The rhetoric of figures defines the antithesis as an opposition between two terms (words or phrases) of opposite meanings, entering into parallel syntactic constructions. The argument scheme of the opposites materializes discursively as an antithesis.

1. Antithesis as argumentative diptych

An argumentative situation emerges with the appearance of a point of confrontation ratified as such, a stasis. It develops into a diptych, characterized by the confrontation of two schematizations, that is to say two sets of descriptions, narrations and argumentations supporting two opposing conclusions. At this stage, the two discourses develop at cross-purposes, without explicitly taking this opposition into account, S. Stasis. This elementary argumentative situation corresponds to a discursive antithesis.

Such a confrontation might be taken up in a structured monologue juxtaposing the two sides of the issue. Such a monologic diptych features an “antiphony”, that is two voices putting forward incompatible arguments with respect to the same issue. This is typically seen when an individual having a vested interest in an issue engages in inner deliberation, and oscillates between two points of view, acting actually as a third party. This situation is elaborated as a dilemma whose anti-oriented horns are articulated by an and:

I admire your courage and I pity your youth.
Corneille, Le Cid 2, 2, verse 43. Quoted by Lausberg [1960], §796

When the speaker clearly identifies with one of the two voices, the balance of the two voices is broken in favor of one of the positions. The and dilemma transforms into a but opposition, overcoming the antithesis:

… but I pity your youth; so I won’t accept your challenge to duel.

2. Antithesis, figure and argument

The following argumentation is structured by the scheme of the opposite:

(D1) He is submissive to the privileged; I would not like to confront him in a weak position.

exactly as the self-argued description:

(D2) He is submissive to the privileged and powerful, and hard with the weak.

Whereas in (D1), the second member of the scheme “he must be hard with the weak”, remains implicit, (D2) corresponds to a complete expression of the topos. But the two discourses are based on the same mechanisms, the argumentation is “valid” or acceptable insofar as the portrait sounds “true”; both are “convincing”. Description and argument are rooted in the same figure or scheme.