Week 1 Read On

All of the readings this week had me agreeing with them.  I found myself on the side of Socrates and Isocrates without having much knowledge about their opponents.  I looked at some of the techniques that allowed me to agree with them during their writings.  What they did was simple enough, yet through their arguments arose a conclusion in me that seemed infallible.  I wondered what they did to make me agree with them so effortlessly.

The first reaction I had to the readings was that I felt I was constantly being shown simple facts.  “When you’re hungry, you want to eat, right?”  Yes.  “And would you say that being hungry is being in pain?”   Yes.  “And being in pain, when compared to not being in pain, could be seen as an evil?”  Yes… and so on.  So I found myself constantly agreeing with Socrates or with Isocrates.  This comes up later when Socrates speaks about having the audience on your side.  One of the things I learned in selling cars (at which I was terrible) was to get the customer saying “yes,” which theoretically would induce them to continue saying yes.

“It’s a beautiful car, right?”


“It’s the color you want?”


“I think it’s the right year and style you’re looking for?”


“If I can make you a good deal, is this the car you’d like to drive home?”


“Would you like to give me all your money?”

I was never really that good at this tactic, but I could see during these readings how beneficial it can be to get your audience, opponent, or person you’re trying to convince, to agree with you on certain areas.  Those areas seem to have no need to necessarily be related to the actual topic of discussion, however.

There is a movie I love that deals with this idea of argument and persuasion called Thank You For Smoking. There is a scene where the protagonist, Nick, is discussing the art of arguing to his son, Joey.  He prefaces the argument to Joey by saying, “Let’s say you like chocolate ice cream, and I like vanilla.”

Joey:  “Okay, chocolate is the best ice cream in the world.”

Nick: “You think chocolate is the best ice cream?”

Joey:  “I wouldn’t order any other.”

Nick: “Oh, so it’s all chocolate for you, is it?”

Joey: “Yes, chocolate is all I need.”

Nick: “Well I need more than chocolate.  And for that matter I need more than vanilla.  I believe that we need freedom and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that… that is the definition of liberty.”

Joey: “But that’s not what we’re talking about.”

Nick: “Ahh, but that’s what I’m talking about.”

Joey: “But you didn’t prove that vanilla’s the best.”

Nick:  I didn’t have to.  I proved that youre wrong, and if you’re wrong, I’m right.

Joey:  “But you still didn’t convince me.”

Nick:  “I’m not after you.  I’m after them.”

He points to the crowd.

1 comment for “Week 1 Read On

  1. Alex Janney
    February 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I like how you reference the basic questions as a rhetorical strategy used in the readings for this week. It’s an interesting strategy to me because in a sales situation, it really puts the salesperson in power, even though the buyer is the one who has the final say, who can decide whether they’re persuaded or not. At the same time I think it builds a sort of connection, however subtle, between the person trying to persuade and the audience. It shows that the rhetorician is listening to his audience, paying attention to the particular needs, and acting on those accordingly. In a way, I think it ties in with the guilt aspect we discussed last week in class. If a salesperson goes out of his/her way to find an item that meets a buyer’s specifications, some buyers may feel a certain level of guilt saying they’re not interested. After all, how could they not be when the salesperson just went to all of that trouble to find just what they were looking for?

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