Rhetoric or Else
persuasive speech, or — ?

arranged alphabetically by author

Compilation by
Robert Wilfred Franson


Reverend Gilbert Austin['s] Treatise on Rhetorical Delivery [1806] clearly expresses the assumptions underlying all attempts at movement notation. Although, says Austin, the variety of human gesture and movement may seem almost infinite, there is

a similarity and relation among many gestures, which afford opportunity for classification and nomenclature: so that ... the art of gesture and its notation (... by appropriate symbols) seems capable of being reduced to a regular system.

All these are combined with ...

symbols for noting the force and rapidity or interruption of the voice in delivery.

Despite Austin's pioneering work on gesture, and a long list of subsequent treatises on rhetorical delivery, the history of movement notation has been principally the province of dance historians ...

Sydney Anglo
The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe

We live in precarious times. How astonishing it is that present-day civilization should be exposed to dangers from which it was believed the labors of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had permanently rid the world; and that we, with all our vast delicate scientific structure of economics and finance upon which so many new millions get their bread, lie exposed to potential strokes far more sudden and immediately decisive than any which could be dealt by the Cimbri and the Teutons, the Parthians, the Visigoths and the Gauls.

Owing to the helplessness and subservience of democracy in the hands of ambitious and commanding men, added to the facilities of modern locomotion and propaganda, many communities have been plunged back into a state of insecurity hitherto only associated with barbarism. Moreover, the appetites and hatreds of the Dark Ages are now expressed in terms of the most frightful death-dealing machinery.

Winston S. Churchill
"Europe's Peace",  5 February 1937
Step By Step

... historically viewed, it has been the office of art to educate the perception of beauty. We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision. ... The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety. ...

The power to detach, and to magnify by detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the orator and the poet. This rhetoric, or power to fix the momentary eminency of an object ... the painter and sculptor exhibit in color and in stone. ...

For every object has its roots in central nature, and may of course be so exhibited to us as to represent the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Essays: First Series  (1841)

The celebrated British stiff upper lip, the resolve to conceal emotion which is not only embarrassing and useless, but harmful, is just plain common sense.

But that was half a century ago. ...

The damage that fashionable attitudes, reflected (and created) by television, have done to the public spirit, is incalculable. It has been weakened to the point where it is taken for granted that anyone who has suffered loss and hardship must be in need of "counselling"; that soldiers will suffer from "post-battle traumatic stress" and need psychiatric help. One wonders how Londoners survived the Blitz without the interference of unqualified, jargon-mumbling "counsellors", or how an overwhelming number of 1940s servicemen returned successfully to civilian life without benefit of brain-washing. Certainly, a small minority needed help; war can leave terrible mental scars — but the numbers will increase, and the scars enlarge, in proportion to society's insistence on raising spectres which would be better left alone. ...

Fortunately for the world, my generation didn't suffer from spiritual hypochondria ... we were lucky; there were no counsellors.

George MacDonald Fraser
Quartered Safe Out Here
A Recollection of the War in Burma  (1992)
[February-August 1945]

Under the legal system set up in 930, the 'government' of Iceland had one part-time employee. He was called the lawspeaker and was elected (by the inhabitants of one quarter, chosen by lot), for a three-year term. His job was to preside over the legislature, memorize the law, give legal advice, and, during the course of his three years, recite the entire law code aloud once.

The recitation took place at the Allthing — an annual assembly, lasting two weeks, of people from all over Iceland. The Allthing was also where the legislature met and where cases in the four quarter courts and the fifth court were tried. At each Allthing the lawspeaker recited a third of the law. If he omitted something and nobody objected, that part of the law was out. Think of it as an early form of sunset legislation.

David D. Friedman
"Private Law Enforcement, Medieval Iceland, and Libertarianism"
The Machinery of Freedom
Guide to a Radical Capitalism
Second Edition  (1989)

Then Brannan got up. Up to this time, excepting that George had dropped his hint about bricklaying, nobody had said a word about the Moon, far less hinted what it was to be made of. So Ben had the whole to open. ...

He explained, as if it were rather more simple to explain than to take for granted. But he explained as if, were they talking, they might be explaining to him. He led them from point to point, — oh! So much more clearly than I had been leading you, — till .. each man felt as if he were himself the inventor, who had bridged difficulty after difficulty; as if, indeed, the whole were too simple to be called difficult or complicated.

The only wonder was that the Board of Longitude, or the Emperor Napoleon, or the Smithsonian, or somebody, had not sent this little planet on its voyage of blessing long before. Not a syllable that you would have called rhetoric, not a word that you would have thought prepared; and then Brannan sat down.

That was Ben Brannan's way. For my part, I like it better than eloquence.

Edward Everett Hale
"The Brick Moon"  (1869)
His Level Best and Other Stories

Peitho, the personification of 'Winning Over', more loosely, 'Persuasion', that makes woman available to man in the context of love and marriage. Her divine status is not fixed, allowing Euripides' willful lines: 'There is no shrine of Peitho except words, And her altar is in human nature.' Thus she appears as a minor figure in the entourage of Aphrodite (like Pothos and Himeros — 'longing' and 'desire') ....

The existence of Peitho from early times perhaps shows something about men's awareness of the independent minds of women.

