Introduction to Rhetoric
• Concerns regarding rhetoric:
o Sounds relatively negative.
o Began in Greek/Rome for people to solve dispute, help determine who serves in
o It then changed to a form of speech for people to perform for fun. This was when
Making arguments to better ways of living.
It is a means to avoid violence.
It is a way of democracy.
o Recently we disagree to people as a personality flaw i.e. “you are annoying,
o Rhetoric is to disagree to make better decisions.
o Ways that degrade rhetoric:
Silence is an assumption that someone passively agrees.
People hunt for comfort; not examining different points of views.
Definitions of Rhetoric
• Single definition perspective: (has four components) bryint 1953
1. Rhetoric is an instrumental study: used as a tool to understanding communication.
2. Rhetoric is a literacy study: it looks at the meanings of language.
3. Rhetoric is a philosophical study: method of inquiry; to better analyze the world.
4. Rhetoric is a social study: major force of behavior in society.
• Systems perspective: (three periods) 1. Classical Period: arguments based of Greece/Rome; lacks at style, delivery.
2. British Period: focused on nature of audience, perception from the outside.
3. Contemporary Period: looking at identification and community engagement.
• Evolutionary Perspective:
o Rhetoric develops from itself; building-blocks.
o Main point: rhetoric is always evolving.
Characteristics of Rhetoric
2. Involves audience: gets people to do something; gets audiences compliance (AKA
3. Has motives: intentions; rationale; hidden and stative motive
4. Responsive: addresses means from a group/person.
5. Persuades: comes to an agreement; influences.
6. Establishes truth: truth is not a fact, it is subjective (AKA personal opinion).
7. It addresses contingent issues: manages ambiguity (AKA uncertainty).
- Relying on emotional appeal
o Emotion - memory connection
- Using famous people
o They are identifiable so we remember “it” easier.
o We look up to them so we tend to copy what they do. - Being simple or complex
o Complex rhetoric reference similar things; targeting a specific group; it must be
complex with reason and targets a certain group.
o Simple rhetoric targets everyone. It makes a problem easy to solve; makes an
individual prone to thinking that it’s about them.
Aspects of Rhetoric
1. Creates a virtual experience: it creates an experience in oneself to make them feel a
2. Explains: we learn something from it.
3. Alters perception: it changes the way you think.
4. Initiate & maintain action:
• And in doing so…(outcomes):
1. Ideas are tested: arguing for a cause; supporting yourself
2. Advocacy (support) is assisted
3. Communities are built
4. Facts are discovered
5. Knowledge is shaped
6. Power is distributed
o Intention: knowing what you want to have across but during encoding, there is a
Any message could be decoded in many ways.
o Text type: rhetoric is not limited by text. If it is persuasive and made by human, it
has a rhetorical component.
• Rhetoric and Signs:
o Meaning is: Iconic: literally looks like the thing it represents. It can also represent
themself. Icons can have different levels of importance.
Symbolic: a sign we socially agree on but don’t look like anything it
means. All language is symbolic; we have tied sounds to meaning and
sometimes the definitions change.
Indexical: sign linked to its meaning by cause of association.
• Iconic: George Washington
• Symbolic: The eagle (it represents freedom)
- Truth VS. Ethics: ethics is more important. Finding the best argument is the way to go;
- Root of ethics (ethos): character measured from honesty, goodwill, intelligence.
- Types of ethics:
1. Teleological: interest in the outcome, not the means.
2. Kant’s categorical imperative: “don’t do it if you can’t make it a universal law.”
3. Deontological: all about the rules.
“If you believe what you say, it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.”
• Ethical responsibilities as a rhetor:
o Stop mindlessly thinking; be critical and push back. • Responsibilities when enacting rhetoric
o Value the audience