The traditional opposition between mathematical proof and rhetorical argument is based on a non-contextual picture of mathematical proof, against which historical and theoretical objections have been raised. The author advocates a different opposition, between epistemic rhetoric and instrumental rhetoric. Instrumental rhetoric aims at persuasion without caring for truth. Epistemic rhetoric is a practice aimed at both persuasion and truth. Aiming at truth is a way of acting, which can be characterized in terms of epistemically virtuous behavioural traits. In this sense epistemic rhetoric aims at truth, even though it is contextual and addressed to a particular audience. Real life mathematical proofs are instances of epistemic rhetoric and contextual rigour. But it is right to contrast proofs with the arguments of instrumental rhetoric.
Keywords: Aiming-at-truth, Epistemic virtues, Mathematical proof, Rhetorical argument