Aristotle’s rhetoric (ars rhetorica) was a treatise (collection of essays) on “the art of rhetoric”. Aristotle was particularly interested in how rhetoric could be used to persuade using “knowledge” rather than “emotion”
His treatise was written to counter the Sophists, like Gorgias and Isocrates, who used emotion in poetry to manipulate people’s feelings and thoughts. Against the emotional rhetoric and poetry of the Sophists, Aristotle eschewed a rhetoric founded on philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge.
Importantly Aristotle saw rhetoric as an everyday practical tool for debate, designed to be used to persuade an audience to use probable knowledge to resolve practical issues.
The most enlightening passage of Aristotle’s rhetoric is his identification of three core facets of a good arguer. These were:
- Pathos: appeal to the emotion of the audience
- Ethos: a sense of credibility and “more competence”
- Logos: good logical structure
As a final note, if you’re interested in Aristotle’s rhetoric and the art of argument, then you’ll be interested aMap – a fun way of arguing. Check out the online version of aMap here. You can also buy our series of fun aMap “pocket argument guides” here. Have a look – I’m sure you’ll be intrigued!