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Sept 6th

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Disciplining Rhetoric



  • All who have and do persuade people of things do so by molding a false argument. - Gorgias
  • Tragedy bloomed and was celebrated, a marvelous sound and spectacle for the men of that time and one which by means of myth and suffering produced “a deception,” as Gorgias says, “in which the deceiver is more justly esteemed than the nondeceiver and the deceived is wiser than the undeceived.” The deceiver is more justly esteemed because he succeeds in what he intends, and the deceived is wiser, for a man that is not imperceptive is easily affected by the pleasure of words. - PlutarchLives'
  • What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins. - NietzscheOn Truth and Lie in a Extramoral Sense



  • Wiki problems?
  • Syllabus questions? (grading, collaboration, "extra credit": in-class workouts, thunderdomes, "midterm" & "final" challenges)



  • Review of your first day responses in your writing diagnostics
  • Review of your "First Response responses"
  • Basic building blocks of arguments: enthymemes, stasis protocols, the artistic appeals



Responding to your Responses


Can We Talk?

  • Interesting/Contemporary Topics
  • Controversial Topics (Race, Religion, National & International Politics, Legislation & Law, Health Care)
  • School Issues
  • Detroit and/or Urban Issues
  • Philosophy and Ethics


What do you Want?

  • Expertise in more complex and sophisticated writing styles
  • Tips and tricks for persuasive writing and for writing longer papers
  • Preparation for writing in other (more advanced) classes
  • Vocabulary building
  • Freedom to write about what we want to write about...


The Methodology behind this class

  • The Toolbox: acquiring & mastering skills, tips, and tricks
  • One initial way of thinking about rhetoric is as a tool for getting what you want, a kind of Martial Arts of Rhetoric would be both defensive and offensive (cf. Aristotle's Rhetoric: "Accordingly all men make use, more or less, of both; for to a certain extent all men attempt to discuss statements and to maintain them, to defend themselves and to attack others.")


Aristotle argues that rhetoric does not belong to a single defined genus or subject but is like dialectic.  He goes to define rhetoric as: "an ability (skill/faculty), in each particular case, to observe (discover/invent?) the available means of persuasion.  This is the function of no other art, for each of the others is instructive and persuasuive about its own subject: for example, medicine about health and disease and geometry about the properties of magnitudes and arithmetic about numbers and similarly in the case of the other arts and sciences. But rhetoric seems to be able to observe the pesuasive about 'the given,' so to speak..."


Although Aristotle largely limits the province of rhetoric to public address, he takes a broader view of what that entails thatn do most modern writers on communication.  This often surprises and interests readers today.  He addresses issues of philosophy, government, history, ethics, and literature: and in book 2 of Treatise on Rhetoric or simply Rhetoric he includes a comprehensive account of human psychology.





Plato and Gorgias




Why These Readings?

