Read an Excerpt
UNDERSTANDING SELF AND OTHERS IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD
By Richard E. Bailey
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Richard E. Bailey Ph. D.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIntroduction to Philosophic Rhetoric
Getting at the truth of matters that affect one's well-being and happiness is everybody's business.
Assumptions, Definitions and Observations
The author does not claim originality in his use of the term "Philosophic Rhetoric." He owes the ideas he has on it to Plato, who dismissing rhetoric as "cookery" in the Gorgias, seemed to link them together in the Phaedrus. Secondly, he is indebted to Lester Thonssen and A. Craig Baird who employed the ethical, truth, artistic, and results standards as a method of criticism that leads to rational judgments concerning the relative merits of speeches. (1) The philosophic part of Philosophic Rhetoric includes the ethical and truth standards. The rhetorical part is concerned with the artistic and results standards which assess how affective a message is in getting its auditors to believe in and act upon the speaker's proposals. Conceived in this way, Philosophic Rhetoric pre-supposes the existence of an objective reality, and a mind capable of knowing it. The former is concerned with ontology, the latter with epistemology. Thus, there are necessarily objective and subjective dimensions in all truth claims.
The rhetor, as philosopher, employs dialectic and the scientific method (method of hypothesis) in his efforts to apprehend the truth about "What Is" in the realm of being on the one side; and "What Is" in the world of matter/nature on the other. The philosopher, as rhetor, employs rhetoric in his efforts to make that which he has apprehended knowable to himself, and believable, and actionable to others. The claim this essay makes is that we are all philosophical rhetoricians because human nature compels us to seek the truth about ourselves, the people we live with, and the world in which we live. The uses of dialectic and the scientific method are well-known to most people. The uses of rhetoric are not well-known, and when used is done often in a negative or derisive manner. So what Rhetoric is, does, and proposes to accomplish must be considered first.
Donald Bryant, a contemporary rhetorician, defines rhetoric as "... the rationale of informative and suasory discourse." (2) Everett Lee Hunt claims: "Rhetoric is the study of men persuading men to make free choices." (3) Aristotle described rhetoric as "... the art of discovering in the particular case, what are the available means of persuasion." (4) He did not feel a need to define persuasion as he felt everyone knew when they were being persuaded. Fotheringham, a behavioral psychologist, provides a workable definition. He writes: "... persuasion is conceived as that body of effects ..." achieved "... in receivers, relevant and instrumental to source-desired goals, brought about by a process in which messages have been a major determinant of those effects ... is interpersonal and involves the perception of choice." (5) He explains, what Aristotle assumed, that persuasion is only one means of influence. Other means he identifies for securing "compliance" with a source's message are: force, bribery, authority, and interpersonal roles. Messages may be associated with these means of influence, he observes, but if compliance is achieved due to the perception of injury associated with its rejection, force has been used; if the perception of reward generates compliance, the auditor has been bribed; and if a person complies because it is the law, the behavior has been legislated. Further, when auditors comply because they recognize a source in a situation has the right to direct their behavior; interpersonal roles produces the compliance, as when a student accepts the right of the professor to lecture, give examinations, and assign grades. These means of influence are part of the culture of the Western World. Persuasion is the most desirable means of influence for two reasons: it is available to everyone; and the persuaded person continues in the desired behavior because he subjectively "perceives" he has freely chosen to do so. The powerful and wealthy seem more likely to utilize force and bribery. As we hold them accountable for the things they say and do; we also hold persuaders responsible for messages they utter and the results they achieve.
From the standpoint of Philosophic Rhetoric responsible speakers and writers must know three things if they are not to inflict injury upon their auditors. First, they must have self-knowledge; second, they must know what is really good for their auditors; and third, they must speak the truth about the issues they address. The two exhortations carved on the walls of the temple" dedicated to Apollo at Delphi, cited above, "Know Thyself," and "Nothing too Much," Walter F. Otto writes, mean "know what man is, and how great is the interval which separates him from the greatness of the eternal gods; consider the limitations of humanity." (6)
Weaver asserts: "We are all of us preachers in private or public capacities. We have no sooner uttered words than we have given impulse to other people to look at the world, or some small part of it, in our way." (7) "When all factors have been considered," he observes, "it will be seen that men are born rhetoricians...." (8) This means the speaker must become aware of how his family, education, professional activities, personal history, significant events in his life, and his own system of values have formed a filter through which he views himself, his auditors, and the issues he considers. Lacking this kind of self-knowledge, he willwhether he is an educator, clergyman, therapist, analyst, or friendimpose his worldview and his personal biases upon his auditor, client or friend.
