Creating a “New” Rhetoric

I completely agree with what Joel has written about the sense of caring and sharing in the Nyaya rhetorical perspective.  It appears that within that system of dialogue and debate, the goal is to come to a common understanding of a situation and not merely about defeating an opponent.  While some of the readings for class have focused on how to win the debate/argument and provide better points than your opponent, Nyaya is a system that looks out for the community.  Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Quintillian and the like, urge for debates among rhetoricians but the Nyaya perspective appears to push for more discussion instead of debate.  While it has 16 categories to how arguments take place, the Nyaya perspective notes that the first 10 detail how arguments should take occur while the final 6 detail how arguments should not occur.  Those final 6 categories are more focused on dealing with your argument opponent instead of on the issue at hand in the discussion.  This emphasis on the to 10 section of the list shows an attention to the topic and the effect the solution will have instead of placing attention on the rhetorician and their skill.

The question that caught my eye toward the end of the article was, “How would rhetoric differ if rhetors sought to define their arguments beyond their desires and fears, to find sharable ideas, common perspectives?” (Lloyd 381).  If rhetoricians were to define their arguments in this fashion the fields of debate and oratory might be more popular than they currently are.  As we discussed in class, the majority of us instantly think of politicians or salesmen when we think of the power of rhetoric.  We also seemed to agree that those rhetoricians appeared to not be in the highest favor of the class.  We think this way about these orators because of the way they use rhetoric.  They constantly try to elevate their own situation even when they claim to be working for the common good.  Allowing “debates” to become “discussions”, as it appears they are in the Nyaya perspective, would possibly change the public’s view of not only the field of rhetoric but also their view on the people who practice rhetoric.  It would not create a “new” rhetoric but change the current views of it.  I think that rhetoric itself would not change much but the way it is used to manipulate and deceive people definitely would.  The Nyaya usage of rhetoric would bring people together instead of alienating them.

-Jeff Greene

1 comment for “Creating a “New” Rhetoric

  1. Alex Janney
    March 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with you that there’s this negative connotation around those who practice rhetoric. How many people equate lawyer with liar, cringe when they think of dealing with a salesperson, and put the words “dirty” and “politician” right next to each other like they’re peanut butter and jelly? It’s a good point that you make, and it would be nice if rhetoric could change from debate to discussion, but I have a feeling this is an idea that not everyone would warm up to.

    I think a lot of those who practice rhetoric are often people in positions with some sort of power. While on the surface it may not seem like salespeople have a lot of power, I think that many times they position themselves in such a way to give this impression. They can lower the price of that car you want, throw in a “free” gift box with the necklace you’re hoping to buy, and work out a “manageable” payment plan if you’re interested. This level of power rhetoricians have makes an uneven playing field for discussion. How many politicians would be willing to sit down and discuss the health care reform? What defense would rationally discuss the innocence of a client with the prosecution? In our culture, the power plays that go on make it nearly impossible for rhetoric in the Nyaya style to occur. Rhetoric reinforces the power a person has. It’s this ability to manipulate and deceive that you refer to which seems to help establish this power. I don’t think the people who have power would be willing to sacrifice their status for the sake of discussion. If their ability to debate, manipulate, and deceive is taken away, what will they be left with?

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