  • Very difficult
  • Emphasize that controversies over rhetoric have a long history:  
    • Sasha:  According to Gorgias, if she was taken by force, then it would be normal to blame her captor, but even if she was taken by luring (sweet talk), it is still not her fault because speech is very powerful, and it is easy to deceive someone with false promises, and compliments. Therefore Helen cannot be blamed because she was either taken by force, or deceitful speech, which would be tempting to any human.
    • Socrates and Gorgias are having a long deep conversation explainging what exactly rhetoric is. We learned the art, the power, the nature, and the justice of what a rhetoric is. Power is one of the most important aspects discussed in this texts. Georgias explains to us that if you can speak you can pursuade anyone anything and this comes back to how powerful persuasion can be. He also goes on to tell Socrates on a walk that hes can pursaude anyone at anytime with very little facts even if its not true (Travis 1).
  • Both about and examples of rhetoric: 
    • Adam: In Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates questions Gorgias what rhetoric is exactly, with Gorgias responding by saying that it is a discourse. Socrates goes on to compare rhetoric with other the arts that involve discourse, while asking Gorgias what the difference is. Gorgias explains that the difference is that rhetoric is the art of persuasion. He goes on to state that rhetoric, if used correctly, has the power to persuade people about anything even if it is false. So, in the end, rhetoric can be one of the most powerful weapons a person has if used carefully and correctly. 
  • Emphasizes how rhetoric takes place: 
    • Sasha:  In Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates is asking Gorgias, why rhetoric is the most powerful art form.  Socrates compares rhetoric with music, medicine, gymnastics, weaving, and arithmetic, which are treatments to some sort of discourse. According to Gorgias, all other art have to do with some sort of external action, whereas rhetoric takes effect through discourse. He goes on to say rhetoric is used to persuade judges, senators, and citizens. A rhetoric has the power to persuade, which makes all other arts succumb under it.
  • Foregrounds disputes over appearance and reality (particularly the appearance and reality of knowledge or truth) - and its role in rhetorical interaction: 
    • Marielle: Socrates asks Gorgias what rhetoric is, which he later describes to the most basic definition to be the art of persuasion. Other subjects like math and science come into the picture and Gorgias basically tells Socrates that if you are teaching it, you are persuading it, even if the material isn’t true.
    • Amy:  With that in mind, according to Gorgias in the reading with Socrates, rhetoric is used to persuade judges, it doesn’t say that is always the truth. He says that rhetoricians shouldn’t misuse their power. But how can you tell if they are misusing it? Like Marielle Frattaroli said in her response, if teachers are persuaded by what their teachers taught them then it isn’t fact it is opinion. And opinion isn’t truth. So when rhetoric is being used does truth actually exist? And in these rhetorical arguments do you have to state a fact in order to persuade something? 


Responding to your Responses more generally:


Trending your Positions:

Position 1: Rhetoric as cover for lack of ideas or a way to deceive people


This is in many ways Plato's concern in the Gorgias. In contemporary times, this is the viewpoint behind the most popular, perforative use of the term "rhetoric" - as deceptive or manipulative communication that distorts reality for a partisan purpose. For instance, in addressing the current debate of nationalized healthcare, Ronald Baily uses the title "Rhetoric vs. Reality in the Healthcare Debate" to emphasize his article's major point: that conservative (mis)interpretations of the healthcare legislation under review willfully distorts its use of such terms as "rationing" and "end of life counseling" (the "rhetoric" of these protests ignore or distort the "reality" of the bill itself).



Although Baily's article is (more or less) an example of a someone writing from a liberal viewpoint arguing about the deceptive rhetoric of conservative discourses, we hear the same complaints often issued in the opposite direction. Perhaps most strikingly, in the last presidential campaign, then candidate Obama was often criticized for his persuasive skills. For instance, this Reuter's article - "Obama promises speech with purpose, no mere rhetoric" - catalogues allegations made during his campaign that clever phrasing and a charismatic personality distracted people from an ostensible lack of experience or skill. John McCain pushed this line during one of their debates as well, implying that Obama's "eloquence" was deceptive: "I admire so much Sen. Obama's eloquence,and you really have to pay attention to words. He said we can 'look at' offshore drilling. You got that? 'Look at.' We need to do it now."


Position 2: Rhetoric as a necessary tool for getting ideas across, but far less important than the ideas themselves



Plato provides this more "balanced" view of rhetoric in another dialogue, the Phaedrus. In the "farewell" press conference President Bush last January, he also seemed to endorse this view: "I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better, or, you know, mistakes I made. Clearly putting a 'Mission Accomplished' on a aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless, it conveyed a different message. Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."  


Position 3: Rhetoric as, at least in many cases, equally if not more important than content/ideas




This is the fairly radical view put forward by Gorgias in his Encomium. Gorgias both attempts to "do the impossible," to "defend the indefensible" through the power of rhetoric and, at the same time, emphasize that rhetoric is very powerful - like physical force, like a drug, etc.


  • Illustrates many of the tools we be talking about today (enthymemes, stasis questions, the rhetorical triangle).



The Rhetorical Toolbox: Basic Building Blocks for Arguments

The Enthymeme


Components of the Enthymeme: The claim, the stated reason, the unstated assumption (and, when necessary, grounds for these assumptions - this component is important to keep in mind as it is often the most vulnerable part of an enthymeme and the one most often attacked by opponents)



Famous Enthymemes


All humans are mortal, so Socrates is mortal.

