That true rhetoric is inherently ethical

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Hey friends, I have a thought:  Weaver contrasts rhetoric with “symbolic logic” in terms of the interest in the former with the actual and the interest in the latter with the abstract, then posits that:

Yet there is one further fact, more decisive than any of these, to prove that rhetoric is addressed to man in his humanity  Every speech which is designed to move is directed to a special audience in its unique situation. (We could not except even those radio appeals to “the world.” Their audience has a unique place in time.) Here is but a way of pointing out that rhetoric is intended for historical man, or for man as conditioned by history.  It is part of the conditio humana that we live at particular times and in particular places. These are productive of special or unique urgencies, which the speaker has got to recognize and to estimate.  Hence, just as man from the point of view of rhetoric is not purely a thinking machine, or a mere seat of rationality, so he is not a creature abstracted from time and place.  If science deals with the abstract and the universal, rhetoric is near the other end, dealing in significant part with the particular and the concrete.  It would be the height of wishful thinking to say that this ought not be so.  As long as man is born into history, he will be feeling and responding to historical pressures.  All of these reasons combine to show why rhetoric should be considered the most humanistic of the humanities.

I think this one observation goes a long way toward highlighting how rhetoric, once one gets beyond “mere artifice,” is inherently ethical. Your thoughts?

February 17th 2015 |

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