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rhetoric (rèt´er-îk) noun
Abbr. rhet.
1.a. The art or study of using internal linklanguage effectively and persuasively. b. A treatise or book discussing this art.
2.Skill in using language effectively and persuasively.
3.a. A style of speaking or writing, especially the language of a particular subject: fiery political rhetoric. b. Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous: His offers of compromise were mere rhetoric.
4.Verbal communication; discourse.

[Middle English rethorik, from Old French rethorique, from Latin rhêtoricê, rhêtorica, from Greek rhêtorikê (tekhnê), rhetorical (art), feminine of rhêtorikos, rhetorical, from rhêtor, rhêtor-, rhetor. See rhetor.]

Usage Note: The word rhetoric was once primarily the name of an important branch of philosophy and an art deserving of serious study. In recent years the word has come to be used chiefly in a pejorative sense to refer to inflated language and pomposity. Deprecation of the term may result from a modern linguistic puritanism, which holds that language used in legitimate persuasion should be plain and free of artifice- itself a tendentious rhetorical doctrine, though not often recognized as such. But many writers still prefer to bear in mind the traditional meanings of the word. Thus, according to the newer use of the term, the phrase empty rhetoric, as in The politicians talk about solutions, but they usually offer only empty rhetoric, might be construed as redundant. But in fact only 35 percent of the Usage Panel judged this example to be redundant. Presumably, it can be maintained that rhetoric can be other than empty.


Rhetoric, in its broadest sense, the theory and practice of eloquence, whether spoken or written. Spoken rhetoric is oratory. Rhetoric defines the rules that should govern all prose composition or speech designed to influence people's judgment or feelings. In a narrower sense, rhetoric is concerned with the fundamental principles according to which oratory is composed.

In Athens, Greece, during the 6th century BC a group of teachers, known as Sophists, endeavored to make men better public speakers. The founder of rhetoric as a science is said to be Corax of Syracuse, who in the 5th century BC composed the first handbook on the art of rhetoric. With Isocrates, the great teacher of oratory in the 4th century BC, the art of rhetoric was broadened to become a cultural study.

Greek philosopher Plato satirized the more technical approach to rhetoric, with its emphasis on persuasion rather than truth, in his work Gorgias. In the Phaedrus he discussed the principles constituting the essence of the rhetorical art. Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his work Rhetoric, emphasized the winning of an argument by persuasive marshaling of truth, rather than the swaying of an audience by an appeal to their emotions. The great Roman masters of theoretical and practical rhetoric were Cicero and Quintilian. Cicero's most important treatise on the theory and practice of rhetoric is On the Orator (55 BC), while Quintilian's most famous is The Training of an Orator (AD 95?).

The chief medieval authorities on rhetoric were three Roman scholars of the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries, respectively: Martianus Capella, author of an encyclopedia; Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, historian and founder of monasteries, who wrote the Introduction to Divine and Human Readings (550?); and Saint Isidore of Seville, a Spanish archbishop who compiled an encyclopedic work setting forth the learning of the ancient world.

During the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), the study of rhetoric was again based on the works of classical writers. In the first half of the 20th century a revival of the study of formal rhetoric, encouraged largely by the exponents of the linguistic science known as semantics, occurred throughout the English-speaking countries of the world.

rhetoric (noun)

curriculum: trivium, grammar, rhetoric, logic
vigor: rhetoric, eloquence
ornament: rhetoric, purple prose, dithyramb
magniloquence: grandiloquence, declamation, rhetoric, orotundity, vigor
oratory: oratory, art of speaking, rhetoric, public speaking, stump oratory, tub-thumping
oratory: declamation, rhetoric, elocution, vaporing, ranting, rant
ostentation: declamation, rhetoric, magniloquence

The Masses

The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), German dictator. Mein Kampf, vol. 1, ch. 3 (1925).

