Plato Vs Dryzek Rhetoric

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Persuasion is an essential element to democracy as it is invoked in nearly every sphere of political speech and communication. Yet, American citizens tend to view political rhetoric as being deceitful or empty. Rhetoric is thus a key element to democracy while “…paradoxically appearing either useless or pernicious” (Kane 1). One consequence of this paradox is that politicians are forced to abandon a creative rhetorical style in favor of an “un-rhetorical” and plain, informative way of speaking. Thus, modern political rhetoric is rapidly becoming devoid of any emotion - seemingly fact-based and dry, while lacking passion or innovation. Historically, there have been many influential opponents of rhetoric, most notably Plato and Thomas Hobbes;…show more content…
Dryzek, a deliberative democracy professor at Australia’s Canberra University, attributes Plato with putting the “ick” in rhetoric on the basis that it distorts the truth, in politics more so than elsewhere. For Plato, rhetoric was simply “…persuasion on nonrational grounds” – the polar opposite of reason. (Dryzek 320). Plato was especially at odds with Sophism, which was a method of rhetorical education aimed at teaching students the notion of “arête” (excellence), and subsequently viewed rhetoric as a sham art designed not to acquire knowledge, but to achieve a personal agenda. Ultimately, Plato believed that Sophists were engaged in rhetoric for the acquisition of power, and that Sophists may have represented the strongest, but clearly not the smartest, speakers in ancient Athens. Plato viewed these Sophist’s eloquent speaking skills as a potential threat because, as humans, we have a “…natural tendency to be persuaded by the good-looking, skillful speaker that what he says is true” while, according to Plato, “…his purpose is to hide us from the truth” (Mitscherling…show more content…
What defines Hume’s concept of rhetoric is a distinction between, “…the manipulative rhetoric of the fanatics and the factional leaders and a good form of rhetoric deemed accurate, just and polite” (Hanvelt 565). Hume understood politics as a perpetual struggle between liberty and authority and, as such, acknowledged the fact that some politicians used rhetoric to enhance their authoritarian positions. For the most part, Hume felt that the politicians of his day were poor rhetoricians and, as a result, he posited a notion of “high rhetoric”, in which he detailed what good political rhetoric consists of. Hume’s “high rhetoric” is made up of three components; accurate reasoning, a “…rhetorical style that appeals to the human compulsion to make judgements” and 18th century norms of politeness (Hanvelt 569). Consequently, Hume offers hope that this “high” form of political rhetoric might counter those politicians who would employ rhetoric to misrepresent the interest of populace and/or persuade them to reject proper morality and reasoning as a guide to action (Hanvelt 579). As opposed to the Platonic hierarchy in which all rhetoric is synonymous with ingenuous passion, Hume associated good, effective rhetoric with reason and
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