The Art of Rhetoric Book Summary - The Art of Rhetoric Book explained in key points
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The Art of Rhetoric summary


Uncover Persuasion and the Principles Behind Oratorical Skill

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    The Art of Rhetoric
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    Rhetoric is the art of exploiting the persuasive aspects of a situation.

    Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric was written in the city of Athens in what’s now known as the classical era of ancient Greece. During this period, Athens was a democratically-run city-state, so every Athenian citizen was expected not only to attend public assemblies and vote but also represent themselves in legal matters.

    Public speaking was so interwoven into Athenian culture that the study of how to speak well became a matter of great public interest. This era produced a profusion of books and teachers claiming they could teach the art of speaking to the layman. Among these was Aristotle.

    He acknowledged that every speech requires its own unique rhetorical style – after all, you wouldn’t give the same kind of speech to rally the troops for battle as you would to argue that taxes should be lowered. Yet all forms of rhetoric basically have the same objective: persuading your audience.

    The key message here is: Rhetoric is the art of exploiting the persuasive aspects of a situation.

    According to Aristotle, no matter what kind of speech you’re giving, there are really only three basic methods of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.

    Ethos is about making your audience perceive you as a more authoritative speaker. Pathos has to do with arousing emotions in your audience in order to influence their judgment. And, finally, logos is about demonstrating your point of view through the use of reason and argument. For Aristotle, logos is the most persuasive of the three. 

    Yet writers on rhetoric prior to Aristotle tended to focus on pathos – argumentation that aroused the emotions. Their manuals were filled with things like advice on how to convince a jury to pity you so that they’ll commute your sentence. To these authors, rhetoric was little more than the art of using words to manipulate people.

    Aristotle rehabilitated rhetoric’s poor reputation by placing truth and virtue at its core. Truth and virtue, he argued, are inherently persuasive. And this makes sense; if you want people to think you’re a trustworthy source of information, you do actually need to pay attention to the facts.

    Ultimately, for Aristotle, rhetoric is more than just the art of manipulation. It’s the art of exploiting the facts of a situation to your advantage.

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    What is The Art of Rhetoric about?

    The Art of Rhetoric (4th century BCE) is a practical manual on the art of public speaking and persuasion. Written almost 2,500 years ago, The Art of Rhetoric remains one of the most incisive and comprehensive studies on rhetoric ever written.

    Who should read The Art of Rhetoric?

    • Amateur orators who need to prepare for an upcoming speech
    • Businesspeople who frequently speak in meetings
    • Anyone who has an interest in the classics of western thought

    About the Author

    Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher who wrote extensively on a sweeping range of topics, including physics, biology, logic, ethics, linguistics, and politics. He’s widely acknowledged to be one of the first genuine scientists in history, and his writings contributed to the development of whole new areas of study. Having trained under the Greek philosopher Plato at his Academy in Athens, Aristotle went on to become Alexander the Great’s tutor, and then later founded his own school in Athens called the Lyceum.

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