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Rhetoric

Description

The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) and the Roman Cicero provided what has become the standard description of rhetoric. In addition to the series of steps to be followed, they defined types of discourse according to the kind of public each type was meant to address.

Audience and types of discourse.

The invention of Western rhetoric in Hellenic Sicily in the fifth century B.C.E. can be attributed to judicial, or forensic, discourse, which was developed to level accusations or mount defenses in the name of justice. In Greece, rhetoricians very quickly came to identify two other types of discourse as functions of the different audiences to which they were addressed. The deliberative, which is supposed to inform, exhort, advise, or dissuade, coincides with the democratic political discourse and was initially addressed to the Senate to urge it to support the useful against the harmful. The epidictic, also called the demonstrative, whose purpose is to praise or blame, to commemorate or denounce, is addressed to a group of spectators to elicit their admiration or reprobation, often to hold something up as an example or as a value to them. These original distinctions are open to revision in the early twenty-first century, when more and more complex types of discourse seem to exist, ranging from the sciences to advertising, television to the Internet, drama to poetry, including treatises, theses, films, cartoons, and so on, and when these types of discourse seem to be more precisely defined and to have better-delimited audiences. Although the distinction between judicial and deliberative discourse still seems valid, we might have to concede, as some have suggested, that epidictic praise or blame has been reincarnated as advertising. In this new type of discourse, the audience is the consumer, the easily influenced viewer who is the potential customer for the items being extolled.

The parts of rhetoric.

Since Aristotle's time, rhetoric has been divided into parts comprising the steps involved in producing a discourse and delivering it in person to the intended public. Each of these parts has in turn been subdivided, resulting in an extremely structured system wherein each phase in the production of a persuasive discourse is systematically and exhaustively represented. Rhetorical treatises are encyclopedias of discursive expertise on how to think, how to write, and how to deliver.

Latin writers, including Cicero in De oratore, definitively established the steps involved in elaborating an oral discourse. The first is inventio (invention), which consists of seeking and selecting the arguments and other resources necessary to one's cause as a function of the discourse chosen. These may include syllogisms, on which dialectical argument is based, or prototypical examples. Logos, pathos, and ethos are subdivisions of inventio and determine the type of argument selected, including the type of evidence, whether extrinsic or intrinsic.

Dispositio (arrangement or composition) defines the order and organization of these arguments. The discourse may have between two and seven parts, but usually has five: the introduction or exordium, the narration (exposition of facts), the confirmation (exposition of evidence), the refutation (denunciation of the opposing argument), and the conclusion or peroration.

Elocutio (elocution) has to do with style: the choice of words and figures and of their formal syntactical combination. These choices are adapted to fit the subject following the rules of decorum. Three styles have been identified. They are known in Latin as grave (noble), tenue (simple), and medium (agreeable); the choice of style is governed by the nature of the subject to be treated, the goal to be achieved, and the target audience. These styles determine the choice of vocabulary (unusual, common, or familiar), the complexity of syntax, and the use of relatively obscure versus transparent figures. A further distinction is made between figures that have to do with the words themselves and those that have to do with ideas. Individual words taken in a sense other than their usual one are called tropes (metaphor and metonymy, for example). Scheme refers to the order in which the words are arranged. Rhetorical figures are often seen as the essence of elocutio; indeed, rhetoric as a whole is sometimes reduced to them. Such figures have regularly been seen as markers of a text's literariness.

Memoria (memory) designates the stage of memorizing a discourse and involves a complex mnemonics that places the parts of a discourse in an imaginary physical space such as, for example, a house or a human body. Finally, actio (delivery) is the art of public performance, the theatrical effects governing voice, accent, body language, mimicry, and so on. It names the moment when the orator comes into contact with the public, makes an entrance and becomes an actor. Memoria and actio apply only to oral discourse, whereas inventio, dispositio, and elocutio apply to both the written and the oral.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRhetoric - Universality, The Art Of Persuasion, Description, History, General Assessment, Bibliography