  • Claim: Socrates is mortal
  • Stated reason: all humans are mortal
  • Unstated assumption: because Socrates is a human



The glove doesn't fit, so you must acquit

  • Claim: the defendant should be acquitted
  • Stated reason: because the glove does not fit
  • Unstated assumption: because the glove was used by the murderer and therefore must fit on the murderer's hand
  • Grounds: proof that the glove was used in the commission of the crime, proof that the glove does not fit, that the glove has not changed size and shape, that the hand of the defendant has not changed size or shape...


An Enthymeme From Our Readings


Helen should not be condemned "For either by will of Fate and decision of the gods and vote of Necessity did she do what she did, or by force reduced or by words seduced or by love possessed."

  • Claim: Helen should not be condemned
  • Stated reason: because she was compelled by will of Fate, decision of the gods, vote of necessity, force, seduction by words, or love"
  • Unstated assumption: People should not be culpable for actions that were beyond their control.
  • student responses: 


Build your own Enthymemes:


Women should be allowed to join combat units because the image of women in combat would help eliminate gender stereotypes.

  • Claim: women should be allowed to join combat units
  • Stated reason: because the image of women in combat would help eliminate gender stereotypes
  • Unstated assumption(?):
  • Grounds(?):


Women should not be allowed to join combat units...

  • Claim: women should not be allowed to join combat units
  • Stated reason:
  • Unstated assumption:
  • Grounds(?):


Cocaine and heroin should be legalized...

  • Claim: cocaine and heroin should be legalized
  • Stated reason:
  • Unstated assumption:
  • Grounds(?):

Breaking it Down Again: Types of Questions and Claims


The Stasis Procedures


Definitional/Categorial: Is X a Y?

Disagreement over the nature of a thing or its inclusion in a category (occurs when one disagrees over the definition of either X or Y)


Evaluative: Is X good or bad? Is X a good or bad Y?

Disagreement over values, importance, or worthiness

  • Were the federal "bank bailouts" a good idea?
  • Are wikis an appropriate tool for classroom use?
  • From the Gorgias: Is the teaching of rhetoric bad for society? Does it prevent justice or knowledge?



Resemblance Is X like Y?

  • Is Internet addiction like drug addiction?
  • Is the Iraq war like the Vietnam war?
  • From the Gorgias: Is rhetoric like cooking? Flattery? Gymnastics?


Cause/Consequence Will X cause Y? Is X caused by Y?

  • Will decriminalizing marijuana reduce crime?
  • Will raising the minimum wage increase unemployment?
  • From the Gorgias: If rhetoric and philosphy are confused, will this hurt society, causing "Chaos" as "cookery, health, and medicine would mingle in an indiscrimante mass?"



Proposal Should be (not) do X? 

  • Should gay marriage be legalized?
  • Should teenage murder defendants be tried as adults?
  • From the Gorgias: Should teachers of rhetoric be held responsible for the misdeeds of their students?


Building Arguments around the Stases


Example one: theft

Pretend you've stolen something and use the stasis protocols to argue why you should not be punished for this action:

  • Definition/Categorical?
  • Evaluation?
  • Resemblance?
  • Cause/Consequence?


Example two (proposal argument):

Eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia) should be covered by general health insurance.

  • Definitional/Categorical?
  • Evaluation?
  • Resemblance?
  • Cause/Consequence?


Triangulating: Contexts and Appeals


The Rhetorical Triangle (audience, author/speaker, message)


  • Persuasion occurs through a transactional process involving three major vectors (in a manner similar to the processes of feedback in nature and technology). A rhetor crafts a message designed to persuade a particularaudience and then (often) responds dynamically to the reactions of that audience, thus altering their message. 


Examples from our texts:



  • Gorgias' monologue has little dynamic input from a very diverse audience, thus requiring a blunderbuss approach (either fate, divine intervention, love, seduction, force, etc.)


  • Socrates' dialogue has much input from his audience, and thus he shifts strategy throughout and refers back to his interlocutors' earlier comments in making claims.




