The art of speaking well; the art of convincing others verbally.
Rhetorics, in the sense of the art of speaking well, was an important part
of education (for the well off) in antiquity. It has little to do, as a rule,
with logic, in that the end of rhetorics is not at all to prove some
conclusion validly from true or probable premisses, but to convince some
public by whatever means that are most suited to that purpose.
In modern times, rhetorics - of which an alternative definitions is: the art
of advocacy - is no longer part of a good higher education, though a few who
seek a career in law, politics, or the media do take courses in which they
learn how to present themselves well to audiences.
There have been some recent attempts - Perelman - to bring logic, rhetorics
and advocacy together in one disciple called rhetorics, but with little
In any case, it seems a somewhat interesting fact
that the upper class and leading members of the Roman republic where
better public speakers than modern public spokesmen and -women,
were much better trained that way, and because they spoke to audiences
who had a much
better knowledge of what it is to express oneself well. (Those who
should read Ceasar and Cicero.)
If defined and understood as 'the art of speaking well', it is desirable
that rhetorics is part of a good education, were it only because speech is the
human way of communication.
The modern art of rhetorics is mostly practised in
propaganda, and much of those are less
verbal and intellectual than visual and emotional. Here indeed it gets and
deserves the taints that were directed at the earlier rhetorics: That it is
the art of making the worse seem the better.