Topics: World Revealing Instruments
A topic is an instrument constructed in language, which both reveals the world in a certain light and gives roles to play regarding what shows up in the light the topic casts. Because topics can only exist in language, they are inherently figural, that is, they occur as tropes or schemes. Mastery of topics grants us access to the infinite possibility to generate content for writing new sentences.
Two fundamental topics form an antithesis that rules all the general topics: Similarity and Difference. While the topic of similarity reveals relationships of sameness and unity among the multitudes of objects in the world, the topic of difference discloses things in the world to be irreducibly incommensurate. While opposing in every way, each topic gives the other. That is, we cannot see similarity without difference and difference only emerges from what was previously similar.
In fact, the most general topic aside from similarity and difference is the topical lens called "opposites." The other general topics we will examine include: "the part and the whole," "the more and the less," and "the prior and the posterior," in all of which "difference" and "similarity" play some role.
See P. Christopher Smith’s elaboration of these topics as forms of originary argument (prior to dialectic and logic) in his illuminating book The Hermeneutics of Original Argument. (56-72)
Difference and similarity are both present in any of the general topics, as each of the general topics are structured by difference and similarity. For instance, concerning the general topic of “the part and the whole." If something is present or not in the part, it is also present or not in the whole, and vice versa, if it is missing or not in the whole, it will be missing or not in the part.
Concerning the general topic of the "past fact/future fact": if it happened before, it’ll happen again. Or as cause/effect: if no consequence is present, then the cause in question did not happen.
Other general topics that participate in similarity and difference include "possibility and impossibility": if something is possible, then something similar is also possible, and vice versa, if something is impossible then something like that is also likely impossible. Or if something is possible, we could argue that its opposite (what is different) is not possible.
From the other side of similarity comes difference, which governs “opposites,” or "antitheses."
For instance, take the general topic called "the more and the less”: the more mean you are, the less people will like you; but the more people don't like you, the more freedom you have to be your self.
In any case, any general topic could be structured as an antithesis between similarity and difference (see Controlling Value).
...similarity can be established only between things that are somehow different and, conversely, difference can be established only between things that are somehow similar... (Smith 60)
Notice that this sentence is itself an expression of "antimetabole" (AB:BA) together with "epanalepsis" (repeating the beginning word of a sentence or clause at the end of the sentence or clause) in the form of "polyptoton" (repetition of the same word in a different case).
degree (the more and the less)
past fact/future fact
Page 184 of Scott Consigny's "Rhetoric and its Situations"
(Philosophy and Rhetoric. Volume 7, Number 3: 1974)