encyclopedia of rhetoric and composition pdf

Encyclopedia of rhetoric and composition pdf

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Rhetoric & Public Affairs

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James A. Berlin

Rhetoric , the principles of training communicators —those seeking to persuade or inform.

According to Aristotle, rhetoric is: "the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion. In order to be a more effective writer and speaker, you must understand these three terms. This site will help you to better understand their meanings and show you how to make your communication more eloquent and persuasive.

Rhetoric & Public Affairs

Aristotle's Rhetoric has had an enormous influence on the development of the art of rhetoric. Not only authors writing in the peripatetic tradition, but also the famous Roman teachers of rhetoric, such as Cicero and Quintilian, frequently used elements stemming from the Aristotelian doctrine.

Nevertheless, these authors were interested neither in an authentic interpretation of the Aristotelian works nor in the philosophical sources and backgrounds of the vocabulary that Aristotle had introduced to rhetorical theory. Thus, for two millennia the interpretation of Aristotelian rhetoric has become a matter of the history of rhetoric, not of philosophy. In the most influential manuscripts and editions, Aristotle's Rhetoric was surrounded by rhetorical works and even written speeches of other Greek and Latin authors, and was seldom interpreted in the context of the whole Corpus Aristotelicum.

It was not until the last few decades that the philosophically salient features of the Aristotelian rhetoric were rediscovered: in construing a general theory of the persuasive, Aristotle applies numerous concepts and arguments that are also treated in his logical, ethical, and psychological writings.

His theory of rhetorical arguments, for example, is only one further application of his general doctrine of the sullogismos , which also forms the basis of dialectic, logic, and his theory of demonstration. Another example is the concept of emotions: though emotions are one of the most important topics in the Aristotelian ethics, he nowhere offers such an illuminating account of single emotions as in the Rhetoric.

Finally, it is the Rhetoric , too, that informs us about the cognitive features of language and style. Cicero seems to use this collection itself, or at least a secondary source relying on it, as his main historical source when he gives a short survey of the history of pre-Aristotelian rhetoric in his Brutus 46— Whereas most modern authors agree that at least the core of Rhet.

III are not mentioned in the agenda of Rhet. The conceptual link between Rhet. III is not given until the very last sentence of the second book. It is quite understandable that the authenticity of this ad hoc composition has been questioned: we cannot exclude the possibility that these two parts of the Rhetoric were not put together until the first edition of Aristotle's works completed by Andronicus in the first century.

The chronological fixing of the Rhetoric has turned out to be a delicate matter. At least the core of Rhet. It is true that the Rhetoric refers to historical events that fall in the time of Aristotle's exile and his second stay in Athens, but most of them can be found in the chapters II.

Most striking are the affinities to the also early Topics ; if, as it is widely agreed, the Topics represents a pre-syllogistic state of Aristotelian logic, the same is true of the Rhetoric : we actually find no hints of syllogistic inventory in it. The structure of Rhet. The second tripartite division concerns the three species of public speech. The speech that takes place in the assembly is defined as the deliberative species.

In this rhetorical species, the speaker either advises the audience to do something or warns against doing something. Accordingly, the audience has to judge things that are going to happen in the future, and they have to decide whether these future events are good or bad for the polis, whether they will cause advantage or harm.

The speech that takes place before a court is defined as the judicial species. The speaker either accuses somebody or defends herself or someone else. Naturally, this kind of speech treats things that happened in the past. The audience or rather jury has to judge whether a past event was just or unjust, i. While the deliberative and judicial species have their context in a controversial situation in which the listener has to decide in favor of one of two opposing parties, the third species does not aim at such a decision: the epideictic speech praises or blames somebody, it tries to describe things or deeds of the respective person as honorable or shameful.

The first book of the Rhetoric treats the three species in succession. These chapters are understood as contributing to the argumentative mode of persuasion or—more precisely—to that part of argumentative persuasion that is specific to the respective species of persuasion. The second part of the argumentative persuasion that is common to all three species of rhetorical speech is treated in the chapters II. The second means of persuasion, which works by evoking the emotions of the audience, is described in the chapters II.

Though the following chapters II. The underlying theory of this means of persuasion is elaborated in a few lines of chapter II. The aforementioned chapters II. Why the chapters on the argumentative means of persuasion are separated by the treatment of emotions and character in II.

