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Rhetoric: Intro & Overview

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Michael Schandorf

on 28 August 2012

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Transcript of Rhetoric: Intro & Overview

Rhetoric: Some common definitions
The practice of oratory
The study of the strategies for effective oratory
The use of language to inform or persuade
The persuasive effects of language
The study of the relation between knowledge and language
The classification of tropes and figures
The use of empty promises and half-truths as a form of propaganda
Rhetoric was originally developed in the probate courts of ancient Greece and flourished under Greek democracy.
Speeches had to move and convince. Persuasive strategies varied with occasion and audience, and the final speech had to be memorized and finally delivered. Rhetoric came to designate both the persuasive oratory and the construction of a persuasive speech.
Rhetoric catorizes types of persuasive discourse, analyzes each in terms of structure, and identifies means for successfully constructing each type.
In doing so, Rhetoric comes to endorse codes of linguistic correctness and taxonomies of artful ways of using language.

Rhetoric suggests resources for evidence and argument and gives rules for accurate reasoning by understanding logical and psychological appeals.
For much of Western history, to study Rhetoric was to study Greek and Latin grammar, classical literature and history, and logic.

Rhetoric in this sense has been largely prescriptive and intended as a practical art providing guidelines for discourse in several well-defined social, political, and artistic arenas.

But a wide range of rhetorical theory has also evolved over the centuries seeking to understand the complexities of communication and persuasion.
From its beginnings, Rhetoric generated far-reaching theoretical questions about the relationship of language to knowledge. And today, Rhetorical theory encompasses virtually all forms of discourse and symbolic communication
Argument & Persuasion:

Classical Rhetoric
In the 4th century BC, Aristotle reduced the concerns of Rhetoric to a system that thereafter served as its basic premises. To talk about Classical Rhetoric is therefore to talk about Aristotle's system and its elaboration by Cicero and Quintillian.
Three Types of Speech
The Five Canons of Classical Rhetoric
How to Prepare a Speech
The search for persuasive ways to present information and formulate arguments
The organization of the parts of a speech to ensure that all the means of persuasion are present and properly disposed
The use of correct, appropriate, and striking language throughout the speech
The use of mnemonics and practice of the speech
The use of effective gestures and vocal modulation to present the speech
Here is where rational arguments - appeals to logos - are devised.
Topoi - Topics - Loci - Places
The "common topics" are stock formulas: comparison/contrast, cause and effect.

"Special topics" are also available for specific types of discourse or subject matter, eg rules of evidence in criminal law.

When using these heuristic devices, the rhetorician "invents" arguments in the sense of finding ways to combine and present evidence persuasively.
reveals unalterable truths about the physical world
uses rigorous logic to approach probable truths in questions about human affairs and philosophy that do not lend themselves to absolute certainty
also seeks probable truth in the realm of human affairs, relying on knowledge produced by demonstration and dialectic, along with traditional or received wisdom and the various means of finding persuasive connections, such as those suggested by the common topics.
Syllogism: Logic :: Enthymeme : Rhetoric
An enthymeme is a rhetorical syllogism that deduces a conclusion from a general premise. But the general premise of an enthymeme is merely probable (unlike in a logical syllogism) leading to a tentative conclusion. This premise usually goes unstated being assumed to be part of the audience's common knowledge.
The rhetorician constructing an argument must draw on knowledge from outside the domain of rhetoric, and therefor must know something of philosophy, history, law, literature, and other fields of study. But given the scope of rhetoric, the distinction between "inside" and "outside" can blur.
But people have not always agreed that philosophy or science have access to true knowledge. If all knowledge is uncertain and constructed by argument, then rhetoric is tremendously valuable, creating provisional agreements and shared values on which human community depends.
In the classical view, rhetoric manages knowledge, conveying but not creating it; the rhetorician's activities are subordinate to the truth-seeking of the scientist and philosopher.
In ancient Greece the greatest defenders of the position that all knowledge is contingent were the Sophists. They argued that rhetoric generates knowledge, and they understood all language to be rhetorical - that is persuasive in intent.

