Studies of linguistic norms have focussed on micro-level formal features, leaving norms of discourse pragmatics to the history of rhetoric. Yet until modern times no clear division was recognised between the “structural” and the “pragmatic”. This paper considers three long-standing norms that operate at the interface of what are now classified as pragmatics and structure: the Aristotelian injunction against appeals to emotion in argumentation, the Christian injunction against swearing, and Pascal’s exclusion of the first-person singular from scientific discourse. All three are focussed on truth, and the passions which are perceived as a source of error. The passions are “natural” – they integrate the body into the mental – and norms are forged in order to control the natural in language.
- body problem