Secondly, since messages are focused "... upon accomplishing something predetermined and directional with an audience...." the responsible speaker must know what really contributes to the well-being of his auditors, and those things that might injure them. (9) His message must always urge his auditors to embrace the good over the evil; the greater good over the lesser; and the lesser of the evils over the greater. It is not that people cannot be deceived nor urged to foolish action; but that the ethical speaker should not subject his auditors to such deception and manipulation. (10)
The initial focus of Philosophic Rhetoric is upon the speaker/writer/ source. The second is upon the audience. Third, Philosophic Rhetoric holds the speaker responsible for discovering and telling the truth about the issues he addresses. Griswold asserts that rhetoric is used broadly by Plato to include all discoursethat which is directed to ourselves as well as that directed to others. (11) Thus, the speaker, as his own auditor must, first, persuade himself of the truth about the issues he presents to his auditors. He must know what he thinks and why he thinks it. (12)
Commenting on self-persuasion in the Phaedrus, Griswold observes that the philosopher, as a fallen soul, cannot distinguish with certainty that his vision of "what is" has not been falsified by its transformation into what the mind can make of itby what the mind perceives it to be. Recognizing the possibility that putting his sense of "what is" into what the mind can apprehend (language or other symbol system) is fraught with error, he will make an effort not to be persuaded by what reveals itself to him as true just because he sees it as true. Thus, he engages in a dialogue with himself so he can hear himself giving reasons for what he believes he has experienced. At this point, Griswold observes, the philosopher is in grave danger of self-persuasion and self deception. This means, he cannot be sure that his conviction stems from the truth of his answer, (i.e. the right correspondence between his words and the subject matter), or from the persuasiveness of the words he has used in formulating what he has perceived. (13) He is, however, not totally lost on the horns of this dilemma. Confronted with this situation, he seeks to explain himself publicly in the company of a community of peers. In sum, Socrates "endorses the notion" that one gets to know himself through dialogue and his use of rhetoric. (14)
At this point, having thought clearly about the issues; and having explained himself in the company of experts; the philosophical rhetorician is prepared to challenge his auditors to do their own thinking; make their own choices; and take responsibility for their own actions. We recognize this to be the goal of a liberal education. We can conclude that the knowledge which comes from dialoguing with one's self and others about what is really good for a human being, and the pursuit of truth are essential criteria of a philosophical rhetoric. It is obvious, Griswold writes, that "... rhetoric is eventually shown ..." in the Phaedrus ... "to include dialectic, and once the ends of rhetoric are considered.... it becomes clear that philosophical dialogue is the perfection of rhetoric." (15)
The time, place, and occasion in which persuasion occurs exert important influences upon the issues a speaker brings to the attention of an audience. Considerations of time, of course, refer not only to the day of the week and time of day, but also the length of time one has to address issues. Place refers to the setting in which messages occur. It makes a difference if one is addressing an audience in a public hall, or if it takes place in one's consulting room with a student, client, or analysand. (16)
The Situation. In addition to the above, a philosophic rhetoric recognizes that both people and issues have histories. Thonssen and Baird explain that "reconstructing" the "social setting" that forms the background within which persuasive messages occur is central to all efforts at understanding what brings an auditor, client, analysand, etc. to one's office. (17) The question to be answered is: What is the problem? Parish explains: "Since the purpose of speech is to work persuasion upon an audience, we cannot properly explain or evaluate until we have learned a great deal about the occasion that called it forth, the speakers relation to the occasion, the resources available to him, and the climate of opinion and current events amidst which he operated." (18) This task requires one to be an historian and typically begins with the initial interview. Bitzer reminds us that rhetorical discourse is "called into existence" by situations, and is limited to those problems that can be partially or fully resolved by discourse. (19)
The question that follows these considerations is: What makes people persuadable? A beginning answer is to recall, first, that the mind recognizes stimuli received as messages are to be referred and compared to what the person has learned and accepted as true about reality. And, second, that people naturally seek what they believe is good for them and avoid that which they believe will injure them. Their experience, however, is that they have been deceived about such things in the past; may be deceived in the present; and might be deceived at some time in the future. They need to come to a knowledge of the truth about what is good for them; and about that which will do them injury. Plato believed that humans were persuadable because the soul has fallen from the realm of Being into the realm of Becoming, remembering little or nothing, and is unable to live its own life. It is "primordially deficient," and "has forgotten its true origins." (20)
Richard Weaver, sounding much like Plato, says man is by nature a rational and emotional being, possesses a capacity for appreciating the beautiful, yearns for the infinite, and is "born with a sense of ought." He is a physical being living in a world in which each person is a "unique and particular instance" of man striving to become what he ought to be as contrasted with what he finds himself to be in his actual life situation. It is this discrepancy, which exists between what humans ought to be and what they perceive themselves to be, that makes them subject to their own self-persuasions, and the persuasive efforts of others. (21) In ordinary language, people are persuaded when a message makes sense to them, and when they perceive their compliance will enable them to avoid an injury or secure some good. An implication from the above is that there are factors in the external world and in the auditors' internal world of subjective experience that make them subject to persuasive messages.
