Can rhetoric defend itself?

rhet·o·ric Noun/ˈretərik/

  1. The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing.

In class we watched In Defense of Rhetoric. My question is: does rhetoric need defending? Since it has been around since the times of Plato, Isocrates and Aristotle, I’d say not. Popular stereotypes about rhetoric exist, and they aren’t positive ones. Rhetoric isn’t just for liars, as some people would say. Rhetoric isn’t only for politicians. It can actually help anybody prove a point and share information with people.

In my high school AP language class (which was a rhetoric class) we learned that ethos means ethics, logos means logic, and pathos means emotion. We used the rhetorics to write all of our papers and defend or prove our points. Our high school teacher also taught us that there is a big difference between rhetoric and rhetorical questions. She said that rhetorical questions are used to prove a point simply by asking the question. Obviously they aren’t meant to be answered. The rhetorics are slanting devices, clothed as explanations. I’m not sure if this is the right way to look at it or not, to be honest. This is just the way it was explained to me as a junior in high school. But regardless, ethos, logos and pathos served me well in high school. I never failed an AP exam.

“Men must be taught as if you taught them not; and things unknown propos’d as things forgot.” – Alexander Pope

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