“The Cultural Role of Rhetoric” by Richard Weaver

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“The Cultural Role of Rhetoric” by Richard Weaver discusses the necessity of pairing dialect and rhetoric. His major claim is that societies cannot be secure or stable unless there exists a conjoining of dialect and rhetoric and that “dialect alone in the social realm is subversive” (76). Weaver claims that just focusing on dialect, as was the case with Socrates and is the case with the semantics, is dangerous and alienates dialectical purist from the rest of society. Using the end of one of the greatest and well-known philosophers, Socrates, he explains that the audience he was preaching to was not able to connect to his rationalistic discourse and argumentation. Thus, instead of praising his rational logic and argumentation, the audience felt alienated from Socrates and that he rejects their culture, values, and way of life, especially when he argues that he believes in the gods. As Socrates believes that this argumentation (dialectical) is all man needs and fulfills all man’s needs, Weaver argues that this puristic form of dialect strays to far from the conditio humana (human condition). Thus, rhetoric has the appeal to the human condition that dialect lacks. Weaver states that dialectic deals with inductions and syllogisms while rhetoric deals with examples and enthymemes. While people can follow syllogisms and inductions, they connect with examples and enthymemes. It is the common ground upon which persuasion can occur. Weaver further states that this is why Hellenistic rationalism died out and Christianity spread far and wide -- Jesus appealed to feelings, ideas, and hopes that Hellenistic rationalism could or would not. Weaver goes on to argue against the semantics--those who believe only in dialectic and that each word should have its appropriate definition and words without a secure definition should not be used--using the same principles discussed above. He ends by saying that rhetoric will survive dialectic attack.

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