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Rhetoric is the art of creating effective expression and the persuasive language use. In the 4th century, Aristotle, one of the greatest rhetorician, defined rhetoric as means of discovering all possible ways of persuading others into a topic. In his definition, Aristotle wrote that rhetoric has clear persuasive and epistemic functions, serving as a means of discovering one’s knowledge about a certain topic. Every time people make use of language, both, in written or oral speech, they get engaged in a rhetoric act. Whenever people make use of languages, they have an intention to communicate a message or an objective to achieve. In other words, any form of communication results into rhetoric and every time we communicate, we behave rhetorically (Garver, 1995, p. 96). In fact, according to the most modern and recent definition of rhetoric it is a deliberate use of language to persuade or influence an audience. It is also the ability of a person to persuade other people in his or her ideas. Rhetoric is one of the oldest disciplines in the globe, with its earliest antecedent having roots in the sophist tradition, in the classical Greece.
Rhetoric of Display
This involves the questions of expressive or political agency, which carries weighty consequences: that is who and how we remember publicly, who can express affiliation or identity without fear of physical safety, what people see when walking around and what it tells people of who to be in the future. The extensive use of visual communication in private and public life has a significant impact on how people understand rhetoric (Prelli, 2006). Display attempts to evoke commonplace associations on how thins appear or look, demonstrations or exhibitions and ostentatious or showiness. Rhetoric also brings out similar commonplace associations, but it deals more with appearances than reality to manifest exhibitions and demonstrations of commitments, about the feelings rather than the reasonable and sound judgment. It also entails the use of exaggerated style or self-display instead of a moderate presentation of the issues for impartial consideration. However, these common place correspondences conceal the displays that would operate rhetorically, and thus become rather persuasive to the audience. Displays appear rhetorical in images, sketches, maps, paintings and statistical graphs. People also experience displays in places like exhibitions and museums, cemeteries, parks, theme parks and neighborhood stores and corners. We can still experience displays through political grievances, scientific findings or even preferred identities. Rhetoric of displays has become a contemporary form of communication and culture, it has become the dominant rhetoric of the modern day.
History of Rhetoric
According to many scholars and movements that have continually defined and contributed to the advancement of the study, rhetoric originates from Greece. This section analyzes the radical movements that have influenced modern day rhetoric.
Sophism was a philosophical and religious movement that began in the 5th century as a group of speakers, teachers and philosophers, paid to use rhetoric. They were intelligent people who made a living of teaching others about what they knew. Sophists lived a luxurious life and enjoyed both political prestige and power, to the envy of the modern day rhetoric professors. The sophists believed that any situation has two opposing arguments, and it is possible to argue from either side. They encouraged their students to try taking the weaker side of the argument. They taught everything concerning sciences, arts and especially the rhetoric of politics and law. This movement made an indelible impact on the philosophy and modern day study of rhetoric.
The development of style, prose and forensic of rhetoric in ancient Greece was Gorgias. Gorgias was a sophist who lived between 376BC and 480BC, but unlike the others, he taught rhetoric instead of the virtue. Gorgias believed that the words generate their own meanings, since there is no other bond that connects them apart from themselves. Words become open to every meaning, which would eventually make them meaningful. It is through this premise that Gorgias concludes that words are a vehicle for persuasion, suggestions and belief. He feels that rhetoric is a specific art of producing words, hence is equally defined as the art of persuasion. Gorgias also believed the truth did not exist and everything was false. Such point of view evoked a skeptical denial of that existed, but he did not discuss this in the physical world, rather contemplating this in the concepts of mind. He explains that there are things in one’s mind, but they have no reality and thus do not exist. He believed that the ideals gain existence only through the extrapolation of the mind and depend on the referential perceptions of the audience or the reader. He stated that for a person to understand something there should be experience. Therefore, it means that a person cannot understand what another person is saying and thus, no conceptual ideas exist.
In the 4th century, Aristotle defines rhetoric as a means of discovering all possible ways of persuading others in a topic. In his definition, Aristotle wrote that rhetoric has a clear persuasive function and it has an epistemic function, which serves as a means of discovering known information on a certain topic. Every time people make use of language, both in written or oral speech production, they get engaged in a rhetoric act. Whenever people use languages, they have an intention to communicate a message or they may beware of the other objective to achieve. In other words, any form of communication results into rhetoric, and every time we communicate we behave rhetorically (Garver, 1995). In fact, the most modern and recent definition of rhetoric is that it is a deliberate use of language to persuade or influence an audience. It is also the ability to persuade another person on his or her ideas.
