A 1. Discuss how views of this relationship have changed over time, or compare the issue across the Greek/Roman, Indian, and Chinese traditions we’ve discussed.
The study of rhetoric has affected notions of ethics and virtue in almost all rhetorical traditions. In ancient Greece, Rome, India, China as well as current Western society, the issues of ethics and virtue have been debated. Moral principles have been debated in different rhetorical contexts such as the political, social, and philosophical contexts. The study of Rhetoric is perceived differently in each culture, and its influence on virtue an ethics is continuously changing.
I feel Current Western culture has developed a sense of ethics and virtue based on political and social influences. The political realm of Western society has developed around the dichotomy of republican and democratic viewpoints, liberal vs. conservative. In terms of rhetoric, these political parties splurge on rhetorical strategies to persuade Western society to believe in their ethics and that their morals are virtuous. For example, political candidates and representatives study rhetoric and use it to persuade the public on what is ethnical; that is, about concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, and what is just or unjust.
In reference to this notion is the highly debated Proposition 8 Act (or the California Marriage Protection Act) which states, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The study of rhetoric as a form of persuasion is apparent in the political protest of the debate of gay marriage. Republicans use persuasive rhetorical strategies such as referring to the Bible as the source that demoralizes the sanction of same-sex-marriages. Using religious references to oppose gay marriage serves as a persuasive tool in that many Americans religiously accept the teachings of the Bible. On the contrary, democratic political figures reference the Constitution and use celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Rosie O’Donnell, and Christina Aguilera, to target a specific crowd to “get out and voted against prop 8”. Rhetoric taught for persuasive agendas dates back to the ancient Western philosophers.
The roots of current Western rhetoric is highly influenced by ancient Western philosphers. For Aristotle in Ars Rhetorica, rhetoric is “defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion”. Aristotle focuses on the practicality of rhetoric. He implies that in the courts a persuasive orator will admit to their actions but never to an injustice. If the orator submits to an injustice then there is no purpose for the courts. This idea brings forth ethical viewpoints discussed by Quintillian. In Quintillian’s Institute of Oratory he remarks, “Oratory is the art of speaking well, and the orator knows how to speak well. But it is said he does not know whether what he says is true”. This notion does not substantiate that the orator should persuade for selfish gain; rather a virtuous oratory is “attainable only by a good man” that strives to obtain truth in his practice of oratory.
In Gorgias by Plato, Gorigas adds to the argument that rhetoricians should use their power of persuasion “fairly” stating, “the same argument holds good of rhetoric; for the rhetorician can speak against all men and upon any subject,–in short, he can persuade the multitude… but he should not therefore seek to defraud the physician. he ought to use rhetoric fairly”. Using rhetoric as a form of persuasion may enable a rhetorician to beat out his opponent in a debate, argument, or a political dispute, but if the outcome of the debate is not “moral” has he really won?
In Cicero’s De Oratore he contends to this argument by stating, “my deliberate opinion is, that the controlling influence and wisdom of the consummate orator is the main security, not merely for this own personal reputation, but for the safety of countless individuals, and the welfare of the country at large” (Cicero 14). Each rhetorician carries his own beliefs on ethics and virtue, and argues his point of view to fruition; however, they all caution against using rhetoric for evil purposes.
Western philosophers stress the importance of teaching rhetoric as a means of persuasion and to use rhetoric to derive to a concept of ethics. The same rhetorical practices can be compared to the ancient Chinese form of rhetoric. Xing Lu, “In Rhetoric in Ancient China Fifth to Third Century B.C.E” claims, “Like Greek thinkers…ancient Chinese thinkers conceptualized the Chinese experience with language and discourse in moral, rational, dialectical, and psychological terms” (Lu 5). Although the Chinese culture does not sanction rhetoric as it’s own discipline, their views on teaching rhetoric embody similar rhetorical practices. Lu infers this by stating, “With increasing concern for human affairs, military expediencies, and the moral conduct of the rulers, persuasion between officials and kings, as well as between rulers and the masses, became a significant rhetorical activity (7). During idealist rule, Chinese culture indulged in rhetorical activity that examined issues on the “Mandate of Heaven”, politics, and social arenas, and used persuasive rhetorical strategies to explain their ethical standpoint on these issue (Lu 7).
The Indian rhetorical tradition brings forth a different view of the relationship of teaching rhetoric and ethics. In Keith Lloyd’s “Rethinking Rhetoric from an Indian Perspective: Implication in the Nyaya Sutra”, Indian rhetoric is portrayed as a “fruitful” argument that results in a consensus between the individuals conversing. The Nyaya’s rhetorical philosophy is to seek order from chaos, and although the ultimate goal of the debate is victory, this victory is a consensus between what is implied to be virtuous. The Nyaya assumes that the virtuous perception is attainable for all humans, and through a series of inference and analogy, one can reach the “right” consensus. The concept of the rhetorical strategy is not to persuade that one side is right while the other may still feel he is right, but to come to a mutual truth; therefore, both arguers derive to the same ethical conclusion.
Western and Eastern cultures share similarities and differences pertaining to the teaching of rhetoric and its influence on ethics and values. Although the creditability of Eastern rhetoric tradition has been questioned by the West’s inclination that they are the superior approach to rhetoric, both cultures share similarities to the persuasive techniques used to teach rhetoric in relationship to ethics and virtue. Indian rhetorical strategies pose a refreshingly different outlook on the art of conversation by valuing a consensual agreement about ethics rather then attacking their opponent. The different viewpoints are all valuable components to teaching rhetoric.
