Rhetoric is the art of observing in any given scenario the available means of persuasion. In the 4th century, Aristotle defines ‘rhetoric’ as means of discovering all possible ways of persuading others into particular topic. In his definition, Aristotle wrote that rhetoric has a clear persuasive function and an epistemic function, which serves as a means of discovering issues on a certain topic. Every time people make use of language, whether in writing or speech, they engage in a rhetoric act. Whenever people use languages, they have an intention to communicate a message or an objective to achieve. In other words, any form of communication results in rhetoric, and every time we communicate we behave rhetorically (Garver, 96). In fact, the most modern and recent definition of rhetoric is the deliberate use of language to persuade or influence an audience. It is also the ability to persuade other people into one’s ideas.
According to Ranney (18), successful persuasion depends on three crucial elements. The first one is the power of the speaker to evince personal character, which makes his speech plausible. A person’s character can persuade the audience if the speech he delivers makes the audience believes that he is credible. Persuasion is derived from what the speaker says and not from what the audience thinks of the speaker. Second is the ability to stir emotions of the audience. People’s judgment when they are friendly and pleased is different from when people are hostile and pained. Third is the fact that the power to argue and verify the truth or the perceptible truth can be obtained through persuasive arguments. When the speech covers apparent truth and one can identify it through the argument, the persuasion is successful. People always want to hear the proof behind the character’s speech before making a decision to follow them. When the audience cannot get any proof from the speech, then persuasions fail.
Aristotle defines a rhetoric person as the one who can see something that can be persuasive in every case. However, this does not necessarily mean that someone can see persuasiveness in every case. Rhetoric ability comes to existence when a person draws attention to himself or herself right from the very beginning. Aristotle argues that though dialect and rhetoric have many similarities there are some distinct discrepancies in them. The most compelling one between them is that while rhetoric makes use of continuous exposition, dialects continues though questions and answers on logical arguments. The second discrepancy is that rhetoric deals with practical questions while dialect deals with general questions.
According to Garver (97), Aristotle tries to explain briefly the relation between dialect and rhetoric, arguing that dialect is useful in private application when attempting to attack and maintain an argument while rhetoric is useful for public use when attempting to accuse an opponent or defend oneself during an argument. He classifies the rhetoric art into three categories. The political process has been evolving in many different forms since its foundation in ancient Greece. The ancient Greece comprised of many independent cities without any political system. They, however, had some culture, language and religion. The system of government was remarkably easy because of its fragmentary nature, and because they did not seem to have any tribal origin. The Greece states seemed like small kingdoms. In the 6th century, Greece was under the tyrannical rule and then the Athens took over after the end of it. The Athens formed the first democratic government to stop the aristocracy regaining power.
After the formation of the democratic government in Athens, all the other cities followed and founded democratic governments though a few states remained under the traditional rule. Today, Greece is a parliamentary republic, led by a president. The Greek political system has had many influences on many nations in the world today. Most nations adopted the Greece political structure, especially in Europe. In these countries, people share a common language, a factor that gears them towards unity.
Rhetoric plays a vital role in today’s politics. Many politicians make use of the rhetoric powers to campaign for their political positions. They have the ability to identify what is persuasive for them to be able to win public support and votes (Dam et al, 11). It is possible to use rhetoric for either good or harm. Some people hold that politicians need rhetoric powers when they aim at convincing the audience while they obscure their real aims. However, this is not always the case, since the politicians and other people need rhetoric powers to communicate the truth. Politicians make use of rhetoric to stir public emotions and influence them so that they take to their side. In today’s politics, rhetoric is not a non-argumentative of persuading citizens to vote for them. Instead, politicians employ rhetoric powers to argue out their cases in court or even use it to argue their cases on the constitution.
Rhetoric plays some analogous functions in the modern day politics as it did in the ancient times during Aristotle’s days. During the ancient times, courts of law used rhetoric to win cases just as people in the modern times do. The accused uses rhetoric to win cases in courts of law (Ranney, 16). In the same way, ancient politicians made use of rhetorics to make constitutions for their citizens. Legislatures in the modern parliaments also make use of rhetoric to be able to develop laws used in legislating countries. In addition, they have to check the advantages and disadvantages of each law they make, and the potential impact in the future.
Politicians make use of three different genres of rhetoric when addressing different audiences. First is the forensic rhetoric, the aim of which is to persuade the audience or the citizens that an action taken in the past was justified (Clarke, 3). The second rhetoric is deliberative rhetoric, which aims at making the citizens believe that an action to be taken in the future will be advantageous to them. Lastly, it is the epideictic rhetoric, which aims at making the audience see the person as noble. Politicians make use of these types of different rhetoric in their everyday lives. In some situations, politicians make decisions which come to haunt them in the future. At this time, they have to convince their electorates that the action taken was just for their benefit. In other situations, politicians have to sell their manifestos before they can be elected or when they want to convince others to support the actions they are about to undertake. Lastly, politics is a game of competition and every politician has to convince the audience that they are the most nobles as compared to the others. This is all in an attempt to lure the voters to vote them in and support their quest to be in leadership positions.
Rhetoric is particularly crucial in the modern day society since it assists in the advancement of a cause of justice in the society. For instance, Martin Luther King used rhetoric to persuade people to unite during the civil rights movements. Use of scientific or logic persuasion is rather hard for most people, thus rhetoric becomes extremely useful. The art of rhetoric is particularly crucial in enabling a person to argue out both sides of an issue. A politician should be able to protect himself from verbal attack in the same way he can protect himself from physical attack. Though rhetoric plays some similar roles for the modern and the ancient Aristotle times, there are some differences in their roles. During Aristotle times, rhetoric was a significant discipline, taught widely in Greece.
Politicians continue using issues of interest to the public to win their vote. In modern day politics, leaders use issues like their opinion on families, health care, abortion and gay marriages to persuade people that they will take care of their interests when they come to power. People then vote for leaders who they think will best represent their interests. Rhetoric is about eliciting emotions, and these are some of the issues that illicit high emotions among citizens. Politicians, thus play their cards right to ensure that they side with the majority to ensure that they get that vote.
The art of rhetoric as discussed and explained by Aristotle is much applicable in today’s political environments and settings. The ability of a leader to give a compelling speech is almost a guarantee that they will win an election. The trick, therefore, is to understand what issues affect the lives of the people and what means a lot to them. Then the leaders capitalize on such issues to elicit emotions and attract public attention. They give their arguments as to why they support issues and attack their opponents based on their stand on the same issue. Through rhetoric, politicians convince the audience that they are noble regardless of things done in the past. This explains why the greatest orators and not necessarily performers are elected in political offices.