No one wants to hear this, but we are all being mind-controlled, and the truth is not true anymore. You may think that this is a harsh statement, maybe it is, maybe it is not. It depends where you are standing. The problem these days is how do you know what’s true and what is […]No One Wants To Hear This!
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE, during which he met Plato and became his disciple. Unlike the master, Aristotle is known as the realistic philosopher and he wrote on many subjects, ethics, politics, logic, nature and of course on public speaking. In his book called On Rhetoric, he explains the art of persuasive speaking by pointing out three types of speeches: deliberation, demonstration and judiciary.
The deliberative speech is mostly used upon weighing options to make a decision.
The demonstrative speech is about rational arguments demonstrated in a logical order.
The judiciary speech is for sanction or condemnation.
The three types can be intertwined as well as separate. For each situation, there is a persuasive speech. Therefore, unlike Plato’s position on rhetoric, Aristotle firmly believed in the importance of speeches and oral communication in many fields. Against Plato, he rehabilitated rhetoric and his book On Rhetoric became wildly read by famous orators such as Cicero, Quintillion and many others. While philosophy was not interested in persuasive speaking and preferred literacy, the Roman Empire progressively started to prefer social status and political power to rhetoric. Slowly, the importance of public speaking faded away.
Aristotle thought of tools and conditions of a persuasive speech of any type by emphasizing on three main concepts: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, as they are tools and conditions of an efficient communication. Let’s delve a bit more in those concepts.
Ethos: meaning in Greek character, ethos is the appeal to authority and credibility of the public speaker. Being reliable and credible is a sure way for the orator to persuade its audience, also using reliable and credible arguments. Otherwise, the audience will not adhere to whatever he or she says.
Pathos: meaning suffering, passion; it is used in a speech as an appeal to emotions, by evoking emotions in the audience with used arguments. One can play with fear or hope, dreams and worries, like we see in political speeches today.
Logos: meaning reason, it is the appeal to logic in arguments used in persuasive speaking. This is also a powerful tool because the orator can prove his arguments or use them in a rational demonstration which is the convincing part of a speech.
Combining those three elements can make any verbal communication persuasive and efficient. Aristotle, unlike Plato, considered that not all rhetoric is bad: it all depends on its content mostly and on the way it is delivered.
Looking at the public speaking large scene, we can say that speakers are using demonstrations, rationality as much as provoking emotions. However, ethos is lacking.
(Statue of Cicero, the Roman orator)
Being condemned by Plato for being essentially manipulative, rhetoric (the art of persuasive speech, also known as sophism) is back as a new trend in philosophy, especially in the French system of philosophy teaching. So what is it all about?
The new trend of public speaking or in front of a camera, popularized by social platforms such as TED Talks, You Tube, podcasts and the video making in stories posts, rhetoric, the longtime enemy of philosophy, has been for some years, the new way of teaching, coaching or delivering messages. On the other hand, reading/writing has become more inclined to blogs, articles, caption and tweets, while books are taking the second row place. Hence, one can see the success of short stories.
In spite of the efforts of Aristotle to rehabilitate rhetoric as a needed method in some fields (discussed in further blog posts), philosophy took a different path. In fact, after Plato, philosophers left the oral scene to politicians and public speakers and preferred writing their ideas and concepts. The result was the elitist character of philosophy, only reserved for professionals and initiated minds, for scholars and some eccentric people. Was it their aim to be elitists in the first place? I can’t say so but somehow it is not far from being true.
Should philosophy adopt orality instead of literacy? The French for instance, decided to turn rhetoric into a discipline to be taught in schools as an elective course of philosophy and literature. And we must not forget the growing numbers of philosophy conferences everywhere.
That being said, and after centuries long battle between philosophy and rhetoric, philosophers will be present more and more on the talking platforms. But, if you want to master communication, you have to consider reading Aristotle!
For more insights on Plato’s position on rhetoric and its effect on society, you can check these posts: