Re. “a kairic moment” (from the classical rhetorical term, kairos)

As I have been known to complain, research and scholarship (especially in fields such as history and philosophy) are done in “slow time” (what I sometimes refer to as festina lente) and can not — should not — be hurried along. Too often, this places scholars at a rhetorical disadvantage, unable to exploit that kairic moment when circumstance presents a unique opportunity to reach — and hopefully persuade — others with our research.

The classical term, kairos, is of obscure origin and etymology, and difficult to define. “It is translated in English as ‘the right time,’ ‘due season,’ ‘occasion,’ ‘opportune,’ ‘appropriate,’ ‘suitable,’ ‘the fitting,’ ‘the propitious moment,’ ‘arising circumstances,’ and ‘opportunity.’” (Jane Sutton, “Kairos,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. Thomas O. Sloane, Oxford University Press, 2001, 413)

Kairos is variously described in relation to a temporality and to a way of acting: it is the opportune moment. Be that as it may, it is an elusive word, appearing, disappearing, and reappearing in the history of rhetoric in a variety of complex ways. Kairos has been personified, referred to, made use of, and stressed by artists, orators, Sophists, rhetoricians, and philosophers for more than twenty-five centuries. Although kairos underlies theoretical discussions on rhetoric from the fifth to the fourth century BCE, it is not a definitive term, such as enthymeme in Aristotle’s Rhetoric.... Toward the end of the twentieth century, kairos began to play a prominent role in the rethinking of rhetorical theory and came to be used as a key term in describing practices that were moving away from an Aristotelian tradition of rhetoric and toward an Isocratean one. Although both recognize time with respect to speech, differences exist, especially in the field of application. In the Aristotelian strand, kairos is absorbed in part of a comprehensive system of rhetoric and emerges through moderation, the appropriate, and the good. In the Isocreatean strand, kairos is put in the foreground as ‘knowing’ (that is, itself subject to contingency), by which the rhetor works to bring what people think and believe closer to the demands of a situation....” (J. Sutton, Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, 413)

For more on classical rhetoric’s concept of kairos — the Greek word “with no single or precise equivalent in any other language” (qtd. in J. Sutton, Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, 413) — see the excellent Silva Rhetoricae website, run by Gideon O. Burton of Brigham Young University, where kairos is categorized as one of rhetoric’s “encompassing terms.”