External constraints, while not easily demonstrated, may be proved to an audience by citing relevant "facts" and buttressing them with valid and adequate arguments. Cases may be made about propositions of facts, values, or policies that affect an individual's or the public's well-being. These strategies are well known to people in the Western World. Conflicting opinions, deep-seated biases, strongly held group prejudices, and conflicting testimonies from expert witnesses are staples of our culture. Constraints internal to the speaker and the receiver of messages are beliefs, values, attitudes, past learning, subjective prejudices, and the like. (22) Both the issue and the relevant constraints must be addressed by the speaker if his message is going to affect changes in his auditors thinking, feeling, believing, acting, and later effects in the objective world.
Reality. "A work of rhetoric ..." Bitzer writes, "... comes into existence for the sake of something else ... it functions ultimately to produce action or change in the world; it performs some task ..." and "... is a mode of altering reality, not by direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse that changes reality through the mediation of thought and action." (23) Franklin Knower agrees that communication is a response to a reality situation and has the potential of changing the real world. The reality that is changed may be within an individual's world of subjective perceptions; in his outward behavior; within the collective psyche of an organization; or a change in the political realities of our public life and culture. (24) Rhetoric is, thus, a powerful means of influence which has the potential of "re-forming" an individual's inner world of subjective perceptions, and of affecting changes in the reality situation to which it is a response.
Delivery. Perhaps the most commonly held opinion about the field of rhetoric is that it consists in a set of procedures for the composition and delivery of persuasive messages. The early Sophists produced "how to" manuals giving instructions on the art of making speeches. Aristotle writes with his usual clarity about the roles of the Speaker, the Audience, and the Composition and Delivery of messages. (25) He gives advice on how to construct logical, ethical, and emotional appeals; how to arrange the materials of a speech; as well as advice on the style (language); and delivery of a speech. The rhetorician is concerned here with how affective the message was in getting the auditor(s) to believe in, and act upon its urgings. Thonssen and Baird, as noted above, calls this the "Artistic" standard in judging messages. (26) Courses in speechmaking, sermonizing, counseling, analysis and the like serve similar functions.
This has been a brief account of the components of what might be included in the concerns of a philosophic rhetoric. We may draw from this sketch that a philosophic rhetoric is:
1. a means of influence employed by speakers who use messages to achieve their goals with an audience;
2. a response to an objective or perceived reality situation to which it may affect change;
3. involves constraints both objective to the situation, and the speaker himself;
4. is concerned with the truth of the message as well as the happiness of the auditors; and
5. considers the effectiveness of messages in achieving changes in its auditors assignments of meaning, in their behavior, and later changes it generated in the reality situation to which it was a response.
We now claim that what Philosophic Rhetoric is, what it does, and what it seeks to accomplish is grounded upon a worldview. Thus, it becomes important to consider the origins, structure, and characteristics of worldviews, and how they become ways of life.
Worldviews and Ways of Life Origins, Nature, Characteristics, Structure of a Worldview
To the case Tarnas makes that different cultures and nation-states have worldviews; we may add that different institutions, academic disciplines, all kinds of organizations, and each individual have worldviews that exert a powerful influence over the way people live their lives and conduct their businesses. Further, cultures, nations, institutions, and all human productions, like individuals, come into being, grow, become dominant and arrogant, which leads them to either humility or chaosto further development, or to being replaced by an emerging weltanschauung that is also based upon its own unproved and improvable assumptions.
Excerpted from UNDERSTANDING SELF AND OTHERS IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD by Richard E. Bailey Copyright © 2013 by Richard E. Bailey Ph. D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.