Five Canons of Rhetoric
When I was thinking about what rhetorical artifact to choose, I have no doubts, as it is difficult to underestimate importance of Five Canons of Rhetoric. Five Canons are principles established by Aristotle, which are the core values for those who want to use the power of words to influence people and to deliver essential things in the most effective way. About twenty-five hundred years ago he art of rhetoric was defined by Aristotle as “the faculty of discovering in the particular way the available means of persuasion”. But through centuries the meaning of rhetoric had been transformed and become not the art, but the thing that can have the negative meaning. Many times I hear people speaking about each other like “he is just being rhetorical” or “her arguments are not logical, but rhetorical”. It happens for the simple reason that people lack the true understanding of the notion.
This is what Terry Eagleton, the most influential English literary critic wrote about this issue: “Rhetoric wanted to find out the most effective ways of pleading, persuading and debating, the rhetoricians studied such devices in other people’s language in order to use them more productively in their own. It was, as we would say today, a ‘creative’ as well as ‘critical’ activity: the word ‘rhetoric’ covers both the practice of effective discourse and the science of it” (Eagleton 207).
Therefore, in this paper I will explain the meaning of my chosen rhetorical artifact- the Five Canons of Rhetoric, explain the classical rhetorical theory, its basic principles, assumptions and applications, as well as analyze Five Canons of Rhetoric in the light of that theory, and provide overall explanation about how this analysis is able to teach effective and ethical communication.
2. Five Canons of Rhetoric
So, as I have already mentioned rhetoric, in its classical and contemporary meanings, is the systematic way to understand and apply the principles of effective writing, thinking and speaking. Bruce A. Kimball, Dean at Morse College and the Member of the Teacher Preparation program at the University of Yale, called rhetoric constituents as “the ancient path to good writing”. And this ancient path is nothing more, but the systematic approach to the human communication in general. And the heart of the rhetoric is Five Canons of Rhetoric, which are invention, disposition, style, memory and delivery.
Invention is generally defined as finding of ideas and proofs in the process of communication. It includes the systematic and structured topic consideration, as well as arguments formulation and development of support. Invention is the canon that relates to the process of reasoning out of the position, and includes the choices that were made by the writer before he actually started to write the composition. Invention is also the canon that incorporates the discovery and provides the writer with the overall way of thinking regarding the specific knowledge body. Invention can be best described n terms of proofs and approach.
Proofs are referred to as the products of invention that are the basis for conviction. According to the classical rhetoric model, there are three types of proofs: logical, emotional and ethical. Logical proofs are connected with substantive and formal reasons for turning to other side or accepting the other position. Such proofs are judged on the basis of the objective criteria. Arguments that are based on logical proofs are of two forms: inductive and deductive. They deal with the validity, presentation and consistency for the definite position. Emotional proofs are refereed to as subjective considerations and tend not to be obligatory grounded in logic and reason. They are not often used during critical analysis, but in the long run they can add value to estimative judgments. Ethical proofs are directly connected with the orator’s credibility, and they describe logical and emotional message aspects and finally define the degree to which the audience is able to accept the point of view of the particular communicator.
Enthymeme, example and topic, along with argumentative line are very closely related to the meaning of the proof. Enthymeme is used in arriving to conclusions and relates to the commonly accepted background of the argument and remains the rhetorical syllogism counterpart of logic. Aristotle assumes that are twenty eight special themes from which rhetorical arguments can be derived. These comprehend arguments from opposites, from definition, from different word meanings and those arguments from words of the opponent to use against him.
Invention is very valuable canon, as it provides the mean, the main material, to develop arguments and supports the method of analyzing them. The validity of the argument, since it is predominantly based upon rational or logical standards, can be determined on basis whether it is fallacious or not. There are many common logical fallacies, which should be always remembered when building upon the argumentative base. Among them: the fallacy that presents the situation as it has only answers, cum hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy that assumes when two events are happening in one time, they have the relation to each other, slippery slop fallacy, which claims that one events will inevitable lead to bad events, ad hominem, when the argument is used against the person, common practice, appeal to authorities, etc.
Disposition, the next rhetoric canon, concerns the arrangement of the arguments and ideas, which were discovered and structured in the process of invention. It refers to arranging arguments on global and local levels. Scheme of rhetoric of Aristotle, which was the basis for the classical rhetoric theory, the general message organization, which was intended to persuade people, consisted of two parts: argument statement and the proof. During late classical period, that scheme was expanded to include already seven elements: introduction, narrative, exposition, proof, division, refutation and conclusion. There are many views upon the idea how the second canon disposition or arrangement should look like. For example, Jack Meiland, American philosopher that is best known for his comments upon cognitive relativism, presented the model in his essay “How to Write an Argumentative Paper”, in which he incorporated basically elements of the classical approach. According to Meiland, five main steps in arranging the argumentative paper are: brief explanation of the topic, explaining your position, stating argument for the position, objecting to stated argument and replying to the objection. This is what he wrote upon the subject: “Dialectical argumentative essay exhibits a back and forth movement from argument to objection to reply to objection to reply, and so on… does not stop after giving an argument…tests various positions on a question to see which is stronger…does not necessarily try to persuade or prove: it inquires” (Meiland 68). I would like also to mention Monroe’s motivated sequence and his describes five steps for arrangement: attention, need, satisfaction, visualization and action. This motivated sequence is most frequently used in persuasive speeches.
