The term ‘persuasion’ can be loaded. When we try to persuade someone, our persuasion may be loaded with our agenda, with our goals, and with our opinions—and that is a danger. It is a danger because we are flawed human beings. We make mistakes in our beliefs, in our thinking, and in our actions. Furthermore, life is not all about ‘us and our opinions’—not even if we happen to get everything right. Not even if we go to the right church, have the right political opinions, live a virtuous life, etc.
Getting it Right
But then the bigger picture is this—that life is not all about ‘getting it right’ (whatever ‘it’ is). So …
1. What is Classical Writing’s aim?
2. Why write books about argumentation and proofs if ‘being right’ does not matter?
What are we trying to effect when we communicate—be it with humans, God, self, animals, plants, or any other object or place in creation?
What is the purpose of communication?
To get what we want? To influence people for good? To love others? To change the world to be a better place?
Rhetoric and Communication
All communication is done by use of rhetoric, whether we are aware of it or not. And it is not just in the way we use language. Language is just one part of communication. (It so happens that language generally is the most precise vehicle for communicating complex concepts.)
Facial expressions and body language are also critical for communication, especially in the appeals of ethos and pathos. But when we discuss the role of material logic as related to the canon of invention, body language will not get us far.
There is a time and a place in our world for words, even critical, harsh words and brutal debate. Civilization, after all, exists because men often decide to argue rather than to come to blows over issues. But are our argumentative skills weapons we wield in self-service to prove to other men that we are right?