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Rhetoric is the use of language to persuade.


Shelley claimed, in A Defence of Poetry, that poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Aristotle and George Lakoff are just two of many champions of its usefulness. It has many detractors but none of these has ever managed to replace it:

Rhetoric was first taught in ancient Greece, as an art, which is also (not by coincidence) the cradle of democracy and. In a democratic society, one wins power by winning arguments. Rhetoric and sophistry were taught so that one could make the weaker argument the stronger.


An adversarial process of re-examining the seemingly weaker side of an argument, adopting a very weak argument and furthering it as best one can, exposing conceptual metaphors and even ontological metaphors which cause people to see the relationships and use of words in new ways, is fundamental to all Western European derived methods of legal argument up to and including human rights law. However this is not to say that the final arguments remained weak as they inevitably progressed to some final form:

Most arguments that are generally accepted today were "weak" at the time they first appeared, and grew stronger by constant re-examination even when the question was moot. That term is used to this day to describe a legal practice debate on an already settled question.

relation with politics

A tiny minority of political philosophers has thought that politics itself was retarded by rhetoric, that rather than a tool for education or understanding, the shifting metaphors that it relies on (as does poetry) could only confuse. Thomas Hobbes and Ayn Rand are probably the only ones that ordinary people have heard of. Both advocated a mechanistic paradigm in which the universe was essentially a machine. If this were viable, mathematics would be the only means of applying logic and all science would be hard science; History suggests quite otherwise however:

The majority view is that cultures embed and extend rhetoric and cannot simply extricate it on demand from language when it's time to decide. The debate however is never entirely settled and openpolitics.ca itself takes a moderate view:

in open politics

In open politics itself, rhetoric is allowed in an argument which supports or opposes a position taken on an issue. The issue statement is as neutral of controversial terms or metaphors as possible. The positions are free to use any metaphor but will tend to be weakened by such reliance. Arguments are the best place to make arguments based on analogy or structural metaphor.

The chief editors may alter senior editor guidelines to add more detail to the above or to put questionable analogy in scare quotes.

spin doctor, propaganda, sophistry, mind control, conceptual metaphor, poets, open politics argument


[+] "Rhetoric is the junk food of thought":

[+] Culture inevitably requires rhetoric