According to this idea, successful persuasion depends on three crucial elements: the first one is a power of the speaker to evince personal character, which makes his speech plausible. A person’s character can persuade the audience if the speech he delivers makes the audience believes that he is credible. Persuasion emanates from what the speaker says and not from what the audience thinks of the speaker. Second is the ability to stir emotions of the audience. People’s judgment when they are friendly and pleased is different from those times when they are hostile and pained. Thirdly, there is the power to argue and verify the truth or the perceptible truth through persuasive arguments. When the speech is characterized by the apparent truth and one can identify it through the argument, the persuasion is successful. People always want to hear proof behind the character’s speech before making a decision to follow them. When the audience cannot get any proof from the speech, persuasion fails.
Aristotle defines a rhetoric person as the one who can easily identify what is persuasive in every particular situation. However, it does not necessarily mean that someone can see how persuasive the speech is in each case. Rhetoric ability comes to existence when a person gets attention to his personality right from the beginning. Aristotle argues that though dialect and rhetoric have many similarities, there are some distinct discrepancies in them. The most compelling difference between them is that while rhetoric makes use of continuous exposition, dialects continue through questions and answers based on the logical arguments. The second discrepancy is that rhetoric deals with practical questions, while dialect deals with general questions.
Aristotle divides the rhetorical proofs into three divisions: logical (logos), emotions (pathos) and speaker (ethos). He also developed the concept of topics (topoi) (Clarke, n. d.). According to Aristotle, Logos refers to the thought expressed in speech. It is a system of reasoning. Pathos refers to the persuasion of the audience through emotions. There are different forms of persuasion: nontechnical or inartful, which is used by the witness in case of available and technical or artful type which the author must invent to persuade the audience. He defines ethos as the credibility that the author or the speaker establishes. He says that the basis of the rhetoric relies upon the author’s character and attitude towards the audience. The character of the author is what adds value to the words and, therefore, provides proof and support for his arguments. Aristotle uses the term topoi to describe the setting or place of an argument. It is a strategy, employed by the rhetorician when attempting to create an argument (Biesecker and Lucaites, 2010). When a rhetorical situation comes up, the rhetorician invents all possible means to persuade the audience, including selecting universal and common topoi that relate to the situation.
Aristotle noticed that successful persuasion depends on three crucial elements. The first one is the power of the speaker to evince personal character, which makes his speech plausible. A person’s character can persuade the audiences if the speech he delivers makes the audience believe he is credible. Persuasion comes from what the speaker says and not from what the audience thinks of the speaker. Second is the ability to stir emotions of the audience. People’s judgment when they are friendly and pleased is different from when they are hostile or pained. Thirdly, there is the power to argue and verify the truth or the perceptible truth through persuasive arguments. When the speech contains apparent truth and one can identify it through the argument, the persuasion is successful. People always want to find the proof in every character’s speech before they can make a decision to follow them. When the audience cannot get any proof from the speech, the persuasions fail.
Marcus Tulluis Cicero
Marcus Tulluis Cicero was a Rome Rhetorician who developed and elaborated some central ideas, widely read and reputed during the classical period of rhetoric. Among his chief contributions were invention, style, arrangement, memory and delivery. Invention refers to the finding of arguments and relevant ideas to sustain a point of view. Style refers to the use of color, language and image to persuade the audience (Mack, 2011). Style enables the rhetoricians to deliver their emotions and thoughts in conveying the concepts and the universe surrounding them. Arrangement refers to the organization and selection of parts of discourse to reach a desired end through capturing the attention of the audience, providing the necessary background information and stating and proving the text’s central idea or thesis. Memory refers to the ability to recall and retell the stuff that happened in the past. Initially, people used architectural mnemonic technique and associated parts of speech to an area of a house. In the modern day rhetoric, the use of electronic media modifies the memory. Cicero defined delivery as the efficiency of a speech’s presentation.
The New Rhetoric
After the classical era, the twentieth century was perhaps one of the most intriguing eras to study rhetoric. This has resulted from the advent of the New Rhetoric which entails the rediscovery of the importance of rhetoric epistemology and the centrality of argument and persuasion to daily lives of people. In the modern world, rhetoric is used in the technical and business writing. For instance, the styles and structures of writing memos, letters and other kinds of official communications follow the principles of rhetoric. Moreover, politicians use rhetoric every day while, attempting to lure voters to vote for them. Courts also use the rhetorical principles in convincing the jury on the innocence or guiltiness of a defendant.