Rhetoric III. Aristotle stresses that rhetoric is closely related to dialectic. In saying that rhetoric is a counterpart to dialectic, Aristotle obviously alludes to Plato's Gorgias bff. This analogy between rhetoric and dialectic can be substantiated by several common features of both disciplines:.

The analogy to dialectic has important implications for the status of rhetoric. However, though dialectic has no definite subject, it is easy to see that it nevertheless rests on a method, because dialectic has to grasp the reason why some arguments are valid and others are not.

Now, if rhetoric is nothing but the counterpart to dialectic in the domain of public speech, it must be grounded in an investigation of what is persuasive and what is not, and this, in turn, qualifies rhetoric as an art. Further, it is central to both disciplines that they deal with arguments from accepted premises. Hence the rhetorician who wants to persuade by arguments or rhetorical proofs can adapt most of the dialectical equipment.

Nevertheless, persuasion that takes place before a public audience is not only a matter of arguments and proofs, but also of credibility and emotional attitudes. This is why there are also remarkable differences between the two disciplines:.

Aristotle defines the rhetorician as someone who is always able to see what is persuasive Topics VI. Correspondingly, rhetoric is defined as the ability to see what is possibly persuasive in every given case Rhet.

This is not to say that the rhetorician will be able to convince under all circumstances. Rather he is in a situation similar to that of the physician: the latter has a complete grasp of his art only if he neglects nothing that might heal his patient, though he is not able to heal every patient. Similarly, the rhetorician has a complete grasp of his method, if he discovers the available means of persuasion, though he is not able to convince everybody. Aristotelian rhetoric as such is a neutral tool that can be used by persons of virtuous or depraved character.

This capacity can be used for good or bad purposes; it can cause great benefits as well as great harms. There is no doubt that Aristotle himself regards his system of rhetoric as something useful, but the good purposes for which rhetoric is useful do not define the rhetorical capacity as such. Thus, Aristotle does not hesitate to concede on the one hand that his art of rhetoric can be misused. But on the other hand he tones down the risk of misuse by stressing several factors: Generally, it is true of all goods, except virtue, that they can be misused.

Secondly, using rhetoric of the Aristotelian style, it is easier to convince of the just and good than of their opposites. Finally, the risk of misuse is compensated by the benefits that can be accomplished by rhetoric of the Aristotelian style.

It could still be objected that rhetoric is only useful for those who want to outwit their audience and conceal their real aims, since someone who just wants to communicate the truth could be straightforward and would not need rhetorical tools. This, however, is not Aristotle's point of view: Even those who just try to establish what is just and true need the help of rhetoric when they are faced with a public audience. Aristotle tells us that it is impossible to teach such an audience, even if the speaker had the most exact knowledge of the subject.

Obviously he thinks that the audience of a public speech consists of ordinary people who are not able to follow an exact proof based on the principles of a science.

Further, such an audience can easily be distracted by factors that do not pertain to the subject at all; sometimes they are receptive to flattery or just try to increase their own advantage. And this situation becomes even worse if the constitution, the laws, and the rhetorical habits in a city are bad. Finally, most of the topics that are usually discussed in public speeches do not allow of exact knowledge, but leave room for doubt; especially in such cases it is important that the speaker seems to be a credible person and that the audience is in a sympathetic mood.

For all those reasons, affecting the decisions of juries and assemblies is a matter of persuasiveness, not of knowledge. It is true that some people manage to be persuasive either at random or by habit, but it is rhetoric that gives us a method to discover all means of persuasion on any topic whatsoever.

Aristotle joins Plato in criticizing contemporary manuals of rhetoric. But how does he manage to distinguish his own project from the criticized manuals? The general idea seems to be this: Previous theorists of rhetoric gave most of their attention to methods outside the subject; they taught how to slander, how to arouse emotions in the audience, or how to distract the attention of the hearers from the subject.

This style of rhetoric promotes a situation in which juries and assemblies no longer form rational judgments about the given issues, but surrender to the litigants. Since people are most strongly convinced when they suppose that something has been proven Rhet.

