Week 3: Rhetoric


One of history’s most outstanding contributors to ancient literature was the Greek philosopher Aristotle and his colossal ‘rhetoric’ speech which has remained pertinent throughout time. Dating back to the fourth century BC, Aristotle’s ‘rhetoric’ is a literary piece outlining what is considered an art, practiced throughout all ends of society to this day.

According to Edlund & Pomona (2010), rhetoric is a form of persuasion, commonly practiced among politicians and influential speakers. In Robel’s (2015) take on the speech, Aristotle defines rhetoric as a ‘practical discipline’ that aims to use speech to persuade an audience. Rhetoric falls into three divisions determined by different audiences. These categories are the political assembly, forensic oratory and the ceremonial occasion.

Aristotle describes the practice of rhetoric using ‘ethos’, ‘pathos’ and logos’, the philosopher’s three modes of persuasion (Robel 2015). Ethos appeals to a speaker’s ethics and understanding of the human character (Edlund & Pomona 2010). For the speaker, this means knowing the audience and which language and content is appropriate to present in order to be persuasive. Through this, the audience can identify the speaker’s credibility.

Pathos persuades by appealing to emotions and knowing what causes and excites the audience (Robel 2015). In other words, the speaker’s implications, tone of voice and knowledge of what triggers certain emotions among the audience will impact how persuasive their speech is. In addition, logos is a method of persuasion surrounding the speaker’s ability to reason logically (Edlund & Pomona 2010). Logos occurs through presenting facts and evidence supporting an argument and reasoning (Robel 2015).

Aristotle states that rhetoric is useful in that it fairly supports truth and justice and can persuade even the least knowledgeable audiences who do not follow intellectual demonstration (Sparknotes 2016). It also leads people to consider all sides of an argument. Adding to this, Aristotle reasons that like physical defence, rhetoric can confer benefits when used correctly and be just as damaging when used wrongfully.

Lastly, Aristotle discusses the importance of producing persuasion by using style and language, and developing structure within speeches. In further detail, he states that pitch and delivery of speech must be considered, the style must be clear and the language should incorporate the use of nouns, verbs, metaphors, similes and hyperbole.

A modern day example of rhetoric is US President Barack Obama’s ‘YES we can!’ catchphrase. Obama used this message to persuade his audience as it created hope for a better future and inspired Americans to believe in their nation and its leader. The key message was effective because it excited its audience, and it was transparent in its meaning. In addition, Obama delivered this message with reason and justified it through facts and reasoning.




In the clip ‘Defence of Rhetoric: No Longer Just For Liars’ it is discussed how Rhetoric is often misunderstood as ‘trickery’ and ‘word ornamentation’. Whereas in actual fact, rhetoric is beneficial to individuals practicing it as it allows them to become familiar and confident with who their audience is and how their message can be appropriately communicated. It enables people to deliver their message in a way that preserves their image whilst reaching the audience effectively.

The video highlights the fact that people use rhetoric in communication daily, to get others to believe, understand and agree with ideas and concepts. Rhetoric occurs among music, business, the sciences and in basic decision making such as choosing what to wear and what brands to use.

Last and foremost, the video makes the valid point that rhetoric defends the truth and what is real against information that otherwise may be mistakenly accepted, such as negative opinions passed on from others.


Ames, K, 2016, COMM12033: Speech & Script: Rhetoric, CQU, Rockhampton, accessed 2 April 2016, https://moodle.cqu.edu.au/pluginfile.php/293229/mod_resource/content/6/COMM12033_Week3_Mod.pdf

Edlund, J & Pomona, C, 2010, Ethos, Logos, Pathos: Three Ways to Persuade, accessed 5 April 2016, http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/jgarret/3waypers.htm

Robel, S, 2015, Polish Sociological Review, Logos, Ethos, Pathos: Classical Rhetoric Revisited, vol. 3, pp.39, accessed 5 April 2016, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.cqu.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=8cae7d0e-726e-4e91-8669-c52e047018a6%40sessionmgr105&hid=111

Sparknotes, 2016, Poetis and Rhetoric, accessed 5 April 2016, http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/aristotle/section9.rhtml


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s