Exercise 1


What is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric seems to be often misinterpreted as a tool of manipulation and persuasion and  as a result is often viewed negatively. Although persuasion is the main aspect of rhetoric, it is also used as a way of communicating a message to a specific audience and how that audience responds to the narrator. We often use rhetoric in our lives without even realizing that we do so. Rhetoric is often used by politicians to present themselves to the voters. This is where some people may view rhetoric as “trickery,” because politicians will often use speech to appear to mean one thing, when in reality they are not being truthful. In the video In Defense of Rhetoric, Dr. Tharon Howard mentions epistemic rhetoric and how there are certain factors that contribute to making a decision. This part of the video really stood out to me because he mentions college decision making. When picking a college, I had to weigh various factors ranging from cost to location. At the time, I was not aware that this was a form of rhetoric. After watching this video, I realized how much rhetoric is a part of my daily life, rather than simply a form of persuasion. I remember in middle school and even in high school people ran for student body positions. They had to present a detailed and informative speech to the school in order to spread awareness of what they would like to accomplish if they were to be elected to a student body position. There was one girl in particular that was very effective getting her message across due to her speech, gestures and body language. As a result, the audience responded positively, and if I remember correctly she ended up getting the position she wanted.

While political rhetoric is often thought of as something negative, the fact of the matter is that rhetoric is used in all fields of life, including education, religion and even personal relationships. The goal of someone using rhetoric is to get a message across to a specific audience. Dr. Steve Katz makes a really interesting point when he says that “a fact is raw data plus interpretation” (In Defense of Rhetoric). I guess I never realized how facts require interpretation and knowledge in order to become facts. This struck me because I have always classified facts solely based on evidence rather than rhetoric. I agree that facts need to go through a process in order to be useful to the outside world. Overall, I was surprised at how rhetoric plays such a significant role in the way we all make important decisions.