The new rhetoric also has new bounds, which encompasses sociology and philosophy. It is no longer just about writing a good essay or giving a good speech, but about understanding how to communicate to the audience and to have an impact on their lives and conscience. Rhetoric is particularly crucial in the modern day society, since it assists in the advancement of a cause of justice in the society (Jamieson, 1990). For instance, martin Luther king used rhetoric to persuade people to unite during the civil rights movements. Use of scientific or logic persuasion is rather hard for most people; thus, rhetoric becomes extremely useful. The art of rhetoric is particularly crucial in enabling a person to argue out both sides of an issue. A speaker should be able to protect himself from verbal attack. An the same time he can protect himself from physical attack. Though rhetoric plays some similar roles for the modern and the ancient Aristotle times, there are some differences in their roles. During Aristotle times, rhetoric was a main discipline widely taught in Greece.
People make use of three of various genres of rhetoric when addressing different audiences. First is the forensic rhetoric, the aim of which is to persuade the audience on the justification of an action that takes place in the past (Clarke, n. d., p. 3). The second rhetoric is deliberative rhetoric, which aims at making the audience believe that an action in the future will be advantageous to them. Lastly, is the epideictic rhetoric, which aims at making the audience see the person as noble. Politicians make use of these types of different rhetoric in their everyday lives. In some situations, politicians make decisions, which come to haunt them in the future. At this time, they have to convince their electorates that the action taken was just and was for their benefit.
Rhetoric in an Electronic Document
The modern world is known for numerous inventions in electronics, making the twenty first century an electronic era. This invention plays a crucial role in shaping the lives and communication of people across the globe. With the invention of computers and other electronics, it is crucial to analyses the impact of the inventions on the future of rhetoric, its composition and the composition of its classes and literacy itself (Urbanski, 2010). The greatest impact will be on the five parts of classical canon as brought forward by Cicero. These canons are invention, style, arrangement, memory and delivery.
Creation of the documents on World Wide Web provides the author with a wide range of freedom. In the traditional printing texts, references from both primary and secondary sources come from reference to bibliographies, endnotes, footnotes or work cited pages. However, it is through the electronic media that one can have an instant access to the materials used in referencing during the invention process. This is possible via using hypertext links. Hypertext links lead to the materials direct use to support either the author’s point of view or claims (Mack, 2011). The audience can validate one’s claim and evidence instantly. Search engines also facilitate the location of supporting information through tracking down the relevant and useful evidence in presentations. Moreover, most websites give permission to use digitized images, useful in reinforcing the message. This is clear that the electronic age will be extremely beneficial in revolutionizing rhetoric.
Electronic media will also have an impact on the arrangement of a rhetoric document. In the traditional print text, it is extremely easy to detect the order of the document, which mostly includes the beginning or the introduction, the body with the main ideas and the conclusion. However, with the electronic media, there is no absolute division between the introduction, the body and conclusion. The ability to determine the suitable arrangement of a document in an electronic depends on the creativity of the author. An author’s creativity can have an influential emotional appeal to the audience, making it easy for them to validate the evidence on the claim.
Style in the electronic media will also have an impact on the future rhetoric as compared to the traditional rhetoric. Gorgias recognized the power of language in persuading the audience by changing the order and meaning (Jamieson, 1990). In the traditional text print, authors are a bit limited to small images or diagrams and mostly it is white and black print. On few occasions, the author can change the font, but the options are not many. Gorgias insights still hold in the electronic age, despite the expansion of application as compared to the traditional rhetoric. Writing documents for World Wide Web creates a new world and new means of expressions. Colors and images on the sites enable authors to lure their readers into checking their sites where they use persuasive language to advocate for the claims. Appropriate use of color and images is the key to successful persuasion.
Memory is the other canon of rhetoric, which relates to the ability to recall issues and events. In the early assemblies and law courts, people gave speech presentations without using any written notes. The Romans and the Greeks developed complex memory systems that enabled them to deliver the speech in the same way as the written speech. In the electronic media, memory refers to the ability of the readers to remember where they were while surfing the Internet.
Delivery is the last canon of rhetoric and it entails one’s ability to deliver a speech. The ability to powerfully broadcast a speech was one of the greatest arts during the early rhetoric period (Urbanski, 2010). In the electronic age, delivery involves a few complications. This is because most authors are not sure about who will be listening to their own speech, as well as they are not sure whether the audience will get the message as it was intended. Browsers read documents created by the authors and interprets the HTML codes to enable people to view it on the screen. Since each one supports hugely diverse features, effective delivery of the message relies on the written documents and the browsers reading such documents.
The Challenge for Electronic Era Rhetoricians
The key challenge that rhetoricians face in the electronic era are the devising methods of collecting, commenting on and coding digital texts and ensuring that the interaction between the reader and the author remains active. Whereas the website allows the interaction between the author and many other participants, these websites present a fundamental change in the communicative model, which connects the authors and the readers, the speakers and their audience. As the line between the speaker or the author and the audience becomes increasingly unclear, the rising volume of online discussions present researchers with a view of visual and textual artifacts that reveal how persuasion and argumentation operate in an online environment.