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The Analysis Of The Work "Rhetoric" By Aristotle

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Aristotle “Rhetoric”

Aristotle, in his treatise “Rhetoric,” gives his positive opinion over the subject of rhetoric, explaining the reasoning of why should be taught and spread. Starting with chapter one, Aristotle gives individual examples as to why rhetoric is important and should be used. Firstly, he argues that “…things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites” (180).

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In other words, between two rhetorical arguments, the rhetorical argument that is true will always prevail. Aristotle claims next that since “…there are people whom one cannot instruct,” it is necessary to know how to “deal with the way to handle a popular audience” (180). Essentially, many audiences do not take lecturing of information very well, forcing those presenting information to use rhetoric to better appeal to the audience. Aristotle also states that “we must be able to employ persuasion … on opposite sides of a question, not in order that we may in practice employ it in both ways, but in order that we may see clearly what the facts are, and that if another man argues unfairly, we on our part may be able to confute him,” meaning that rhetoric must be learned both honestly and not in order to identify when someone is using rhetoric in a dishonest way, allowing for the truth to prevail (180).

Finally, Aristotle makes the point that “…it is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with is limbs, but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs” (180). Basically, Aristotle argues that it is not logical to put more importance into physical fights than verbal fights or debates, given that intelligent, verbal arguments separate humans from animals.

In chapter two, Aristotle separates rhetoric into three main categories (181). He mentions that “of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds” (181). He describes the three kinds of persuasion; “the first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof or apparent proof provided by the words of the speech itself” (181). The first kind is ethos, which is about the character of the one utilizing rhetoric. The second kind is pathos, which is utilizing human emotion to convince everyone over a point. The third kind is logos, which is using outside proof or sources to the advantage of the one using rhetoric. The purpose of Aristotle is to change the perception and usage of rhetoric from being bad and only used for personal benefit to being used in a good way to the benefit of society. The audience that Aristotle was reaching would be the people in general. As a teacher, his purpose was to inform and spread his ideas.

Reference:

  1. Reading the World: Ideas that Matter, edited by Michael Austin, 3rd ed., Norton, 2015. Pp. 177-182

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