Week three

Workbook activities

Rhetoric argument


Review of rhetoric argument

The video In Defense of Rhetoric: No Longer Just for Liars (2011) discusses the term rhetoric and defends its use in modern society.

ClemsonEnglish (2011) explains the term rhetoric as ‘the study of the technique of using language effectively’ and describes its use as an ancient art which has survived as an academic discipline in the modern university. Rhetoric speech is used is used as an advantage in political speech and one of its great users is Barack Obama.

Another term explains rhetoric as breaking down components of language and argument and how to persuade and make arguments (2011). This is done by using facts and knowledge that produces true data. When explaining how rhetoric works, a good argument ClemsonEnglish brings up is that as communication methods evolve to fit new media, university students are challenged to communicate effectively in the fast paced global village.  This is an accurate representation of how communications students or professional communicators can become overwhelmed by the amount of communication methods available.

Epistemic rhetoric is also discussed as a means of adjudication between knowledge of claims (2011). This is good point as it highlights the need for rhetoric when acquiring knowledge and facts for an argument.


Summary of ‘Rhetoric by Aristotle’ (Aristotle 350 BCE)

Book 1


Rhetorical study is concerned with modes of persuasion.  Likened to a demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when consider things to have been demonstrated. The orator’s demonstration is an enthymeme which is the most effective mode of persuasion. Enthymeme is a sort of syllogism which is the business of dialectic.

Rhetoric not just to succeed in persuading but able to arrive as near as possible to success as each situation allows.

Rhetoric speech persuasion:

  • Achieved by speaker’s personal credible character
  • When speech stirs emotions
  • When a truth has been proven through persuasion

How rhetoric is useful:

  • Things that are true and things are just have a natural tendency to prevails over their opposites.
  • An argument based on knowledge implies instruction but not everyone is able to take instructions.  Therefore, we must use our modes of persuasion and argument to instruct.
  • We must be able to employ persuasion on opposite sides of a question to see what the facts are and can confute unfair arguments.
  • No other art draws opposite conclusions: dialectic and rhetoric alone do this.
  • Man should be able to defend himself with speech and reason.
  • Rhetoric can see man confer great benefits by a right use but also inflict injury by using it wrongly.

Dialectic in speech

Dialectic – The art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments (The Free Dictionary 2016).

Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic. Whether to defend or attack others, at random or through practice, the subject can plainly be handled systematically, for it is possible to inquire the reason why some speakers succeed through practice and others spontaneously. It is the function of an art.

Neither rhetoric nor dialectic is the scientific study of any one separate subject: both are faculties for providing arguments. This is perhaps a sufficient account of their scope and of how they are related to each other. certain propositions being true, a further and quite distinct proposition must also be true in consequence, whether invariably or usually, this is called syllogism in dialectic, enthymeme in rhetoric.

Syllogism in speech

Syllogism – Reasoning from the general to the specific (The Free Dictionary 2016)

Every one who proves anything at all is bound to use either syllogisms or inductions. Dialectic does not construct its syllogisms out of any haphazard materials but out of materials that call for discussion.  It is possible to form syllogisms and draw conclusions from the results of previous syllogisms.

Enthymeme in speech

Enthymeme -A syllogism in which one of the premises or the conclusion is not stated explicitly (The Free Dictionary 2016)

Speeches that rely on examples are as persuasive as the other kind, but those which rely on enthymemes excite the louder applause. The enthymeme and the example must deal with what is in the main contingent, the example being an induction, and the enthymeme a syllogism, about such matters. In speech, the materials of enthymemese are probabilities and signs, which must correspond respectively with the propositions that generally and those that necessarily true.

Example: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The hidden premise: The smoke causes fire. (Literary Devices 2016)

Every one who effects persuasion through proof does in fact use either enthymemes or examples: there is no other way.  The difference between example and enthymeme is made plain by the passages in the topics where induction and syllogism have already been discussed.

Book 2

How character, emotions and frame of mind effects speech

An orator’s character is important in political speech and he should always be in the right frame of mind. Three character attributes inspire confidence for an orator: good sense, good moral character and goodwill.  If a speech is adapted and reflected to an orator’s character, audience’s react well.

Emotions that effect an orator are: anger, calmness, friendship and enmity, fear, shame, kindness, pity, indignation and envy, emulation.

Persuasive argument 

A persuasive argument is often driven and connected to emotions and the use of persuasive speech leads an audience to decisions.  All orators us a topic and try to argue something that has happened or will happen in the future. Possibility of the future is particularly associated with political speech. ‘Fables’ are often used to quote the past and orators often use them in political speech to explain what will happen in the future. When using examples for persuasive speech, using a number of examples in the beginning and just one at the end will be sufficient.

Maxims in speech

A maxim is a statement used in argument for speech and generally used by those with considerable experience.  There are four kinds of maxims. Maxims produce a general declaration of moral principles and the orator will be seen as a man of moral character.

Refutes in argumentative speech

Refutes are used to argue an opponents by noting contrast or contradictions where it may be applicable. They can used by a counter-syllogism or by bringing an objection. Objections can raised in four ways: attacking an opponent’s statement, putting forward another statement, putting forward a statement contrary to it or quoting previous decisions.

Book 3




Aristotle 350 BCE (translation by  w. Rhys Roberts). Rhetoric, ebook, Classics MIT, Internet Classics Archive, viewed 16 March, 2016 http://classics.mit.edu//Aristotle/rhetoric.html

ClemsonEnglish 2011, ‘In defense of rhetoric video’, YouTube, viewed 24 March 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYMUCz9bHAs&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

Literary Devices 2016,’ Literary devices – enthymeme’, Literary Devices, viewed 31 March 2016, http://literarydevices.net/enthymeme/

The Free Dictionery 2016, ‘The free dictionary – dialectic’, The Free Dictionary, viewed 28 March 2016, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dialectic.