definition: Syllogism is a rhetorical device that starts an argument by referring to something general and then drawing a conclusion about something more specific. It is a deductive approach to reason and is based on deducing specific conclusions from general facts. It is composed of a three-part set of statements: a major statement or premise, a minor statement or premise, and a conclusion that is deduced. The first statement is a major but general fact, the second statement is a smaller and more specific fact, and the concluding statement is a premise that is logically deduced based off the first and second statements.

Example Passage: Shakespeare employs syllogism in his play “Timon of Athens” Act 4, scene 3:

“Flavius: Have you forgot me, sir?

Timon: Why dost ask that? I have forgot all men;

Then, if thou grant’st thou’rt a man, I have forgot thee.”

In this conversation, Timon first makes a general statement that he "forgot all men". Then he makes a more specific statement in saying that "thou grant'st thou'rt a man". Lastly, he makes a logical conclusion from these previous statements that he had "forgot thee". He is saying that if he has forgotten all men and Flavius is a man, he has forgotten Flavius.

Visual Representation: Movie clip from “Get Smart”:

Get Smart Syllogism

Get Smart Syllogism

In this scene, Siegfried states that if Maxwell Smart were controlled, he would be dead. Then Maxwell Smart makes a specific comment that he is not dead. Finally, he logically concludes from the first two statements that he is not controlled.