Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rhetoric. How does it work?

One of the questions I've yet to receive is "why does rhetoric work?". Which is a good question, and should I ever receive it, I will be in good company.

But why does it work?

If you are a philosopher, your thoughts might travel along the lines of some things being more true than others, and as such more likely to be understood. Humans are rational beings, and the capacity to understand things is a shared universal, and thus some things are more easily understood by the many. Logos speaks.

If you are a psychologist, you might revert this by pointing out that it is not the thing being understood, but the understander being. And that the speaker, by being in such a way that is understandable, makes and scores points. Ethos speaks.

If you are a poet, you might do a dance by putting pleasing phrases in our ears. Knowing how words feel and how to feel words, the speaker may move the soul by selecting syllables that delect and delight. Pathos speaks.

If if if. But if you are a rhetor, you don't need reasons. They might come in handy, but you don't need them. What you do need, though, is an index finger. The point being at the end, and the end of the finger being point.

Rhetoric works like this: you point at things, and by doing it in a certain order, you create a chain of thought that is conducive to the thing you want or need to say. There's nothing mystical or magical about it - you just point, first at the one thing, then at the other, until you are done.

But why does it work?

I'm sure all those people I've pointed at will have plenty to say about it. Do send my regards. -

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