Approaches by Monroe and Meiland to arrange the persuasive essay are generally referred to the global level. Speaking about organizational strategy at local level, I cant help mentioning Stephen Toulmin’s, the British philosopher’s, systematic approach to the arguments layout, which concern different fields of knowledge. Those six elements are: claim, data, warrant, backing, rebuttal and modal qualifiers.
So, one can use any of the described approaches and strategies for arranging his argumentative writing, as they convey provide the basic idea of stylistic requirement, and there is no best approach.
Style is the third rhetoric canon, which had been studied intensively since the times of ancient Greeks. Alfred North Whitehead, an English mathematician who became the philosopher, wrote about style: “…in its finest sense is the last acquirement of the educated mind; it is also the most useful”. According to Aristotle, the notion of style incorporates the eloquent and powerful language. And Richard Lanham, famous for his books on style improving, proposes four elements of style: correctness, appropriateness, intelligibility and ornament.
Style is the central element in the art of rhetoric for the simple reason that it deals with the dramatic issues of communicative interaction and also concentrates upon the linguistic common base that is shared by both the orator and the audience. Style improvement relates to the understanding of the main language rules, strong vocabulary, and also which is very important- understanding of the intellectual and emotional needs of the definite audience.
Classical rhetoric theory or tradition defines the art of memory as the idea that the orator should be very knowledgeable upon the subject he wants to deliver. The art of memory experienced many changed from the time, when the “memory” notion or canon was first introduced. It had been transformed many times and adopted to the needs of particular disciplines. Frances A. Yates, an outstanding British historian, wrote about the evolution of the memory notion: “…it has evolved from the method of memorizing the encyclopedia of knowledge, of reflecting the world of memory, to an aid for investigating the encyclopedia of and the world with the object of discovering new knowledge. It is fascinating to watch how, in the trends of the new century, the art of memory survives as the factor in the growth of scientific method” (Yates 369). Classical and contemporary theories of rhetoric defined art of memory as the theory of knowledge, which the ‘method’ as its subfield. Methods can be qualitative and quantitative. The five canons of rhetoric are said to be the qualitative method for understanding speaking and writing processes, and the scientific method is said to be the quantitative approach to understanding of the natural phenomena. The process of scientific thinking incorporates the approach to understanding the notion that includes the theory, observation and empirical generalizations.
Terry Eagleton in 1983 presented several main approaches that can be used to interpret and evaluate literature. They include formalism, phenomenology, reception theory, hermeneutics, semiotics, post-structuralism, structuralism and psychoanalysis. Such evaluation is very complex and sophisticated, but is the bright example what the theory of knowledge.
Delivery is final canon and the most critical from the standpoint that it summarized the discussed earlier canons and refines them into the finished composition. The delivery should flow very smoothly and include such issues as description, interpretation and valuation. On the very basic level, the notion of description refers to the factual explanation what the definite thing is. This stage restricts the possible discussion, as it just covers the essential idea and provides the introduction regarding what critical method will be used. Interpretation is responsible for the explanation of the matter’s meaning. And finally evaluation explains what the thing does; it is responsible for making judgments and the determination of the message’s quality and effectiveness.
Delivery can be also called the evaluative strategy as it examines the finished essay and apply all rhetorical canons into practice. On the basic level delivery concerns the body language, the voice tone and texture.
Classical rhetoric theory assumes that the rhetoric is the art of reason implementation, as well as use of emotions, authority by means of language to persuade the audience to pass the idea or to agree with the resented values. Plato defined it as “the art of enchanting the soul”. The authors of classical rhetoric theory were Sophists, and rhetoric was tightly connected with the persuasion on public and political speeches and debates. It was said to flourish in democratic societies and were interconnected with the free speech and assembly. There were celebratory and deliberative rhetoric, and the last one was the essential part of tyrannical regimes and dogmatic public entities.
Contemporary rhetoric studies convey more diversified meanings and practices which differ from ancient rhetoric theory. Nowadays, rhetoricians argue that the classic rhetoric theory is very limited, as the process and the success of persuasion depend on communication and meaning. They introduce that the rhetoric should be studied through the frame of reference of critical and social theories, as well as philosophy. Rhetoric recent studies conveyed that rhetoric not only refers to politics, law, PR, advertising and marketing, but also to religion, journalism, history, literature, humanities, etc.
So, five canons of rhetoric are important to the communicator in terms of ideas and their quality, consistency of their arrangement, adequate proper language, right method of critical evaluation and delivery. Taken together, five canons create the finished product, which is perfect from all sides. It is also coherent, controlled and complete, when put together with the implementation of the same approach.
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