In Aristotle's view an orator will be even more successful when he just picks up the convincing aspects of a given issue, thereby using commonly-held opinions as premises. Since people have a natural disposition for the true Rhet. Of course, Aristotle's rhetoric covers non-argumentative tools of persuasion as well.

It is understandable that several interpreters found an insoluble tension between the argumentative means of pertinent rhetoric and non-argumentative tools that aim at what is outside the subject. It does not seem, however, that Aristotle himself saw a major conflict between these diverse tools of persuasion—presumably for the following reasons: i He leaves no doubt that the subject that is treated in a speech has the highest priority e.

Thus, it is not surprising that there are even passages that regard the non-argumentative tools as a sort of accidental contribution to the process of persuasion, which essentially proceeds in the manner of dialectic cp. His point seems to be that the argumentative method becomes less effective, the worse the condition of the audience is.

This again is to say that it is due to the badness of the audience when his rhetoric includes aspects that are not in line with the idea of argumentative and pertinent rhetoric. The prologue of a speech, for example, was traditionally used for appeals to the listener, but it can also be used to set out the issue of the speech, thus contributing to its clearness. Similarly, the epilogue has traditionally been used to arouse emotions like pity or anger; but as soon as the epilogue recalls the conclusions reached, it will make the speech more understandable.

The systematical core of Aristotle's Rhetoric is the doctrine that there are three technical means of persuasion. Further, methodical persuasion must rest on a complete analysis of what it means to be persuasive.

A speech consists of three things: the speaker, the subject that is treated in the speech, and the listener to whom the speech is addressed Rhet. It seems that this is why only three technical means of persuasion are possible: Technical means of persuasion are either a in the character of the speaker, or b in the emotional state of the hearer, or c in the argument logos itself.

If the speaker appears to be credible, the audience will form the second-order judgment that propositions put forward by the credible speaker are true or acceptable. This is especially important in cases where there is no exact knowledge but room for doubt. But how does the speaker manage to appear a credible person? Again, if he displayed i without ii and iii , the audience could doubt whether the aims of the speaker are good. Finally, if he displayed i and ii without iii , the audience could still doubt whether the speaker gives the best suggestion, though he knows what it is.

But if he displays all of them, Aristotle concludes, it cannot rationally be doubted that his suggestions are credible. It must be stressed that the speaker must accomplish these effects by what he says; it is not necessary that he is actually virtuous: on the contrary, a preexisting good character cannot be part of the technical means of persuasion.

Thus, the orator has to arouse emotions exactly because emotions have the power to modify our judgments: to a judge who is in a friendly mood, the person about whom he is going to judge seems not to do wrong or only in a small way; but to the judge who is in an angry mood, the same person will seem to do the opposite cp.

Many interpreters writing on the rhetorical emotions were misled by the role of the emotions in Aristotle's ethics: they suggested that the orator has to arouse the emotions in order i to motivate the audience or ii to make them better persons since Aristotle requires that virtuous persons do the right things together with the right emotions.

Thesis i is false for the simple reason that the aim of rhetorical persuasion is a certain judgment krisis , not an action or practical decision prohairesis. How is it possible for the orator to bring the audience to a certain emotion?

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Access options available:. Edited by Thomas O. New York: Oxford University Press, ; pp. I begin with a disclaimer; I am the author of entries on "Feminist Rhetoric" and "Modern Rhetoric" that appear in this work. When I pointed this out, the book review editor rejoined that anyone who might write a review would be in a similar position. Indeed, this is a work created by an array of scholars housed in different departments and in different countries. The distinctive character of this encyclopedia emerges from the synoptic outline of contents , which reveals that it is based on conceptual categories.


recent publications as the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition edited by Theresa Douglas Walton "Ad Hominem Argument" Encyclopedia of Rhetoric.


James A. Berlin

The Encyclopedia of Rhetoric is a comprehensive survey of one of the Western world's oldest disciplines. Its entries, written by leading scholars, bring together expertise in classical studies, philosophy, literature, literary theory, cultural studies, speech, and communications in a comprehensive treatment of the art of persuasion. The Encyclopedia is the most wide-ranging reference work of its kind, combining theory, history, and practice, with a special emphasis on public speaking, performance, and communication. Access to the complete content on Oxford Reference requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

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