The Idea of Rhetoric

                                  THE IDEA OF RHETORIC

__________________

                                                A Paper

                                             Presented to

                                     Dr. James L. Williams

                       Southwester Baptist Theological Seminary

                                    __________________

                                         In Partial Fulfillment

                           of the Requirements for IDE 1103-A

                                       __________________

                                                       by

                                              Angelo Europe

                                             October 7, 2008

 

 


The Idea of Rhetoric

Rhetoric the art of persuasion by eloquence of speech or writing.[1] Through out history many philosophers and learned men have practiced the art; some used it for truth while others used it to gain money and status. The art of Rhetoric can be a very powerful tool to use, it is so powerful that it can change one’s belief system for the good or for the worst and can persuade them to false or true beliefs.

Rhetoric in the mind of a philosopher

There were many great philosophers who used the art of rhetoric whether they wanted to or not, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and a group called the Sophists all practiced the art of rhetoric. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle used the art of persuasion as it is sometimes called for the greater good, but however the Sophists did not use rhetoric in a worthy manner, but it must be said that not all the sophist were bad some however really strived after the truth. In one of Plato’s recordings of a Socratic dialogue between Socrates and a sophist named Gorgias, were Socrates is waiting to hear what Gorgias has to say about the art of rhetoric or as what Gorgias calls

“an art of “speech” or “discourse” and as such it makes those who posses it skilled in “speaking,” and therefore, since speech is the expression of thought or intelligence, makes them intelligent about something”.[2]

Gorgias even believed that he can teach his students the art of speech or discourse, which is why he regards his own techne as the supreme achievement of the human intelligence.[3]

In Plato’s writing of Gorgias as the dialogue between Socrates and the famous sophists Gorgias continues Socrates asks three very important questions pertaining to rhetoric that has been around since language, “What is the nature of rhetoric? Does rhetoric by its very nature tend to mislead? What happens to a society when persuasion forms the basis of law and justice?”[4] The question about rhetoric’s subject matter should be a simple one for a great master of rhetoric like Gorgias to answer. If weaving is concerned with fabrics, and music with composing songs, with what is rhetoric concerned? Gorgias replies “with words”[5] Plato’s concern of rhetoric was based on the effects of rhetoric on political life and justice in the Athenian world.

From the group of philosophers prominent in the academy at Plato’s death there gradually emerges the tremendous figure of Aristotle.[6] It is said that around the year 350 B.C. Aristotle’s teaching on rhetoric began “while still a member of Plato’s Academy”.[7] Most of Aristotle’s teachings on rhetoric was a response to Plato’s dialogue involving the sophists in which Aristotle found insufficient. The works of Aristotle on rhetoric consists of three books the first book defines and establishes the domain of rhetoric, and describes the three types of oratory. The second book discusses rhetorical proofs derived from character and emotions, while the third book deals with matters of style and arrangement.[8] In the writings of Aristotle he gives four reasons why the art of rhetoric, in his first book he writes it is useful because:

“things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendencies to prevail over their opposites, so that if the decisions of judges [audience members] are not what they ought to be, the defeat must be due to the speakers themselves, and they must be blamed accordingly”[9]

 

Aristotle’s second reason was for the utility of rhetoric comes from the nature of some audiences, he writes:

“Before some audiences”…he writes, “not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction”. Why is this? Aristotle’s answer is that “there are people whom one cannot instruct”.[10]

The third and forth reasons for rhetoric’s usefulness is reminiscent of an aspect of the sophists’ approach to rhetoric and it involves an interesting analogy to self-defense. Once again the question comes back, if rhetoric is an art then what does the study consists of? In other words what does the art teach and what does a student of rhetoric study? Aristotle puts forth his answer to the question; he gives three technical or artistic proofs that form the art of rhetoric. One of the artistic proofs is called Logos and is as defined “the study of the arguments typical of the reasoning employed in practical decision making.[11] In rhetoric Aristotle uses Logos (the logic of sound arguments) to refer to proofs available in the words, arguments, or logic of a speech.[12] The second artistic proofs is the study of human emotions, Aristotle believed this study to be essential to dealing with a systematic form of rhetoric known as Pathos (the psychology of emotions). Aristotle defines Pathos as “putting the audience in the right frame of mind”.[13] The word Pathos in the ancient world was used to the emotional appeals that gives a persuasive message its power to move the audience to perform whatever action the speaker is trying to convey. However Aristotle’s main interest in Pathos was to do with emotion’s ability to affect the judgments of the audience that is being spoken to. The third artistic proof was called Ethos (the sociology of good character) were Aristotle acknowledges the potential persuasiveness of a speakers character or the credibility of ones personality. Just as with Pathos Aristotle sought to revitalize a systematic study of Ethos from what Aristotle believed to be the abuse of earlier rhetors. Aristotle believed the art of rhetoric (art of persuasion) was a combination of the three artistic proofs; a logical study, psychological study, and a sociological study. These three artistic proofs can be employed in the three rhetorical settings in which Aristotle describes in his writings as deliberative oratory, epideictic oratory, and forensic oratory.   

Conclusion

Through out history rhetoric played a big role in society and some of the greatest thinkers used the art of rhetoric in the many dialogues they participated in. as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle used rhetoric to persuade their audience for the greater good, the sophist did the complete opposite, trying to portray themselves as good speakers and arguing for the sake of argument. Rhetoric continues to be used to this day and just as in the times of the philosophy movement where rhetoric was used for both revealing the truth and deception of the truth, it continues to be the same in this present age.

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

H. C. Lawson-Tancred. Aristotle, the Art of Rhetoric. New York: Penguin Publishing, 2004.

Ibid 83. :.

Ibid 83. :.

Ibid 77. :.

H. C. Lawson-Tancred. Aristotle, the Art of Rhetoric. New York: Penguin Publishing, 2004.

Ibid 74. :.

 

James A. Herrick. The History and Theory of Rhetoric. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2005.

A. H. Armstrong. An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld Publishing.

Ibid.(56)

James A. Herrick. The History and Theory of Rhetoric. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2005.

Ibid. (107/ 108)

A. E. Taylor. Plato the man and his work. Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1966.

A. H. Armstrong. An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld.


[1] A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld, ), 23.

[2] A. E. Taylor, Plato the man and his work (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1966), 107.

[3] Ibid,(107/108).

[4] James A. Herrick, the History and Theory of Rhetoric (Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2005), 55.

[5] Ibid (56).

[6] A. H. Armstrong, An Intoduction to Ancient Philosophy (Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld Publishing, ), 66.

[7] James A. Herrick, The History and Theory of Rhetoric (Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2005), 74.

[8] Ibid 74

[9] H. C. Lawson-Tancred, Aristotle, the Art of Rhetoric (New York: Penguin Publishing, 2004), 68 (1355a).

[10] Ibid 77

[11]Ibid 83.

[12]Ibid 83.

[13]H. C. Lawson-Tancred, Aristotle, the Art of Rhetoric (New York: Penguin Publishing, 2004), 78 (1358a).

 

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