Rhetoric and Politics

Rhetoric and politics encompasses a heterogeneous area of research. There is a long history and study of the subjects that give anything but a straightforward conclusion regarding their interrelation. The core concepts that are discussed in these topics include leadership, power, inequality and values. In a bid to expound on the matter, this essay will analyze the writings of four individuals namely Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Wayne Booth. In addition, the analysis evaluates logical fallacies used by the authors.

            To begin with, Plato’s Gorgias discusses two conflicting kinds of rhetoric. Firstly, he describes rhetoric as a pseudo-art. He explains that rhetoric is a mere knack that is based on one’s experience and not on a person’s real knowledge of a subject matter. On the other hand, Plato states that the most important thing in a person’s life is to discover the truth. The writing is a debate/dialogue between Socrates and Gorgias regarding the influence and relevance of rhetoric and philosophy. Socrates writes, “Rhetoric is one of those arts that work mainly by the use of words” (Plato, & Sachs, 2012).

            Plato introduces the topic by providing a clear distinction between philosophy and rhetoric. He states that philosophy deals with truth while rhetoric deals with presentation or how the dialogue unfolds. He expounds the subject by stating that philosophy is considered an art of self-mastery. In contrast, rhetoric can be said to be the art seeking to master others. Plato describes oratory power as the ability to use speech in persuading judges in a law court, assemblymen or councilors in a meeting. His argument defends rhetoric by stating, “Nothing transcends human language or expression” (Plato, & Sachs, 2012). Principally, human beings are bound to the confines of language and oratory experience in order to eliminate mystery. In Gorgias, he deploys the rhetoric as a weapon that is capable of good and evil.

            In a bid to further elaborate the topic, Plato uses Socrates’ example of a shipwright or craftsman. He states that for every election held, the council should chose the most skilled craftsman to build the harbors and ships. The article further expounds rhetoric by mentioning the need to use rhetoric in a fair way. Rhetorician can speak for all men and they can persuade a multitude of them but only in a truthful manner. One should not take advantage of their skills/ knowledge by defrauding artists of their reputation. For instance, he writes, “For they taught their art for a good purpose, to be used against enemies or evil-doers, in self-defense, not in aggression” (Plato, & Sachs, 2012).

            In Wayne Booth’s rhetorical stance, he combined the study of literature and rhetoric. He argues that it is possible to teach the art of persuasion by combining three factors namely: mastery of the subject matter that one is speaking about, the audience that one is addressing and the influence generated by communicator’s voiced. Therefore, the concept of ‘rhetorical stance’ pays attention to the three aforementioned factors (Booth, 1983). Booth further explains rhetoric and politics by relying exclusively on mastery. This means that the rhetor persuades others with her knowledge which invariably leads to resentment rather than acceptance of the message. On the other hand, the advertiser’s stance persuades potential supporters by using strong statements without knowledge or understanding of the issues at hand. Essentially, Wayne Booth advocates for a rhetorical situation that balances the position of the speaker, audience and subject. In his article he writes, “Rhetorical stance depends on discovering and maintaining a proper balance among the subject, interest and peculiarity of the audience” (Booth, 1983). More so, he notes, “rhetoric is the art of finding and employing the most effective means of persuasion of any subject that is considered independent mastery of a subject.” He compares rhetoric to poetry or art but he improves the ideology by advocating for continued practice and experience. Therefore, the art of persuasion is learnt through experience (Booth, 1983).  

            Similarly, Aristotle explains rhetoric on tangible realities of the world by describing, organizing and classifying the subjects. His approach contrasts with Plato’s technique to philosophy by classifying different appeals or tools on the basis of persuasive arguments. In the first chapter, Aristotle discusses the importance of rhetoric by establishing pathos, logos to logic and ethos. Pathos appeal to emotion while logos appeal to reasoning (logic) and finally, ethos appeal on the character of the speaker. He highlights deductive reasoning by dividing and classifying phenomena. It inquires the reasons why speakers succeed through practice (Aristotle & Kennedy, 1991).

            The author further explains importance of rhetoric by using an example of administrators and law makers. Aristotle states that lawmakers should be capable of legislating and administering justice, and this can be made easier by the application of rhetoric. He explains this subject by using a speech on judicial species that is delivered in a court scenario. The agenda of the rhetoric is explained by employing two tripartite divisions.  Firstly, his speech produces persuasion using the character and secondly by evaluating emotional state of the audience. Thirdly, he considers the subject or argument targeted to its listeners. By referring to the speech, the jury had to judge whether a past event was just or contrary to the law (Aristotle and Kennedy, 1991).

            Aristotle also stresses rhetoric as a counterpart to dialectic. The two topics are substantiated by common features such as reliance on accepted sentences and dependency on the p principles of specific sciences. Also, rhetoric and dialectic depend on on the deduction and induction theories and they are both essential in practical and public matters. In his writing, he states, “One can use rational speech to unjustly do great harm or do good things” (Aristotle & Kennedy, 1991). Principally, Aristotle is convince that rhetoric useful in outwitting the audience by concealing their main aims.

            In Augustine’s From on Christian Doctrine, the author rebutes Christians’ who view rhetoric as a pagan artifact that should be eschewed.  Augustine explains that rhetoric can be used to prove truth as well as falsehood. He explains the subject by using infants who cannot speak but can only learn words from those who can speak. He writes, “If the hearers need teaching and are friendly and attentive, the matter treated of must be made fully known by means of a narrative” (Augustinus & Green, 1999). In a bid to further explain this point, his article writes, “It would be unwise to concede to concede the most useful persuasive tools to those with evil intentions” (Augustinus & Green, 1999). Therefore, to be persuasive, he recommended his audience to listen to the most eloquent Christians and imitate or apply what they see. Those individuals with eager minds are more likely to learn eloquence by listening to the eloquent rather than following the written canons of eloquence. If the capacity to learn this type of eloquence is missing, then it would be hard to comprehend the rule of rhetoric.


            In summary, the four philosophers analyze rhetoric and politics in different ways. However, most of them agree that the art of persuasion is gradually acquired through time and experience. Plato explains rhetoric by comparing it with philosophy. On the other hand, Augustine uses rhetoric to distinguish between the truth and falsehood. Aristotle explains the subject by classifying different appeals or tools on the basis of persuasive arguments. Lastly, Wayne booth writes that the art of persuasion is directly related to the subject matter, the audience and the influence generated by communicator’s voice.

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