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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

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Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

22 May 2007

Tuesday's Word: rhetoric

Rhetoric (from Greek ῥήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of spoken and written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities. In this sense, there is a divide between classical rhetoric (with the aforementioned definition) and contemporary practices of rhetoric.
Historically, Classical Rhetoric has its inception in a school of Pre-Socratic philosophers known as Sophists. It is later taught as one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar) in Western culture. In ancient and medieval times, grammar concerned itself with correct, accurate, pleasing, and effective language use through the study and criticism of literary models, dialectic concerned itself with the testing and invention of new knowledge through a process of question and answer, and rhetoric concerned itself with persuasion in public and political settings such as assemblies and courts of law. As such, rhetoric is said to flourish in open and democratic societies with rights of free speech, free assembly, and political enfranchisement for some portion of the population.
Contemporary Studies of Rhetoric have a more diverse range of practices and meanings than was the case in ancient times. The concept of rhetoric has thus shifted widely during its 2500-year history. Rhetoricians have recently argued that the classical understanding of rhetoric is limited because persuasion depends on communication, which in turn depends on meaning. Thus the scope of rhetoric is understood to include much more than simply public--legal and political--discourse. This emphasis on meaning and how it is constructed and conveyed draws on a large body of critical and social theory (see literary theory and Critical Theory), philosophy (see Post-structuralism and Hermeneutics), and problems in social science methodology (see Reflexivity). So while rhetoric has traditionally been thought of being involved in such arenas as politics, law, public relations, lobbying, marketing and advertising, the study of rhetoric has recently entered into diverse fields such as science, religion, journalism, history, literature and even cartography and architecture. Every aspect of human life and thought that depends on the articulation and communication of meaning can be said to involve elements of the rhetorical.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Melissa said...

Politics can find an ugly definition for any word.

10:24  
Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

One of my acquaintances earned an undergrad degree in rhetoric. He then went to law school but dropped out just shy of the degree. One feels badly for him; he is a hard core Repub who masquerades as a Libertarian.

21:30  

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