rhetoric and how is has been altered ever since Aristotle's days. The major emphasis is laid on comparing the two forms of rhetoric and seeing how it has changed over time. There is discussion on the use of rhetoric in daily life, politics and the media.
Rhetoric is basically the art of speaking or language that has long been helping writers and speakers. The main purpose behind the use of rhetoric is to motivate or persuade people. Many a times people confuse informing and persuasion. Rhetoric has been used for informing people and just mere informative talk; however the main reason behind using it is to persuade persons. The skill of rhetoric has been used a lot in the Western culture and has played a central role in it. Sadly enough, rhetoric hasn't remained what Aristotle initially proposed it to be. In simple words, it could be that the over use of rhetoric has gone to give it a bad name. It isn't looked as a skill anymore by most of the people. Rather, it is seen as a cover for deception or hiding what is righteously true. The reason behind these perceptions is because of the media, economy and politics today.
Today we see the use of rhetoric so much that we have gone to question its credibility? Credibility. This is one of the major tools in rhetoric. Surely, in the time of Aristotle, rhetoric would have been something used for the general good of the people. Things aren't quite similar to what rhetoric used to be in Aristotle's time.
It has evolved in a good way because now humans are learning how to communicate with each other in a more skillful way. In other words, speech is not just direct and without any art. Use of rhetoric and skillful speech as per say is surely visible
Aristotle characterized rhetoric as the skill of the most readily available tool of persuasion. In his perception, rhetoric was something that was quite crucial in a decent social and political life. "It appears," Aristotle says, that although "rhetoric is an offshoot of the study of dialectic; it also involves a practical understanding of ethics in connection with politics." (Translated by Roberts, Barnes, 1356a 25-30) Thus, it should be seen that when Aristotle talked about the use of rhetoric's, he meant that rhetoric should be used ethically and morally as well.
Aristotle's rhetoric's meant that when a person uses retroact, he should be able to understand what he is doing and he should be clever enough to do it as well. (Rorty) Apart from being clever and intellectual, the person himself should be able to calculate and understand it. The reasoning the use of rhetoric that he presents should be in a proper direction. Aristotle stated that the virtue of the argument has to be for the right thing and the right time. This greatly contrasts with what rhetoric is being used for now a days. In other words, a good amount of persuasions can be also used and is widely being used for something that is bad or morally in correct. Wrong or misleading things are being put in a positive light just due to the use of rhetoric. Aristotle backed up and supported the use of rhetoric so a person would fight for and persuade people for what was right.
Aristotle believed that a person who is to become a public figure should be able to evaluate an argument and be able to stand up for what his right. He should find the right words and the right argument and thus make his statements and his ideas public. Aristotle stated that a man who has wisdom he should have all the habits as well that make him eligible to use rhetoric as a tool for persuasion. In other words, Aristotle thought that if a politician would want to stand up for something, he should have the right understanding of that issue first. After having an understanding of the issue, he should be able to know which the right way for the argument is. In other words, his persuasion and debate should be virtuous, correct and generally beneficial for the entire population. (Rorty)
The book that Aristotle wrote about Rhetoric explains different means of using rhetoric and the tools that a person can use. Rhetoric itself has a lot of definitions and it can be used in different circumstance as well. The three major rhetorical devices as mentioned by Aristotle are ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos is when someone relies on the use of credibility or mention of a source that is known to be credible. Aristotle believed that when a person made use of Ethos, he told the people and thus made them believe that that person was worthy of trust. Aristotle stated that the general population would believe a good man more than they believe a bad man. In other words, if a person is known to have good character, thus his speech and his words would be more persuading as compared to any one else's. (Aristotle, 3-13) Secondly, Pathos is when someone relies on the use of emotions and psychology of the audience. Lastly, logos is the use of reasoning and logic. Another part of Aristotle three book series introduces the different elements of style in rhetoric. He talks about word choice, tone, sentence structure, and use of metaphors. (Vickers, 19)
All in all, a major difference between Aristotle's rhetoric and the rhetoric used now is that back then it was a skill that not many people posses. It was either seen in religious leaders or persons in politics with the ability to tell a man right from wrong. It other words, rhetoric's was a tool used to inform people and to persuade them about something that they didn't know of. If the persons in an area were going on towards a wrong direction, Aristotle talked about the use of rhetoric in order to steer him in the right direction. For example, it is not the function of medicine simply to make a man quite healthy, but to put him as far as may be on the road to health; it is possible to give excellent treatment even to those who can never enjoy sound health (Aristotle, 1355 b) The analogy that art stole gave of a doctor to someone who uses rhetoric shows that it was made initially to guide people towards what is right. Thus a major difference between rhetoric back in Aristotle's days and rhetoric now is the connotation that it has.
Use of rhetoric in Politics
When Aristotle talked about a leader, the characteristics that came to mind were virtue noble base and vice. Praise," he observed, "is the expression in words of the eminence of a person's good qualities, and therefore we must display one's actions as a product of such qualities" (Aristotle, 9.28-30). This quote of Aristotle can be used to describe the plethora of good traits and attributes that a politician claims that he has. Which means that someone who is good person and is of good character will actually go on do something good as well? It is the actions of the doing the act part is what our politicians usually forget. (Reynolds, 2) "To praise a person is in one respect akin to urging a course of action" (Aristotle, I. 9.36). Here is where the entire problem starts. This becomes an issue because many a time's a president or a politician will say something that is not acceptable by the entire community. For the president, that action is the right way to go, but for some persons into the community it is wrong. Thus, this praise and blame technique or Epideictic has been used by many presidents in their speeches. For instance, a study done by Casey revealed that speeches president Ronald Reagan used to give were quite closely related and accepted the norms of the society back then. For instance, the military eulogies that Reagan gave were to "legitimate political authority" and "to subvert the public's capacity for effective dissent against war" (John)
Not many would remember Reagan's speeches or his use of politics. However, the current president of the United States, President Obama does use rhetoric quite a lot in his speeches. This could be said because his speeches are quite impressive and quite persuasive as well. As mentioned earlier, use of rhetoric is an art and it should be used very smartly. Obama resorts to use to of resorts to Rawlsian ideas (Gedick 891) and as well religious ideas. The 2004 speech that the present delivered to the Democratic Nation Convention, he mentioned religion and God quite a lot. Some of the things that President Obama said were
"Worship an awesome God," (Obama)
"God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that these are better days ahead," (Obama)