It’s a dirty word isn’t it, snake oil coming from a car salesman’s mouth or the speech of a slick politician trying to poor the wool over a herd of sheeple.
But what is rhetoric really?
( Taken from wiki ) Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.
So yes, rhetoric can, especially devoid of ethics allow us to manipulate people, though, let’s face it, that’s going happen without Rhetoric isn’t it? Anyone who has a child, can understand that manipulation is almost intrinsic within ourselves.
But what else does it do? It allows us to analyze arguments, to understand the emotional manipulation and logical fallacies that most people use on a daily basis.
(Bonus points if you can name off any logical fallacies)
Rhetoric allows us to better understand the assumptions we make when we believe or argue anything as well as others. It makes us more informed citizens.
And it is something that many people never learn.
An example from one of my classes:
What is one assumption in saying, we shouldn’t ban guns because the Fourth Amendment says we have a right to bare arms?
I get some of the basic answers and wait….
What does it say about our Constitution?
Again silence until someone finally says, “well that the constitution trumps everything else.”
We then start a discussion on what the Founding Father’s believe, on who they said could vote, on the way the laws have changed over the year and secretly I giggle as some of the students eyes light up and they start to question, are the archaic words of a few men may not be the end all be all.
And that’s why we need Rhetoric.
This is why.