Rhetorical ideas

David_-_The_Death_of_SocratesIn the realm of ‘Classical Conditioning’ introduced by Ivan Pavlov, some observers of Homo sapiens from the Paleolithic era and other species from the animal kingdom, can agree on the manifestation of language, both verbally and physically, that their existence in large part stems from the ability to communicate their needs through cues, or what Umberto Eco described as “overcoding.” Indeed, most of us can appreciate the nuances of visual cues that act as a prelude to what our mind is telling our mouths to utter in defense, in hunger, vocation and in love.

Rhetoric was founded in Greece, says Kennedy, “as an art of persuasion in public address.” The lineage was founded through the sophists and continued through Aristotle to the present day. We can see it expressed as an art through law and its regalia, including a robe and a wig to foment respect, tradition, and quite possibly to intimidate an opponent. It is not the mere words that accentuate the argument; it must, as Shakespeare concluded- “The first thing we do, lets kill all of the lawyers.” Ah, but was the Bard feeling threatened by the optics of law in his own backyard, his own theatre, we might ask. Apparently, old William was bashing administrative justice, fees, and petty lawsuits. The importance and the galvanizing of law through discourse found its orbit through the Sophists, which continues today.

However, most need to see Rhetoric as an art that is expressed in daily communication with our families, our teachers, politicians, and actors and actresses. The art of rhetoric has been expressed through electronic media and was very effective in containing damage by Canadian political parties in the most recent election. The success of the Liberal Party had much to do with the skill of the “spin team” to reassure the electorate that their leader was capable and “ready” to perform the duties of Prime Minister. In this regard, social media and political advertising embodies the spirit of rhetoric, including the logos, kairos, and the agon. The energy and skill of Justin Trudeau in rhetoric regarding his message became effective as he gained confidence throughout his campaign. He economized his energy and his message was skillfully applied in a manner that denied any negativity, while doing precisely what good rhetoricians do: colour the language for personal gain or survival. For the Liberal Party, they not only survived the kairos, they bludgeoned their opponents on to a clear and four-year mandate with little restriction.

Kennedy indicates that there is difficulty in establishing a starting point for Rhetoric, a “genus” as it were, and it would seem Athens is the best that we can do. But, moreover, he extends that Rhetoric is a kind of energy that is fermenting in each one of us before a single syllable is spoken; R is the fuel, words are the fire. Kennedy is not satisfied with semantics and rhetoric; he contends that “rhetorical energy is found in physical actions, facial expressions, and gestures.” Currently, the heated campaign for political office in Canada is pitting one rather dry orator: Stephen Harper against an aspiring neophyte in Justin Trudeau who embodies plenty of energy, moxie, and overcoding to continue a legacy that began with his father, former Prime Minister Pierre and a very skilled rhetorician who once quipped “that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And yet, in hindsight government began creeping into our lives on a more expansive level beginning with the Trudeau government, and Justin’s wish to foster that legacy. When watching anybody including ourselves talk, in a mirror or whatever, we can see the a priori energy or the ethos, which demonstrates good character of the speaker, the speakers ability to elicit a response in their audience using empathy- the pathos, and the speakers call to arms or the defense of their argument using logic – the logos. This is precisely how Aristotle summarized the validity of the ‘argument’ through rhetoric.

Kennedy here spends a good bit of time deducing the implications of rhetoric on the animal kingdom. And as Kennedy indicates, animals need to play to develop their conditioning so that they can catch prey, defend themselves, and learn “the communication code and rhetoric of the species.” This is precisely what children are being taught by their folks, friends, and teachers, through the art of rhetoric and discourse, from an early age. Pavlov found that ringing a bell on its own caused his dogs to salivate, a conditioned response. Receiving the skill of rhetoric can induce in humans the tendency to communicate our energy and thoughts in a timely and responsible manner without the use of anaphora. Recently, Michael Richards, a comedian and actor made reference to his outburst at a comedy-club in 2006. Those that know him from television media see his character as easy-going and innocent. Kennedy may find Richard’s personality and station in life at the time of his outburst to mimic the animal kingdom that requires survival instincts and experience. The media scripts rhetoric for public consumption, and in this sense is teaching humans about candor and intimacy. How humans should interact in a manner that can spread out through politics and religion is vested through our priests, political leaders, and family. We’ve all become part of Pavlov’s experiment. Our parents teach us “kitchen-table” political views. My folks would instill as voting other than that of the Liberal Party, anathema-using logos as the motivating element. Rhetoric in this regard becomes cryptic when individuals are cast out of context. Kennedy is correct to indicate government’s use of rhetoric in delivering message to the masses, through, “letteraturizzazione”, though, mainly used in creative writing, has found a voice in contemporary political thought. Modern Propaganda is concerned only with provoking an individual into taking action, as Jacques Ellul described in “The Characteristics of Propaganda.”Consider how humans react to intrinsic and extrinsic events that affect them spiritually, and economically. When we do not understand these issues in our lives, we ask the cosmos for guidance, not unlike the Athenians. Moreover, the process of government is similar, such as Germany and New Zealand that endorse tactical voting. One could argue that, ultimately, the leaders will have their way as Germany’s Merkel stated in 2010 that multiculturalism had failed Germany and in 2015, endorsed the integration of thousands of Syrian refugees, much to the dismay of some Party members.  However, as we have seen in the Canadian political debates, anaphora is the most popular girl at the party.


Chariots of Fire: A Tibetan Historical Perspective

A history of the Tibetan Plateau to the present, with current concerns and potential solutions to China’s occupation. Two covers.

http://www.amazon.com/Chariots-Fire-Tibetan-Historical-Perspective/dp/1499542178/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=Chariots of FireN4

Chariots-alternate cover


About Kevin Kieswetter

Hello, I have continued studying part-time at the University of Waterloo, with an interest in the political situation in Tibet, and North America. Recently, I have published a companion or white paper to an earlier work. If you have an interest in the situation on the Ttibetan Plateau, please have a look.
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