Definitions of rhetoric
Definitions of Rhetoric
Bryant contributed to the New Rhetoric movement by rejecting to the modern conception that rhetoric was sophistry. Bryant supported and expanded upon Kenneth Burke's new rhetoric by stating his infamous definition of the function of rhetoric: adjusting ideas to people and people to ideas. Bryant also supported the idea that the principles of classical rhetoric could still be applied to the modern and extensive forms of discourse today through a reinterpretation of Aristotle's Rhetoric. Bryant believed that Aristotle's Rhetoric had limitations that were historical rather than philosophical. Bryant objected to Aristotle's apparent failure to include exposition and persuasion within rhetoric, arguing that Aristotle's idea of demonstration implies perfect exposition for an inquiring audience. Also, Bryant argues that Aristotle's third category of his tripartite speeches, the deliberative speech, includes a persuasion-based system.
Bryant elaborates on the theory that rhetoric can be distinguished as a four-tiered definition.
- Rhetoric as an instrumental discipline as it is concerned with the management of discourse in specific situations for practical purposes. Whether it be the preacher, the journalist, the radio or television reporter, Bryant believed that they should not exploit their authoritative position by implying their opinion as fact by stating, "This is because," rather than "I believe so because..." Rhetoric is an instrumental tool as the rhetorician "must know the right question to ask and the bases for answering them with greatest probability for his audience now. That is his rhetorical knowledge" (279).
- Rhetoric as a literary study, involving linguistics, critical theory, and semantics as it touches the art of informing ideas, and the functioning of language. Although rhetoric can be considered a literary study, it does not have the privilege that other sciences have in that rhetoric cannot wait until "all contingencies have been removed and solutions to problems have been tested in advanced" (281). Rhetoric is based on contingent human affairs, thus rhetoric must do what is best to consider all aspects the issue at hand and deliver a decision when it is required.
- Rhetoric as a philosophical study so far as it is concerned with a method of investigation or inquiry. "Rhetoric is a method. Rhetoric does rather than is" (281). Bryant believed that rhetoric should not be studied as a closed system as other learnings are concerned with, but as a method.
- Rhetoric as a social study as it is akin to politics, drawing upon psychology and sociology; it is the study of a major force in the behavior of men in society. "The position is that a complete rhetoric, and that is the kind of rhetoric which we are discussing, knows the whole man and seeks to ring to bear the whole man in achieving its ends- what he is and what he thinks he is, what he believes and what he wants and what he tells himself he wants" (284).