Aristotle's Politics

The Role of the Audience in Concepts of Rhetoric

It has been said that the success of any democracy is incumbent upon the participation of its citizenry. Indeed, our governmental, economic, and social institutions (explicit or otherwise) require the cognizant and informed participation of us all. We are the juries for our peers. We vote for our political representatives. We celebrate our communities and mourn the fallen. Our lives are rife with situations that call upon us to deliver our opinions, feelings, and best judgments. Therein lies the need for rhetoric, a means with which we might offer those things and gain an understanding of what those things require of us in the first place. Given the “need” for rhetoric, which author – Plato, Aristotle, Burke – seems to provide the most valuable understanding of it? In other words, if our citizenship necessitates the use of rhetoric in the normal course of our lives, which view of rhetoric might prove the most useful?

The activity central to rhetoric, of course, is the physical act of offering our opinions and best judgments: speech with the intent to persuade. The basic concept of rhetorical study, then, is an inspection of the means by which one will persuade their audience. In my estimation, the most important aspect of any of...

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