Weaver, Richard "The Cultural Role of Rhetoric

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“The Cultural Role of Rhetoric” by Richard Weaver argues his point that a combination of rhetoric and dialectic are needed to form the most persuasive speech. However, at the time the article was written, Weaver claimed that the “discourse that is favored today is without feeling and resonance." In other words, people were incorrectly relying on dialectic without rhetoric. Rhetoric relies on a shared history between people that brings them together. Weaver states that his thesis “is that a too exclusive reliance upon dialectic is a mistake of the most serious consequence because dialectic alone in the social realm is subversive." He believes that the danger of dialectic comes from its denial of historicity.


Rhetoric is the combination of passion and logic with a emphasis on human history. To emphasize this point he references a great historical event: the example of the trial of Socrates. He uses the trial to show that using just a dialectic approach will not connect with the people a person is appealing to in their speech. Socrates may have been the “greatest dialectician of his time”, but the way in which he spoke lacked feeling and brought “to minds of the audience the side of Socrates which had aroused enmity." His way of speaking did not connect with the audience and therefore they felt no sympathy or connection with him. People need to be “approached through certain ‘places’ or common perceptions of reality." Those who only use dialectic actually withdraw themselves from society. However, there are people now who believe that “it is improper for any person to try to persuade another person” and that the only speech stated should be pure facts. It is impossible to simply use the denotation and not the connotation of a word, though, and “what a word means is going to be determined by the whole context of the vocabulary." According to Weaver, rhetoric and not dialectic is what helped Christianity to thrive over Hellenic ideals because it provided talk of feelings and a historical moment as well. Weaver concludes by saying that “in the restored man dialectic and rhetoric will go along hand in hand as the regime of the human faculties intended that they should do" (89).

Possible Implications

Glossary Terms

The following key terms are defined in the Glossary: axiological, chariot allegory, fallacious, historicity, nominalism, spatiotemporal


Further Readings

Richard Weaver


Richard M. Weaver Wikipedia

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