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Rhetoricore - Gospel Yeh Yeh - Preacher Rock

christians are usually slow to usurp and dilute the most potent forms of societal and cultural rebellion that they deem a threat.  usually there's an immediate emotional backlash to "get rid of" something that they feel threatened by.  drugs, prostitution, sex, music, pornography, etc (all victimless activities).  it takes a few years for them to realize that they simply can't wish it away, or enact laws to prevent it from happening.  tactics of internal linkprohibitioninternal linkcensorship, and fascism just don't work, simply because biology dictates that these behaviors are totally natural and have been throughout human [pre]history.  prohibition and censorship are very new concepts that are fear based.  the only thing left for them to do is to accept these rebellious internal linkmemes and try to dilute them.  e.g. "christian rock", or "rave for jesus", and other pathetic concepts.  by this time, it is too late.  the potency and time frame is already passed and it is simply another co-opted consumer ritual, and the cultural internal linkevolutionists have moved on.  the internal linkcutting edge of cultural evolution remains potent because it keeps changing.  this is the core of internal linkTAZ.  you can feel something is no longer potent because everyone else is doing it.  the key is to internal linktrust your feelings, and balance them against your ego telling you that you're above everyone else.  the art and technique is knowing when to say when, call it quits, then move on to the next thing.  this isn't following fashion, it's creating culture.

musical entities sometimes use the art of rhetoric and oratory.  this is the same tactic but in reverse.  we must accept that certain techniques used by the status quo are very effective in lifting the emotional enthusiasm of group behavior.  technical styles of the music vary but there seems to be a hidden purpose behind the characteristics of "gospel" music.  We can deconstruct and detach from context this "spiritual" approach, and utilize it to achieve our own agendas.  To raise an energy level, to offer hope, to create a mounting build.  An interesting mixed bag of styles propel this kind of memetic propagation:
Black Sabbath - War Pigs - live 1970 Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Talking Heads - Remain In Light

of course, these are all "band" formats.  most gatherings and parties are potent because there is no rhetoric coming from an elevated entity on a stage.  if the spontaneous vibe is felt -  triggered by chemicals, beats, or a internal linksmile, the preacher man is no longer needed. - @Om* 02/28/01

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Rhetoric (from Greek, rhêtôr, "orator") is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar). While it has meant many different things during its 2500-year history, it is generally described today as the art of persuasion through internal linklanguage.

Rhetoric began in ancient Greece. The first written manual is attributed to Corax and Tisias. Rhetoric was popularized in the 5th century B.C. by itinerant teachers known as sophists, the best known of whom were Protagoras, Gorgias, and Isocrates.

Plato is the great historical enemy of the sophistic movement. For Plato, the essence of philosophy lay in the internal linkprocess of dialectic, in which reason and discussion progressively lead to the discovery of important internal linktruths. Plato believed that the sophists cared not for the truth of an argument, but only how they might appear to win it.

Two of Plato's dialogues are especially internal linkfocused upon rhetoric. The Gorgias emphasizes Plato's contention that the sophists value style over substance. Philosophy and rhetoric are related in the same way as are medicine and cosmetics. That is, medicine (like philosophy) is concerned with what is truly best for its subjects, whereas cosmetics (like rhetoric) is concerned solely with appearances. The Phaedrus was written after the Gorgias. While it continues Plato's critique of rhetoric, he also holds out the possibility that a rhetoric may yet be devised which is true and noble.

In fact, the rhetoric developed by Plato's student, Aristotle, can be seen as just such a rhetoric. In the first sentence of The Art of Rhetoric (Ars Rhetorica), Aristotle immediately describes rhetoric as the counterpart of dialectic. By this, he means that, while dialectical methods are necessary to find truth, rhetorical methods are required to communicate it.

Aristotle's systematic description of rhetoric completely dominated rhetorical thought through the middle ages and beyond. His chief emphasis is upon the three kinds of proof that can be offered on behalf of an argument. internal linkLogos consists of the use of logic and reason in constructing an argument. Pathos concerns emotional appeals. Ethos focuses upon how the character of a speaker influences an audience to consider him to be believable.

