What is Rhetoric?

“‘But the more strident our journalists, politicians, and alas! even many of our churchmen become, the more convinced we are that books should be written for tolerance and contemplation…’

I feel like this quote does a great deal of encompassing the one aspect of Burke’s writing that I actually grasped onto: the idea that rhetoric is not just about persuasion. Really, it seems that it is just a means to affect the readers/consumers in some way. In other words, I feel that rhetoric is a way to spread a message that should be pondered over and analyzed rather than accepted as true (although persuasion could come as a result of this).

Examples of what I mean can apply to a great number of things. In art, one could paint/draw a political message, but it is then left to the viewer’s interpretation. What they feel or how they react is result of the rhetorical situation of the message. Yet the art doesn’t necessarily convince viewers to believe the message. ”

The above is my discussion board post from class. I want to go a little further with this using the following quote from the Burke reading: “Particularly when we come upon such aspects of persuasion as are found in ‘mystification,’ courtship, and the ‘magic’ of class relationships, the reader will see why the classical notion or clear persuasive intent is not an accurate fit, for describing the ways in which the members of a group promote social cohesion by acting rhetorically upon themselves and one another.” This quote is also showing that rhetoric is something that cannot just be described as persuasion. It is something that focuses on the reader and the relationships that the reader has with others.

As a critical thinker, this applies to me in many ways. While listening to the discussion in class today, I pondered over my thoughts on this idea. And I realized that this applies to me in more ways than one. When I make an argument about something, I am not trying to persuade others to believe what I am saying. No, I am just showing, with facts, logic, and reasoning, why I believe something. My art that I make is not for someone else to say “oh, I see what you are saying, and I agree with that!” Rather, I am just expressing myself to the world in a way that makes sense to me. I paint when I am upset, and often my paintings are a representation of what I am feeling at the time. But I am not trying to get others to feel the way that I do.

Another way that I use rhetoric in this way is in my interactions with people. I like to listen to others’ opinions and thoughts on everything and then come up with my own ideas and thoughts based on those, but I will never say that my beliefs are something that I force on someone else. I do not try to actively persuade anyone to agree with my message. Of course, rhetoric does help to persuade, but that is not the main intent. It is really just a means to express the message.

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