What is the difference between exigence and purpose?

Exigence is the circumstance or condition that invites a response; or, in other words, rhetorical discourse is usually responding to some kind of problem. You can begin to understand a piece’s exigence by asking, “What is this rhetoric responding to?” “What might have happened to make the rhetor (the person who creates the rhetoric) respond in this way?” The exigence can be extremely complex, like the need for a new Supreme Court justice, or it can be much simpler, like receiving an email that asks you where you and your friends should go for your road trip this weekend. Understanding the exigence is important because it helps you begin to discover the purpose of the rhetoric. It helps you understand what the discourse is trying to accomplish.

Hi! This is a great question! Exigence is the situation (reason) that has prompted an author, speaker, etc. to produce a piece of rhetoric. Purpose relates to the speaker/writer’s larger intent.

For example, when a speaker gives a commencement address, the exigence is because there is a ceremony held to recognize and honor the graduates. The purpose for the commencement address might be to encourage the graduates to not rest on their previous accomplishments but to pursue greater things.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Returning to the connection between exigence and rhetorical purpose, what is intended when we make the two terms synonymous is to have the student writer ask themselves, why are we writing about this particular topic? What do you hope to gain from it?

Rhetorical purpose is important in understanding and analyzing rhetorical situations. At a first glance, purpose may seem to be simply an item that we can find in the argument conclusion of the reading. However, an argument’s purpose takes into consideration several elements so that it gives us a snapshot of the argument’s claim and its context for social action. The purpose comprises not only the argument conclusion, but also the action that the writer or speaker wants the audience to take. An argument’s rhetorical purpose can help us understand the context of an argument because of the social change it suggests.

Exigence = The urgent need that drives a writer or speaker to make his or her argument.

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