Also very important in Aristolte's scheme are Kairos, the context in which the proof will be delivered, The Audience, the psychological and emotional makeup of those who will receive the proof, and To Prepon, the style with which he clothes his proof. In order for rhetoric to be effective, the orator must be sensitive to these elements. He must realize that the context will constrict what he can say and what will be considered relevant. He must attune his message to his audience, or he will risk internal linkalienating or disgusting his audience. And he must embody his ideas in a way that is both proper to the occasion and to his audience. For example, the orator would not use colloquial or slang language if he was speaking about a lofty topic. Indeed, all three elements are intertwined: The character of the audience will define how the orator judges the context, the context will define the style he will use, and, through the experimentation, the style will influence what the context consists of.

While Western philosophy has tended to emphasize Logos, Aristotle's three bases of evidence provide a philosophical internal linkfoundation for the broadly conceived psycho-social or behavioral sciences where accounting for non-rational factors in human behavior is necessary for explanatory completeness. Especially professions or occupations in applied social sciences, such as psychotherapy are based in the practice of persuasion, or rhetoric in Aristotle's broad conception.

The Romans were great borrowers, and they found much value in Aristotle's rhetoric. Cicero and Quintilian were chief among Roman rhetoricians, and their work is clearly an extension of Aristotle's. In particular, Quintilian codified rhetorical studies under five canons that would persist for centuries in academic circles. Inventio (invention) is the process that leads to the development and refinement of an argument. Once an argument is developed, it is up to dispositio (disposition, or arrangement) to determine how it should be organized for greatest effect. Once the speech content is known and the structure is determined, the next steps involve pronuntiatio (language choice) and elocutio (delivery). Finally, memoria (internal linkmemory) comes to play as the speaker recalls each of these elements during the speech.

In the 16th century, after long domination by Scholasticism and Aristotelian thinking, Petrus Ramus proposed to reorganize the school curriculum of the day. Breaking with the traditional divisions of the liberal arts, he proposed something similar to the contemporary division of universities into multiple schools and departments of study (in fact, Ramus is the ultimate source of this organizational scheme). His efforts succeeded. The five components of rhetoric no longer lived under the common heading of rhetoric. Instead, invention and disposition were determined to fall under the heading of philosophy, while language, delivery, and memory were all that remained for rhetoric.

Once stripped of its more substantial elements, rhetoric became a much less prestigious topic of study. Much as Plato originally condemned the rhetoric of the sophists for its lack of concern for truth, rhetoric now came to be associated with emptiness: it ceased to be connected with ideas. In popular use, this connotation persists to this day. However, the term is still used in a deeper and more constructive sense in the study of human communication.

* Classical (Greek)
o Corax (5th century BC) -- produced first written manual of rhetoric
o Gorgias (483?-376? BC) -- father of systematic study of rhetoric
o Isocrates (436-338 BC) -- foremost teacher of oratory in the ancient world
o Plato (427-347 BC) -- outlined the differences between true and false rhetoric
o Aristotle (384-322 BC) -- created most influential systemization of rhetoric ever written -- The Art of Rhetoric
o Libanius (AD 314-394) -- prominent practioner and teacher in the Later Roman Empire
* Classical (Roman)
o Cicero (106-43 BC) -- Great Roman orator and philsopher
o Quintilian (AD 35-100) -- Imperial professor of rhetoric, complete system of rhetorical education
* Medieval
o Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) -- Christian, promoted use of rhetoric in preaching
* Renaissance
o Desiderius Erasmus (AD 1466?-1536) -- Dutch scholar, wrote on style and composition
o Juan Luis Vives (AD 1492-1540) -- established pattern of rhetorical education in English
o Leonard Cox (AD ??-??) -- produced first rhetoric handbook in English --Arte or Crafte of Rhetoryke (1530)
o Giambattista Vico (AD 1668-1744) -- recognized that language shaped genius and not the reverse, well known for the New Science and On the Study Methods of Our Time.
o Thomas Wilson (AD 1525?-1581) -- neoclassicist, wrote most popular English Renaissance rhetoric handbook - The Arte of Rhetorique (1553)
* Modern
o (there's quite a few here; I need to do a little sifting first)
* Contemporary
o Kenneth Burke
o James Kinneavy
o Chaim Perelman
o I.A. Richards
o Stephen Toulmin
o Richard Weaver

Rhetorical theory today is much more heavily influenced by the research results and research methods of the behavioral sciences and by theories of literary criticism than by ancient Rhetorical theory.

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