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Introduction to Rhetoric and the Art of Persuasion

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  • Introduction to Rhetoric and The Art of Persuasion

    At this point, you may be asking "What the heck is rhetoric!?"

    To paraphrase Aristotle, rhetoric is the ability to identify the best ways to persuade an audience under the given circumstances. Rhetoric is the use of language to communicate effectively.  Politicians, advertisements, and persuasive essays all use rhetoric to help get their point across.  Rhetoric involves three audience appeals:  

    • logos (rational and logical appeal) 
    • pathos (the power to evoke emotion, pity and compassion)
    • ethos (the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.) 
    From ancient Greece to the late 19th Century, rhetoric was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments.  Although not obvious, rhetoric is still a part of our culture today!

    In the next few lessons we will examine the Art of Persuasion. To examine the Art of Persuasion, we must first look more closely at rhetorical devices. Rhetorical devices are the techniques authors or speakers use to persuade someone. Additionally, we will examine Aristotelian elements of effective persuasion (pathos, logos, ethos).  



    Check out the video below for a basic overview on what rhetoric is. Be aware that the video mentions ethos, pathos, and logos. We will talk about these concepts later. Pay attention to their discussion of where rhetoric came from and how we use it.



    Wabash College. 10 Dec. 2013.

    Purdue Owl. 10 December 2013.