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What is Rhetoric?

In On Rhetoric, Aristotle defines Rhetoric this way: “Let rhetoric be defined as an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.”1 Put simply, rhetoric is the systematic study of persuasion. It is not the study of deception or of seeming to say something while saying nothing at all, although these could be legitimate means of persuasion in certain circumstances, but rather the study of all means of persuasion and how they work.

Why study Rhetoric?

Because rhetoric is an important and inescapable part of life. All human society requires cooperation between individuals. Cooperation between individuals requires that we persuade each other to think or do certain things. Every time you make a choice in your daily life between different means of persuasion, even a choice as simple as saying “would you mind washing the dishes?” instead of  “wash the dishes, bitch”, you are using rhetoric whether you have formally studied it or not. It goes without saying that something which is so important in our lives is something worth studying.

Who is the Rhetorician of this blog, and why does he have a Notebook?

I am an undergraduate student in the classics department at Princeton University, who is fascinated by rhetoric. Although I spend my days reading Latin and Greek, I also occasionally think about the modern world. When that happens I put the results here.

Notes

1. Aristotle, On Rhetoric, trans. George A. Kennedy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007), 1.2.1.

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