Week 3 – Reflect on rhetoric

Workbook Activity 1: Summarise some of the key points of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. 

Ames (2018, p. 1) was not exaggerating when she advised that reading the entirety of Aristotle’s Rhetoric (350 B.C.E., n.p.) was not going to be a quick and easy task.

After my first day of reading, my brain felt like mush. I found Book I (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.) very long winded and tiresome to slog through. However, Books II and III (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.) were easier to read and actually quite interesting.

Aristotle (350 B.C.E., n.p.) defines rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion”.

This persuasion can be achieved through one of three methods: ethos, which relies on on the character of the orator; pathos, which appeals to the audience’s emotions; and logos, which relies on the proof or evidence provided by the orator’s argument/s (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.).

People are persuaded by speeches which discuss matters that interest or affect them, which is why it is important for orators to do their research before giving a speech (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E, n.p.)

Furthermore, if an audience believes a speaker has “certain qualities… namely, goodness, or goodwill…”, this will assist in convincing an audience of said speaker’s argument (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.).

Aristotle (350 B.C.E., n.p.) clarifies that this kind of persuasion “should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak”.

However, Aristotle states that it is not enough for orators to know some, or all, of the information about a subject they are speaking on (350 B.C.E., n.p.). An orator must also speak with conviction and emotion (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.).

This is where pathos comes into play. Aristotle (350 B.C.E., n.p.) discusses a range of emotions that can be appealed to through this method, including anger, friendship, hatred, fear, shame, kindness, pity and envy.

He also outlines several different methods that an orator can utilise as part of an emotionally persuasive speech. One method is the style of the speaker’s expression, that is the use of “volume of sound, modulation of pitch, and rhythm” to express various emotions (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.).

Another method is the use of literary devices such as describing a thing instead of naming it; using metaphors and similes; and describing a thing by “mentioning attributes it does not possess” (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E., n.p.).

Of the three methods of persuasion, Aristotle (350 B.C.E, n.p.) considers logos the most effective. However, he acknowledges that some audience members may not be as educated as others, hence the need for the other two persuasive methods (McKay, 2008).

These are just a very small selection of the excellent points that Aristotle (350 B.C.E.) makes about rhetorical speech in Rhetoric. Whilst it is long and tedious in some parts, I believe that reading it is extremely beneficial for anyone who is interested in, or studies, communication theory.

References

Ames, K. (2018). COMM12033 Speech & Script – Week 3: Workbook. Rockhampton: CQUniversity.

Aristotle. (350 B.C.E.) Rhetoric. Rhys Roberts, W. (Trans). Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/rhetoric.mb.txt

McKay, B. & K. (2010, December 21). Classical rhetoric 101: the three means of persuasion [Web log post]. Retrieved March 14, 2018 from https://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/08/01/the-35-greatest-speeches-in-history/

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