The discipline of rhetoric as a whole has long been linked to ancient Greece (Worthington, 2008). Aristotle is credited with coining the term and defining it as “an available tool of persuading.” One of the important elements in the Western educational system’s preparation of writers to captivate audiences is rhetoric, which has been codified into the five canons of classical Roman culture and philosophy (Worthington, 2008). From the start of the 20th century, different disciplines understood the rhetoric to be a means of persuasion and have forever been passed down our ancient roots and have even been used in the matters of concern and the ethics of others in society. One of the questions raised about the rhetoric as a discipline is whether ethical concerns are now entering the rhetoric conversation.
Using a theoretical focus, this paper will be examining how rhetoric relates to the notion of ethics and how it has been transformed for the past 60 years from the original disciplines practiced by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The paper will be arguing that rhetoric is not only about persuasion and will focus mainly on the Aristotelian and Platonic tradition that is dominant in the area of rhetoric as a composition from the early 20th-century epoch. The two legends suggest that the theory of the invitational rhetoric usually challenges the strict definition of the rhetoric to be just of persuasion but also the support of mutuality and camaraderie. It values this more than the reinforcing of dominant power in relationships. It is also seen as a way of accommodating the silenced voices and offers a possibility of ethical encounters when meeting others. The essay will be discussing the possible conclusion about the nature of ethics in the rhetorical sense.
The rhetoric discipline has been for a very long time been touched by the ancient Greek theories. The first rhetoric was defined by a famous philosopher in Aristotle as a means of persuasion and has for a long time been codified in the classical Roman culture (Allen, 2007). It is also regarded as one of the most common features of the Western writers and authors training to have a strong effect in moving their audiences. This will be the subject of the study and the paper as it will be addressing the other features of rhetoric not limiting it to just a tool for persuasion. We will analyze how it involves itself with the ethical concerns of how people relate to one another and how it has been transformed for the last 60 years from the Aristotelian, Platonic, and Socratic form of rhetoric. The multiple new perspectives of the rhetoric will be critiqued depending on the class readings and class arguments that were discussed in class. So basically the main goal of this paper will be to present on the notion of my rhetoric interpretation and how it has transformed from its origins and how it relates to ethics in the modern era (Mirhady, 2007). It is a good concept to identify and also have knowledge of as it has a significant input into the way we understand ethics and other fields of the rhetoric that might have an impact into the way we understand human relationships in the society.
The interpretation of rhetoric is based on a theoretical focus and starts with a review of conceptions made by Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates about its relation to ethics (Allen, 2007). Their main argument is that rhetoric is mainly focused on the persuasion of an individual. It is the primary description of what rhetoric is all about and what its job is when it comes to ethics. The transformation of the rhetoric has gone from the confrontational rhetoric to the invitational rhetoric, which is used by writers and in the ethical stage. The original rhetoric was thought of as a way of persuading, converting, changing, and conquering of others view points. It changed to invitational rhetoric to be used by the feminist scholars who wanted it to create relationships that were rooted in the aspect of equality. It meant that the concept of rhetoric is defined in its ability to persuade individuals and its influence on ethics. The overall turn from the confrontational to the invitational rhetoric shows a shift in the traditional studies about rhetoric. There is also a need t evaluate what constitutes a rhetoric, and also the role that is given to self during rhetorical encounters (Raphael, 1974). It is an increasing concern in need to understand what rhetoric is in the face of ethics and how relationships are formed on this basis.
In my opinion, the traditional studies of rhetoric were very necessary and did not fully understand the power of rhetoric in the age of ethics and social interrelationships. The theory of rhetoric has been seen to have an increasing concern on those that don’t have a voice in society. The feminist scholars attributed the rhetoric to have the power to ensure that those that are disadvantaged in the ethical sense can have a voice and are invited to the notion of ethics (Rapp, 2002). The question is whether there is any responsibility to others in the moral form of the persuasiveness of the rhetoric. Understanding this helps identify the basic instinct of rhetoric and how it has been used all these years by different groups. I propose that on this note the disciplinary focus should be based on the traditions of the confrontational rhetoric rather than the invitational rhetoric, which threatens to leave outside the ancient traditions of the Greek philosophers and what they believed the rhetoric to be in the definition. We also need to question how rhetoric is connected to ethics. Rhetoric has been for a long time defined as a techne, meaning that it is a defense to the various available method of persuasion for an effective public speaking, while ethics may be referred to as a theological or philosophical problem (Mirhady, 2007). The familiarity of rhetoric denies the most fundamental human nature from interacting with each other. In an example, we have to look at people as unique from animals in the critical process. The reason is people can interpret the interpretation of other people. It stems down to the linguistic choices which are a form of ethical decisions motivated by the consequential world. Choices, however, are not completely free and people just have to act based on the choices they are given. Not only to people only work, but they are also affected by the actions of others. Ethics and rhetoric are tied in that everything that we do as humans are related to what others are doing and affects how we listen, what we do, and how we interpret thoughts about the actions of others.
Rhetoric cannot be viewed as an activity or even an area of study for those that are powerful and privileged in the hope of gaining influence on their audiences. Rhetorical Ethics is responsible for the everyday situation, which seems to have a significant impact on others. For example, teachers that are placed in any discipline have to recognize the different ethical implications of the common rhetorical choices and decisions of daily classroom application. For the people experiencing daily life, the effects of rhetoric demands we live with the encounters of having to make a choice to influence others and to be influenced. This is what the rhetoric is all about and relies on the notion of human beings being entirely dependent on the idea that they have a choice to make their decisions in an ethical form. Students usually find themselves studying ethics so that they can be able to pursue happiness while also improving their lives.
Rhetoric traditions are always being changed and transformed. It depends mostly with whom one asks and the time that you ask them. I hence don’t have to keep memorizing the five canons in relation to the classical rhetoric, since I only need to understand what the rules mean and how they affect the role of writers today. I also have to understand how ethics is related to rhetoric and how they are applied in the everyday life of individuals and how it affects their ability to make choices and decisions.
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In Rhetorica 25: 87-108.
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Rapp, C. (2002). Aristoteles, Rhetorik. Translation, Introduction, and Commentary, 2 Vol.
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Raphael, S. (1974). “Rhetoric, Dialectic and Syllogistic Argument: Aristotle’s Position in
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Worthington, I. (ed.). (2008). A Companion to Greek Rhetoric. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.