Aristotle’s Rhetoric

Go from one Greek philosopher to the next, throw in a few Roman thinkers and it becomes clear through this class’ readings that the power of rhetoric is not lost on today’s society. Comparing the education of today with that of these great minds shows a large lack of emphasis on rhetoric but that doesn’t mean that the skills of oratory are not present today. Just based on the few conversations we have had in class so far, everyone appears to be aware that there is a certain amount of rhetoric out there in the world that is bombarding our daily lives.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric discusses the three appeals of persuasion furnished by the spoken word as the ethos, pathos, and logos. These three modes of persuasion are practiced everywhere from courtrooms to advertisements. The more one looks at the world around them, the more apparent these modes become. From making a person feel that he or she absolutely NEEDS a particular beauty product in order to be happy in life to convincing the masses that the world of one man needs to be trusted based on his particular credentials, everyday is full of tricks and ploys in an attempt to persuade people in one direction or another. Often there is a conflict with two (and sometimes more) sides trying to pull and push you to their side.

One aspect that these philosophers don’t seem to discuss much is the audience. If listeners aren’t as aware of these tricks like many of us in the class are, it can become easy to be swept away in a surge of emotion or what feels like a logical argument. Aristotle and Cicero make statements about the power of rhetoric and how it will allow an orator to gain an upper over most. Their statements make it seem as though it is the right of the educated orator to play with the emotions and minds of people in order to get what is wanted. Many of these readings have discussed ethics and morality that comes with the knowledge of oratory but they all essentially state that the conscious of the orator is what will keep that power in check. I am glad to be living in a day and age where there are more than a few who hold the power of rhetoric and use it for good in order to keep the balance against those who are determined to use their knowledge and skill for personal gain.

-Jeff Greene

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