B1.Is it possible to really understand the rhetorical tradition of another culture? Explain why or why not? Draw on course texts as needed for examples and arguments.
In order to attempt to understand the rhetorical traditions of another culture, we must first dispel the idea that Western rhetoric is superior to all other cultural rhetorical traditions. Western rhetoric has been perceived as the ideal form of rhetoric primarily because it has been studied persistently, implied as the originator of rhetoric, and regarded as its own discipline. Ancient Western philosophers pride themselves on the study of rhetoric going as far as inferring that its study is superior to all other disciplines. In Cicero’s “De Oratore”, Cicero is confident that the power an orator possesses is incomparable to any other discipline. He equates the knowledge an orator posses’ to the knowledge of the most successful man. He implies that all other subjects can be mastered, but very few are as skilled as an orator because they must have a vast knowledge of all disciplines.
The history of rhetoric is misleading implying that its origin began in ancient Greece; however the rhetorical traditions true origin is yet to be defined. Every culture has its own form of rhetoric. Xing Lu in “Rhetoric in Ancient China” states, “The meaning and interpretation of a people’s rhetoric are always derived from and influenced by its social, political, and philosophical context” (Lu 5). If we take the time to study the social, political, and philosophical influences of other cultures, we will not only begin to understand their rhetorical traditions, but we will also gain insightful alternatives to Western rhetorical strategies.
Attempting to understand another culture’s rhetorical strategies involves understanding the political, social, and philosophical backdrop of that culture. Xing Lu provides a definition of Western rhetoric stating, “It is most commonly perceived, however as the art of persuasion, the artistic use of oral and written expressions, for the purpose of changing thought and action at social, political, and individual levels” (Lu 2). For example, in current Western society the art of persuasion is used explicitly in social settings, the media, and the political arena. The media’s infatuation with consumerism influences the heavily persuasive advertisement genre in the United States. Product advertisements use artistic expressions for the purpose of persuading their audience to buy the product. The technical boom exploits new facets of rhetoric including, visual rhetoric, social networking, and globalization. Highly publicized political campaigns, driven by propaganda, and debates that involve political figures attacking their opponents, influence the way rhetoric is used in Western politics.
In order for an outsider to grasp the concepts of Western rhetoric, he would need to study all the components that make up the framework of Western society. This would include becoming apart of the culture. I feel that knowledge, beliefs, and values are socially constructed through social interaction and thus are constantly changing. To understand a cultures perspective on rhetoric one must become immersed in that culture, and participate to the fullest extent possible in order to begin to see and understand the different rhetorical strategies used. This would include interacting with the cultures government system, being apart of their educational system, and being socially involved.
For an outsider trying to understand the Western rhetorical tradition, it would also be helpful to dismiss any cultural bias including the rhetoric of a specific culture different then the Western culture. I don’t inquire that the individual dismiss their culture entirely, but for the sake of learning a new rhetorical tradition, they would need to be open minded to learning the new culture. According to Robert Scott referenced in Xing Lu’s article, “the people of any given cultural setting will tend to have an embedded sense of rhetoric which pertains to that particular context” (3). Author Helen Fox in her book, Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing, tells the story of one of her students who had trouble trying to coincide with the ideals of Western rhetoric. Surya, a student from Nepal, became frustrated with his professors he states, “You know, Helen, the comment I get so often from professors is that I need to be improved. And I don’t really agree with that…What does improvement imply…I don’t need to improve myself…I’m a professional I can write, nicely” (69). Surya’s frustrations manifest in his inexperience with Western culture. Surya goes on to explain that his culture differs in writing style compared to western culture. He states, “In our [Nepali] writing style, no matter what kind of writing it is, we would not write in such a way that you would see the whole point in one paragraph, or one page” (69). Surya’s Eastern rhetorical traditions interfere with his learning of Western rhetoric. For the sake of trying to adapt and learn another cultures rhetoric, one would need to understand that each cultures rhetorical tradition is different.
Through out history Western society has taken a close mined approach to trying to understand the rhetorical traditions of other cultures. Since Western society has assumed their rhetoric is superior to other cultures, attempting to learn another cultures rhetoric has appeared impossible. In “Rethinking Rhetoric from an Indian Perspective: Implications in the Nyaya Sutra”, Keith Lloyd indicates that the West excluded Indian texts because they dealt with the “promotion of quasi-religious, soteriological texts whose theme is the introspective methodology underlying what is called “the science of soul” (Sutra 367). The West was ignorant to these notions of religion; therefore, they could not understand the rhetorical traditions of the East. Rather then taking the time to learn the culture, and being open-minded to understanding a different religion other then their own, the West just dismissed Eastern rhetoric entirely.
Not only can we learn the rhetorical traditions of another culture, but we can also benefit from them. The Indian rhetorical tradition seeks an affirmation in ethics and virtue through a consensus rather then persuasion, and although this differs from the accepted rhetorical strategies of the West, it exemplifies an alternative method to debate that the West may need to adopt. During current futile political debates and a collapsing economy, Western politicians should try to reach a consensus to the moral implications that political corruption causes society. This could enable change to occur in America, rather then irrelevant debates centered on persuading one to believe that only one idea is right. The key to understanding another cultures rhetoric is to dismiss bias, and become apart of the culture. Having an open-mind will allow one to learn a new rhetorical culture.