Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 R - Rhetorics

Rhetorics: 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 succes.

In any case, it seems a somewhat interesting fact that the upper class and leading members of the Roman republic where probably better public speakers than modern public spokesmen and -women, because they 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 doubt this 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 advertisement and 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.


See also: Fallacy, Logic


Edwards, Perelman, Richards

 Original: Oct 20, 2007                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top