Rhetoric

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Art of persuasion

Rhetoric is often said to be the art of persuasion and is normally divided into distinct parts (5 parts). It is probably the oldest science of influence and persuasion and was developed in ancient Greece to handle the many occasions of public debate.

Discovering arguments

In rhetoric 'Invention' is the activity of elaborating arguments to defend your cause (whatever it is). Invention itself is composed of many techniques. Topics provide standard arguments and methods to find arguments. Different types of argumentation can be used, with things such as deduction and induction, syllogism and sophism (logic appearance but flawed syllogism). Invention also takes the different types of audiences and speeches into account. According to rhetoric, influence and persuasion are conveyed by three means: pathos (the audience's emotions), ethos (the speaker's charisma) and logos (logical appearance).

Presenting your cause

Arrangement is the part in rhetoric which deals with 'style' and appearance. A classical arrangement which can be used is (in order): exordia, narration, confirmation and peroration. The other very important aspect (and rhetoric is all too often reduced to this only) is style. Style is concerned with the 'language' figures which are used to put the text into form. Many attempts have been made to try to organise figures of style into categories. This has never really succeeded, however the following categories are useful.

  • Analogy (comparison, metaphor, allegory, personification, symbol)
  • Opposition (antithesis, oxymora, chiasm)
  • Substitution (metonymy, litotes, periphrasis, antiphrasis, euphemism)
  • Suppression (ellipse, prétérition)
  • Amplification (hyperbole, gradation, anaphor)

Before and during

Rhetoric provides useful techniques for both preparation of the persuasive messages and adapting the message in real time during the influence work. This particularly useful for sales for example or politics which make very big and not always subtle use of well known rhetoric techniques. In fact after obtaining only superficial knowledge of rhetoric watching any political debate will be a good exercise for noticing and learning these techniques. A good understanding of this field helps develop critic thinking regarding politic speeches and commercial/marketing processes and techniques.