Through language, people collectively construct a value-laden worldview and reach agreement on how to act together for their mutual benefit. Different communities may see things differently because of their cultural traditions and historical circumstances.
For the Sophists there are no privileged nonrhetorical discourses, and no privileged nonrhetorical knowledge.
Aristotle's four parts of a speech
1. Introduction
2. Statement of the issue
3. Argument
4. Conclusion
Logical appeals
Appeals to pathos & ethos
Cicero's five parts of a speech
1. Introduction
ethical & pathetic appeals
2. Narration
facts of the case, but also opportunity for pathetic appeals
3. Statement of position
logical argument in favor of the position
4. Refutation
logical argument against the opponent's position
5. Conclusion
pathetic & ethic appeals
For Aristotle, who felt that rational argument was the most important part of any speech, style was little more than decoration. But over the centuries (especially during Imperial times when rational argument could get you killed), style often came to dominate the study of Rhetoric.
The Sophists, however, made a clear connection between style and generative thought. Rhetorical figure, much like the topics of invention, can be seen as parallel to human thought processes. Hence, formulating ideas in figures and ornamenting arguments will make them structurally more understandable, memorable, and convincing.
Stylistic processes of formulation have also been understood as a heuristic method in which ideas are discovered in the search for figurative expression. Metaphor has been regarded as particularly generative.
For Plato, memory is a link not just with earthly places but with those heavenly places where ideal forms and true knowledge reside.

The place of memory in rhetoric raises questions of how knowledge is represented in the mind.
For Aristotle, delivery was akin to acting, which he treated as "lying." The Romans, however, understood that tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions materially affect the impact of all that has gone into a speech. Extensive systems of nonverbal delivery have been developed for rhetoric over the centuries -- which we can still recognize to day in political speeches.
The first study of how language achieves rhetorical effects is often credited to the Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles in the 5th century BC. He was interested in the power of language, and Rhetoric in its earliest manifestation might be understood to designate the self-conscious study of the power of language.
The Power of Language
Oral Culture
Orality to Literacy
Parataxis (placing clauses and phrsases one after another with no indication of or concern for coordination or subordination)

The simple juxtaposition of ideas

Concrete imagery appealing to the senses and emotions

Ritualized references to authority in the form of proverbs, epithets, and other verbal formulas

Agonistic disputation
Literate Culture
Hypotaxis (grammatical arrangement that makes the functional subordination and dependance of ideas clear -- logical hierarchy)

Generalizations that appeal to reason and text-assisted memory for validation

A questioning relationship to authority and custom that encouraged the disinterested criticism of ideas

A greater ability to think abstractly
The invention and spread of the alphabet, along with a gradual rise in literacy, separated language from speech and turning it into an object available for inspection, reflection, and analysis that could be rearranged, reordered and rethought to produce forms of statement and types of discourse not previously available because not easily memorizable.
Eric Havelock
Empedocles' philosophy became important for other early philosophers. Specifically, his view that human knowledge must come from sense perception only, and is therefore necessarily limited and flawed, but is capable of being refined toward probable truth through exploration of opposing positions.
It was during this time that ancient Greek philosophy and rhetoric developed. While the philosophers explored the realm of Truth and human access to it, the early rhetoricians were interested in the study of language for more practical ends.

This was a time of intermittently rising economic and political stabilty in which a growing middle class was able to climb socially with the help of rhetorical training. It was during this time the first teachers of systematic rhetoric seem to have emerged (the Sophists), as well as the first rhetoric manuals.
The Sophists
The sophists were traveling philosophers interested in exploring all realms of human knowledge. They fostered the spread of literacy, expounding their views all over the Greek domain to anyone who could pay to listen.

They were also among the first to commit their ideas to writing. Unfortunately few of their writings still exist. Classical scholarship has attempted to reconstruct their thinking from fragments and what was about them by later authors.
Following Empodocles, the Sophists taught that human knowledge relies solely on sense perception and is necessarily flawed: Certainty or absolute truth is not available to humans, but knowledge can be refined by pitting opposing positions against one another. Our modern antagonistic legal system is a direct descendant of this approach to truth.
No Absolute Truth
Such views were considered dangerous by many who feared that without access to and belief in transcendent values such as Truth, Justice, and the Rule of Law, society would disintegrate. Moreover, the Sophists taught young people that they could improve themselves via Sophistic teaching. They did not need to defer to the wisdom of their elders or social betters. Hence, they undermined the traditional aristocracy.
A Disruptive Influence
But this was precisely what made the Sophist view so exciting. If people could achieve knowledge by rational discrimination of oppositions, they could achieve more than previous societies had been able to produce. Language, knowledge, and learning became tied to the dream of progress.
Rhetoric & Human Potential
Rhetoric: Public Speech
Rhetoric: A System of Persuasion
Rhetoric & Human Knowledge
Instead of chasing after impossible transcendent truths, and what is proper or improper according to unchanging social rules, the Sophists argued that people should be concerned with practical expediency in the current situation. The elements of the given situation, its cultural and political contexts, will produce the best solutions to problems, as well as the best ways to persuasively present them.
The art of discovering the best available means of persuasion for any occasion.
More about them in a minute...
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