Home > Uncategorized > Rhetoric: a two-part understanding. Blog Post #1

Rhetoric: a two-part understanding. Blog Post #1

After reading the texts for this blog post, I developed somewhat of a definition of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the use of language to both discover our thoughts and beliefs and to then communicate those thoughts or beliefs to others.

Unlike Plato in Antidosis, I do not think that our thoughts and judgments are absolute, universal truths. However, I do think that we discover and determine them for ourselves through the shared inquiry of rhetoric. Antidosis provides a good example of this concept when referencing the O.J. Simpson trial. Simpson was either guilty or not guilty at the beginning of his trial. Language and rhetoric were the means by which the lawyers and jury arrived at the shared belief of not guilty. Although not everyone may agree with that belief, they arrived at that conclusion via the shared discovery and inquiry of rhetoric. People blame the art of rhetoric when attacking lawyers or politicians. Yet, people should realize that beliefs are arrived at through the shared inquiry of rhetoric and should not be so easily manipulated by rhetoric. “The solution, however, is not to disparage rhetoric, but to get better at it. The quality of our nation’s rhetoric cannot be divorced from the quality of our citizens” (Rivers, 4).

As W. Booth states, rhetoric “creates meaning” (Vitanza, 1). Therefore, people should realize that rhetoric is not manipulation of others by persuading them of absolute truths, but it is persuasive communication of truths that were discovered through shared inquiry. All people have the opportunity to use rhetoric and should not be manipulated by others’ truths. “…They may stand on ground less firm…but we are quite capable of living well with shared beliefs and values that are the result of shared inquiry and assent” (Rivers, 6).

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  1. September 6, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    Your understanding of rhetoric is easier for me to grasp. Just out of curiosity, what do you think the importance in the art of rhetoric is for the Casey Anthony verdict (vs. O.J. Simpson’s)? It seems like everyone in the nation “knew” Casey was guilty, however, for the lawyers, they had to go off of verifiable facts (the little that they had).

  2. September 6, 2011 at 3:17 AM

    I think you did a great job of explaining how rhetoric really is determined through shared inquiry and how it is not just a way to persuade people of some ‘truth.’ It truly does need to be discovered through the use of facts and context, especially when put into the context of our social values. I think the Casey Anthony trial again reminds us that facts cannot speak for themselves. The evidence that she was guilty had so many unanswered questions. The jurors could not be convinced of the story that the prosecution told because they did not acknowledge all the facts. The defense team acknowledged all the truths about Casey – that she was a liar, a party-er, and maybe not the best mom but she did love her daughter and there was not enough concrete evidence to convince the jury of how and why she would kill her. I think the Casey Anthony trial provides a fascinating way to look at rhetoric and how that term is used by the media.

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