Introducing Philosophy 21 Rhetoric

By Mildred Roberts,2014-06-29 07:40
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Introducing Philosophy 21 Rhetoric

Introducing Philosophy 21: Rhetoric;修辞学;

    In this essay we look at rhetoric, introducing the subject and some of

    its traditional divisions before providing a guide to common rhetorical figures;人物;and their uses. As we progress, we will see why rhetoric is of crucial importance in understanding philosophy and indeed any area of inquiry;探究;.

What is Rhetoric?

    There have been many different definitions of rhetoric over its long history, which stretches back to;回溯到;the Ancient Greeks and

    Romans in particular. However, it is generally understood as the study of writing and speaking effectively; that is, to appreciate how

    language is at work when we write or speak it and employ any lessons learned in making our own writing and speaking better.

    What we mean by "better" is itself up for debate, of course, and it is here that the negative conception of rhetoric comes into play that

    of rhetoric as the art of persuasion, where convincing others is seen

    as the hand-waving and sophistry;诡辩;that is used in place of

    reasoned argument.

This distinction;区别;between content and form what is said and

how we say it was emphasised by Aristotle as logosand ;理性;

    lexis;词语;, or what is communicated and how respectively. Ultimately, though, this distinction proved untenable;站不住脚的;,

    based on a view of language as little more than the means by which we share our thoughts and failing to take into account the inseparability;不可分离性;of ideas and the language used to

    express them. Indeed, how we say things is precisely the way in

    which we ensure that our desired meaning has been transmitted to others, so there can be no passing on of ideas without also taking into account lexis.

The Divisions of Rhetoric

    Rhetoric has been studied for very many years as a result of its crucial importance, and a number of divisions have been made. The first was a tripartite;分成三部分的;distinction between the appeals

    that are possible when speaking or writing, namely:

    ; Logos;理性;, or the appeal to reason;

    ; P










    , o
























    ; Ethos;气质;, or the appeal to character.

    Notice that here we can immediately see why the complaint that an argument is "mere rhetoric" is misguided: an argument can contain more or less reasoning and a lot or little emotive language, but both

    are rhetoric intended to convince. For ethos, Aristotle considered an

    appeal to character to be any attempt on the part of the speaker or writer to establish his or her knowledge of the subject under discussion and their benevolence;仁爱;towards the audience, both

    providing credibility for what would follow.

This brings us to the next division, also three-way, of rhetoric in the

    larger sense. We distinguish between:

    ; Kairos;时机;, or the occasions for speech;

    ; Audience, or who will hear or read it; and

    ; Decorum;礼仪;, or fitting words and subject together. Kairos includes considerations like the contexts;环境;for a speech

    or piece of writing, while audience looks at where a discourse;演

    讲;may take place. Traditionally oratory;演讲术;was split;分

    离;again into three: judicial;司法的;(or forensic), deliberative

    ;立法的;(or legislative) and epideictic;指示的;(or ceremonial).

    Different requirements like these would and do occasion different

    rhetorical approaches. Decorum, lastly, deals with making

    appropriate use of rhetoric, depending on both kairos and audience.

There were also five canons of rhetoric:

    ; Invention, or coming up with something to say in the first


    ; Arrangement, or the order of a discourse;

    ; Style, or how it is said;

    ; Memory, or how the orator recalls information; and

    ; Delivery, or the way in which the discourse in performed. Some of these are straightforward but others are quite subtle. Arrangement, for example, involved the study of how to put together a speech of piece of writing. Should we start with the conclusion or only give it at the close? Do we provide counterarguments separately or include them in the main body of our own argument? Do we need to set the scene, as it were, or should the discussion be formal and move straight to the meat of it? And so on. Likewise memory

    included not just the powers of recollection of the speaker (after all, do we use notes or try to remember all the content, which often looks much more impressive?), but also estimates of how much the audience would be able to keep in mind. Is it necessary to point listeners to remarks made earlier, for instance, or can we assume they would recall them unaided? When in the discourse should

    reminders be placed? And so on again. Lastly, the delivery of a

    speech has a great deal to do with its reception, as anyone familiar with comedians will know. Does a situation call for a serious approach, or would some jokes be welcome? Will a dead-pan voice work or should stress and emphasis be placed on words, phrases and particular ideas? If so, which and when?

    All these things have their role to play in speaking and writing, hence the importance of the study and rhetoric. For our purposes, rhetoric is involved in philosophical arguments and discussion just as it is inevitable in all other areas, as we said. With that in mind, we can now analyse specific rhetorical devices that have occurred often enough that their use and effect is well understood.

A Guide to Rhetorical Devices

    In no particular order, the following guide gives copious instances of rhetorical devices at work and attempts to explain both how they work and why we should be interested. By the end we should have increased our ability to spot them in the speech or writing or others and hence determine how well they have be employed, as well as learning how to use them ourselves.


    We tend to think of expletives as synonymous with swear words but the latter are just one example of this rhetorical device. An expletive is a word or short phrase that we use to lend emphasis to words on either side of it. Compare these two sentences, for example:

    ; What we find is that the new tax law is fundamentally unjust.

    ; What we find, then, is that the new tax law is fundamentally


    Both impart the same information but notice that the expletive in the second (the word "then") signals to the reader that a summation of prior discussion is coming, or that a conclusion is to be given. The contrast is even more apparent if we speak them aloud: in the second, again, the expletive provides the emphasis and actually forces us to slow down as we say the words, providing a cue for any listener to note that the important point has been reached.

    Sometimes an expletive can occur at the start of a sentence:

    ; In brief, you should be more careful.

    On other occasions, although less often, it can be placed at the end:

    ; The result was to be expected, of course.

    In both the expletive adds a power to the statements that would otherwise be lacking (to test this, try repeating them aloud as before). The apparently superfluous "of course" in the second makes the statement emphatic and suggests to the listener or reader that it was so straightforward as to hardly be worth investigating, while the first

lets us know that a précis is to follow.

    Expletives are typically used in printed dialogue so often that we barely notice:

    ; "What I meant", he said, "was that you should do something

    about it."

    If we experiment with the placement of the expletive we can see how easy it is to ruin the effect, or even make the line difficult to read at all:

    ; "What I meant was that", he said, "you should do something

    about it."

    ; "What I", he said, "meant was that you should do something

    about it."

    ; "What I meant was that you should", he said, "do something

    about it."

    And so on. Once we understand how expletives work and how to use them, we can begin to spot them everywhere in your humble

    narrator's musings, for example. We should expect to find them whenever a writer is trying to lead us through a chain of reasoning, say, but perhaps be more wary when we observe them in a political


Similes, Analogies and Metaphors

One of the most familiar devices in rhetoric, a simile involves

    comparing two things that share a resemblance in at least one way

    usually in vividly descriptive terms:

    ; Their passing cut through the defence like a rapier.

    ; Her smile was like sunshine, warming me to the core.

    ; He was as silent as a church mouse.

    ; As the rock stands fast, so was his will resolved. There are so many examples of similes that it would be impossible to list them all here, but they often involve words such as "like", "as" or "does", and their negations. The danger is using them is that sometimes the comparison may not be close enough or accurate at all:

    ; We need academic consensus like the very air we breathe.

    ; As the crusaders were shackled and bound, so are the

    guardians of the freedom of speech today.

    Emotive similes can have a considerable effect but overdoing them

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