  • Rhetorically sound arguments must be accomodated to their audience
  • Though truth may exist, there are multiple registers for validating claims


The artistic appeals (ethospathoslogos) (Good Reasons 17-18)


  • Rhetoric often takes place through the use of one more of the artistic appeals: ethos (persuasion based on the character, expertise, or ethics of the speaker), logos (persuasion based on "logical" reasoning and often quantifiable grounds and evidence), and pathos (persuasion that manipulates or exploits an audience's emotions or affective capacities) 

for example:

Logos Examples:


  • "The logos of sixth- and fifth-century [BC] thinkers is best understood as a rationalistic rival to traditional mythos--the religious worldview preserved in epic poetry. . . . The poetry of the time performed the functions now assigned to a variety of educational practices: religious instruction, moral training, history texts, and reference manuals (Havelock 1983, 80). . . . Because the vast majority of the population did not read regularly, poetry was preserved communication that served as Greek culture's preserved memory."
    (Edward Schiappa, The Beginnings of Rhetorical Theory in Classical Greece. Yale Univ. Press, 1999)

  • "Aristotle's third element of proof was logos, or logical proof. . . . Like Plato, his teacher, Aristotle would have preferred that speakers use correct reasoning, but Aristotle's approach to life was more pragmatic than Plato's, and he wisely observed that skilled speakers could persuade by appealing to proofs that seemed true."
    (Halford Ryan, Classical Communication for the Contemporary Communicator. Mayfield, 1992)

  • "The appeals to reason that an orator might use do not violate the principles of strictlogic; they are merely adaptations of logic. So, whereas the syllogism and induction are the forms that reasoning takes in logic, the enthymeme and the example are the forms that reasoning takes in rhetoric."
    (Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)
  • "Bad reasoning as well as good reasoning is possible; and this fact is the foundation of the practical side of logic."
    (Charles S. Peirce)

Pronunciation: LO-gos

Also Known As: logical argument, logical proof, rational appeal


Classic Essays


Pathos Examples:

take a look at Hillary's pathos (strategic? authentic? right? wrong?)


Ethos Examples:

Ethos is a slippery one, including: the construction of credibility, trust and respect; character, virtue, ethics; and how we embody or relate to the spirit of an age...


We can think of ethos as having 3 related tiers:

  1. a performance and image (i.e. your resume, your response-ability in this class),
  2. your character (your virtues, vices, behavior, personality, etc.)
  3. and the related 'zeitgeist' or spirit of the age 


The Greek word ethos is related to our word ethics or ethical, but a more accurate modern translation might be image. Aristotle uses ethos to refer to the speaker'character as it appears to the audience. Aristotle says that if we believe that a speaker has good sense, good moral character, and goodwill, we are inclined to believe what that speaker says to us. Today we might add that a speaker should also appear to have the appropriate expertise or authority to speak knowledgeably about the subject matter.  


Ethos is an important factor in advertising, both for commercial products and in politics. For example, when an actor in a pain reliever commercial puts on a doctor's white coat, the advertisers are hoping that wearing this coat will give the actor the authority to talk persuasively about medicines. Of course, in this case the actor's ethos is a deceptive illusion.



In our society sports heroes, popular actors and actresses, and rock stars are often seen as authorities on matters completely unrelated to their talents. This is an instance of the power of image. Can you think of some examples?


A similar, and more 'clinical' and serious example would be the famous: Milgram experiment or the game show that did the same!

     Actor Laurent Le Doyen plays the role of a man shocked on a game show



Building Arguments around the Artistic Appeals


Rhetorical Challenge: Though the historical cirumstances are very different, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, like Helen, is a public figure who dramatically fell out of favor. As an optional assignment write a defense of Kilpatrick - an argument for why we should think better of him than we do - on the Encomium to Kwame page. This is an optional assignment, so you don't have to do it. If you do though, you'll "bank" a response, meaning you can skip one of our assigned responses in the future. We'll talk about these responses in class on Tuesday.


Moment of Zen 






Assignments for Tuesday:

Reading Assignments:

Though they are numerous, they are short -- and since many of you touted how avidly you read in your writing samples, it should be no problem (confidence has a haunting effect)

  • Chapter 1 ("They Say") in They Say/I Say (17-27)
  • Chapter 1 (if you haven't already) and Chapter 2 ("Reading Arguments") in Good Reasons 
  • Gore Vidal: Drugs
  • Theodore Dalyrymple: Don't Legalize Drugs


Writing Assignments:





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