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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N068-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Rhetoric is the power to persuade, especially about political or public affairs. Sometimes philosophy has defined itself in opposition to rhetoric – Plato invented the term ‘rhetoric’ so that philosophy could define itself by contrast, and distinctions like that between persuasion and knowledge have been popular ever since. Sometimes philosophy has used rhetorical techniques or materials to advance its own projects. Some of its techniques, especially topics of invention, the classification of issues, and tropes or figures of speech, are occasionally employed by philosophers. The philosophical question is whether these techniques have any interest beyond efficacy. What is the relation between techniques effective in persuading others and methods for making up one’s own mind? Is there any connection between the most persuasive case and the best decision? Is there a relation between the judgments of appropriateness and decorum exercised by the rhetorician, and the judgments of appropriateness exercised by the person of practical wisdom? Do judgments about probability, ambiguity and uncertainty, and judgments under constraints of time or the need for decision, aspire to the ideal of perfect rationality, to which they are doomed to fall short, or do these kinds of judgment have an integrity of their own?Apart from supplying useful techniques, an art of persuasion also raises philosophic questions concerning the relation between rhetoric and logic, rhetoric and ethics, and rhetoric and poetics.

Citing this article:
Garver, Eugene. Rhetoric, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N068-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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