Simon Hornblower & Anthony Spawforth, editors
The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition

At a deeper level of interpretation, [Winston S. Churchill's] changes of attitude may be seen as the result of a journalistic impulsiveness, by which he was sometimes attracted suddenly to ideas, not so much on account of their substance, as of their suitability for expression in a striking fashion. ...

It almost seemed that in these years his chief pleasure in life came from phrase-making. Contemporaries agreed that his basic weakness was that phrases mastered him, rather than he them. He tended to be carried away by the logic of his own arguments, by the beauty of his own rhetoric.

He was indeed endowed with the most rhetorical mind of any British statesman in history. Not even Gladstone thought and lived Rhetoric quite as Churchill did.

His behavior was open to the interpretation that his real inclination was to conclude that a thing was right and true of it could be stated in a rhetorically effective manner. ...

His preoccupation with phrase-making left behind it a host of attractive aphorisms enlivening the ponderous archives of government. ... despite his subordinate position, Churchill was able, by the sheer power of his mind and his imagination, and by the force and persistence of his rhetoric, to take a real part in the formulation of policy.

Ronald Hyam
Elgin and Churchill at the Colonial Office, 1905-1908
The Watershed of the Empire-Commonwealth  (1968)

Even at his best, the aphorist seems a literary miniaturist.

What condemned Nietzsche to writing long aphorisms, however, was an excess rather than a deficiency — perhaps even two excesses. The first was a superabundance of insights. Homer, being blind, can organize what he has seen and fashion it into a comprehensive epic. The philosopher who has gone blind has all his life to create his system. Nietzsche was a writer who kept seeing things while writing.

The other excess was in penetration. To cover an outline, neatly taking up each topic in turn, one must not see too deeply anywhere. In fact, it helps if one sees next to nothing: then one can apply a single insight ... to one topic after another till the book is long enough or the system complete. If one sees deeply, a passage originally intended for one section will suddenly appear to be no less relevant to several other topics; and as this happens to passage after passage, the outline disintegrates, any hope of a system evaporates, and a series of long aphorisms appears.

Walter Kaufmann
"What Long Aphorisms Can Mean"
Critique of Religion and Philosophy  (1958)

With these suggestions about great writing, chapter 8 [of Beyond Good and Evil: section 247] arrives at the deepest level of the political: peoples are created by masterworks of speech, poetry or prose that give their stamp to whole populations, assigning them their unique character, their tablet of good and evil, in Zarathustra's words from "On the Thousand Goals and the One," where the one, the thousand and first, is the people-forming goal that Zarathustra himself takes up. ...

The implications of these two sections on reading and writing play in the reader's ear till they sound out the central matter of great politics — the creation of peoples out of words —

Laurence Lampert
"The Music and Prose of the German Soul",
comment on Sections 244-247a
Nietzsche's Task:
An Interpretation of
Beyond Good and Evil

To no task did the Greeks devote such incessant labor as to eloquence; ...

The most immoderate presumption of being able to do anything, as rhetors and stylists, runs through all antiquity in a way that is incomprehensible to us. They control "opinion about things" and hence the effect of things upon men; they know this. A precondition, to be sure, is that mankind itself was educated in rhetoric.

Basically, even today "classical" higher education still preserves a good portion of this antique view, except that it is no longer oral speech but its faded image, writing, that emerges as goal. The most archaic factor in our culture is the view that action through books and the press is what must be learned by education.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"The History of Greek Eloquence"  (1872-73)
Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language
edited & translated by Gilman, Blair, & Parent

The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived, not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters. ...

Where the masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs. No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given. Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of education.

Adam Smith
"Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Education of Youth"
The Wealth of Nations, V.1.3.2
(1776; Fifth Edition, 1789)

Trying to demonstrate that psychotherapy is rhetoric is like trying to demonstrate that the cow is a mammal. Why do it, then? For two reasons: because it is now the official opinion of the dominant institutions of society that psychotherapy is a form of medical treatment; and because an appreciation of rhetoric has all but disappeared from contemporary consciousness. Seeing psychotherapy as conversation rather than cure thus requires that we not only consider the error of classifying it as a medical intervention, but that we also look anew at the subject of rhetoric and assess its relevance to mental healing.

In plain language, what do patient and psychotherapist actually do? They speak and listen to each other. ... The point is that each tries to move the other to see or do things in a certain way. That is what qualifies their actions as fundamentally rhetorical. ...

One of the most important influences on Freud's development of psychoanalysis was the Socratic dialogues. Socrates engaged his perplexed interlocutors in a certain kind of conversation which the Greeks called rhetoric. And Socrates was hailed as a great rhetorician. Why, then, are Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and the other pioneer psychotherapists not also called rhetoricians, and why is their art not called rhetoric?

Thomas Szasz
The Myth of Psychotherapy:
Mental Healing as Religion, Rhetoric, and Repression  (1978)

It is reported of Aristotle that when he saw the books of Moses he commended them for such a majestic style as might become a God, but withall he censured that manner of writing to be very unfitting for a Philosopher because there was nothing proved in them, but matters were delivered as if they would rather command than persuade belief.

John Wilkins
The Discovery of a World in the Moone
or, A Discourse Tending to Prove
that 'tis probable there may be another habitable World in that Planet  (1638)


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