September 24, 2012

Using rhetoric everyday


Bizzell & Herzberg’s background on the enlightenment of rhetoric is an interesting overview and history of the term and how the term itself has evolved throughout the centuries.  Whether the term is being associated with poetry, scientific discussion, history or even literary criticism, rhetoric has evolved and progressed the way speech and thought is delivered. Historically speaking, rhetoric is linked with the use of language when someone is trying to hide the truth from you. It’s associated with shady car salesmen and corrupt politicians. This kind of speaking could be associated with the Greek philosopher Plato who believed rhetoric to obscure the truth. Plato understood Rhetoric to be nothing but mere “flattery”, repeating only what the audience desires to hear. Great philosophers and thinkers such as Francis Bacon and Thomas Sprat have had diverse definitions for the word over the years. 

These definitions are certainly a part of its history and are used in such ways everyday, although rhetorical language is used equally in situations of ethical and beneficial proportions. One could even say that there is no use of any type of language that cannot be put forth in some sort persuasion or misshaping of the truth. Learning to communicate effectively is a key feature in our social culture. Great orators throughout time did not move and influence their audience by blindly speaking to an open forum. They knew exactly what they were saying, how they were going to say it, and who they were saying it too. One way to think of it is as a tool, Rhetoric gives us the ability to clarify and define the emotions inside us. A tool with ability to strive for positive and ideal aspects throughout our lives. Bizzel and Herzberg’s piece gives the idea that even though the term has evolved and at times been under scrutiny one way to think of it is as a tool with the ability to take your vision and mold it into words. Rhetoric is essential to our human nature because it can overcome the ordeals that are our emotions. It is not possible to not be emotional in some way or another; either being angry or sad affects the way we hear and understand things. So by speaking with emotional and physiological states into account is far better and accepting than forms of speaking that don’t.



2 comments:

Joel Bergholtz said...

I think the fact that, similar to the Bizzel and Herzberg piece we read for today, we have so many detailed historical accounts of rhetoric speaks volumes on its power and its remaining importance in the 21st century. The very fact that I am an english major and this is my second required course shows rhetoric's importance in the field of the written word as opposed to the spoken word.
I think rhetoric is so often written about and heavily disputed because of its power. Rhetoric is often defined as "the ability to move the will". This means rhetoric is the ability to talk to a large sum of people and change their minds or produce an action. Essentially it means how to control them, so one can see why rhetoric is feared and loved at the same time. It is a beautiful power to be able to control people with words, but is it ethically right? Or perhaps I am unfairly demonizing the definition, for there is nothing wrong with convincing someone of your argument in order to get them to change their minds.
All in all, I think its all about how rhetoric is used. An evil man can use rhetoric and cause much harm (see: Hitler). But that doesn't mean those are its only uses. As we approach the 21st century, rhetoric must not be constrained to any one definition, but must build upon all of them in shaping a new 21st century rhetoric.

HScott3 said...

I took a rhetoric class before this one so I agree background knowledge can be a good thing when reading Locke and Bizzel and Herzberg. The definition of rhetoric does play a significance in the meaning of words. However, i don't know if the concrete aim of rhetoric is to hide the truth from the audience. THis makes it seem sinister by nature. I consider it more as an aim of the desired truth determined by the speaker.
However, you are on the same track ad me when it comes to the contemplations of rhetoric when dealing with words. I think Locke was definitely trying to inform people how invalid words can be in rhetorical discourse.

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