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The Evolution And Innovation Of Rhetoric Theory

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This text is on the innovation of rhetoric and the change, revolution, and failures throughout ancient time and modern time. With the use of intellectual material and class books. Rhetoric meaning has drastically changed over time throughout the evolution of society. From the start of rhetoric to today’s modern society the revolution of rhetoric has increased in popularity, becoming a huge part of the educational system. Throughout the text you will see the work contributions from the Sophists, Isocrates, Plato and Aristotle and how their contribution has changed society.

For a simple definition to get your point across rhetoric is defined as the art of persuasion. However it is more than that. Rhetoric is the art of efficient or persuasive speaking or writing which aims to study the competence of the writers or speakers need to notify, persuade, and inspire. There is a vast amount of different definitions and view points in rhetoric. Rhetoric’s definition has changed overtime. In today’s day and age rhetoric has perceived as a way to persuade and deceive. In the ancient times rhetoric was known to be a sharp form of effective communication.

Aristotle who is a renowned Greek Philosopher defined rhetoric as “the power of finding the available arguments suited to a given situation” (1994). This definition was not narrowed. It included everything from how to be a citizen in your community to valuing other people’s opinion. It was a gateway to help create a way for humans to disagree with their opinion and assumptions in a more civic way. Rhetoric issues heuristics, which is a technique for understanding, contemplation, and coming up with arguments for particular situations. An example of this would be Aristotle’s three persuasive audience appeals. Logos, pathos, and ethos are the three persuasive audience appeals. Rhetoric’s three primary modes of persuasion was used by Aristotle. Ethos appealed to writers or speaker using their background or experience to convince you. Logos used logic and reasoning. In this primary mode one would often cite facts and statistics. Pathos was used through emotion and shared moral values. To develope a persuasive writing or speech you can use the five canons of rhetoric which are invention, arrangement, memory, delivery, and style

Rhetor was the Greek term for orator. A rhetor was a citizen who knowledgeable on verbal artistry. Rhetoric then evolved as an essential form of art. Rhetoric helped the orator organize its strategies for persuading.

Rhetoric commenced as civic art in Ancient Greece. The birthplace of rhetoric is in the city state of Anthens. In this democracy every male was put into politics to persuade men to vote for or against a particular case for legislation. Due to this influence, schools began to teach rhetoric. The first group of teachers to teach rhetoric were called the Sophists. Their beliefs were that students should use their time to progress themselves. They did not believe in what is correct or incorrect. For the Greeks however, being a sophist was defined as being a manipulated man. The sophists central focus was on logos also known as discourse. The word “sophistry” was known for having negative implications in ancient Greece. However, the Greece Sophists were respected but highly criticized.

Then came the Isocrates. Isocrates was similar to the sophists. He taught public speaking. Isocrates worked to differentiate himself from the Sophists. He believed in the practice of speaking publicly about important questions that would improve an audience knowledge. His work became the first school in Anthens. Unfortunately, Isocrates did not leave any manuals but his speeches became models of the oratory and keys to the schools educational system. Due to the influence he had on Cicero and Quintilian the entire Western World educational system changed.

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Plato is one of the most well known philosopher. He distinguished the difference between true and false rhetoric in his dialogues. His predominantly most popular dialogues, which we have studied in class are Gorgias and Phaedrus. In these dialogues, Plato claims that the sophists art is rhetoric. He believes that sophists appeal only to what seems possible. Therefore not advancing their students education. Plato’s rhetoric is actually dialectic. His definition of rhetoric is the art of enchanting the soul by discourse. Aristotle was a student of Plato. His definition of rhetoric is Rhetoric is 'the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.' He wrote The Art of Rhetoric. Aristotle says that “rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic” in his first sentence. The art of rhetoric follows and is fundamentally patterned after the art of dialectic. Both are arts of discourse creation. For Plato and Aristotle, dialectic involves persuasion. Aristotle once said “There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is command of them must, it is clear, be able (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and (3) to understand the emotions-that is, to name them and” Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric. Aristotle emphasizes the logical aspect of rhetoric as the art of discovering all available means of persuasion. Which is supported by logical, ethical, and emotional proofs. There are some forms of logos, ethos (Aristotle`s theory), and pathos presented. Aristotle classifies three steps of rhetoric, invention, style and arrangement. He also emphasized enthymematic reasoning as vital to the process of rhetorical invention. This is persuasive because the audience is able to provide the missing idea. therefore they are more likely to be persuaded by the message.

Plato and Aristotle judged Sophists for relying only on their emotions to persuade an audience. However, despite the criticism the Sophists made a major impact on developing the study and teaching of rhetoric. Even though Aristotle criticized the Sophists he did acknowledge that they could be a useful tool. Aristotle said in the Art of Rhetoric “What makes a man a ‘sophist’ is not his faculty, but his moral purpose. (1355 17)”

For the Romans, oration became an important part of society. Cicero was the chief of Roman Rhetoricians and is famously known for being an orator. He is considered one of the most significant rhetoricians of all time. His work “Rhetorica ad hernnium” is an extensive reference on the use of rhetoric. It is considered the most significant work on rhetoric and is still used today. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it attained major publication as an advanced school book on rhetoric. The rediscovery of Cicero`s speeches provoked the cultural innovations known as the Renaissance.

From the Romans to the Middle Ages, rhetoric was taught as liberal art with logic and grammar. It was also known as eloquent persuasion. Which became a pillar of the educated students and became the courtiers preferred mode of speech. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the study of rhetoric became the central study of verbal arts. However, the study of verbal arts declines and failed for several centuries. During this time rhetoric came second to the study of logic. Rhetoric was studied in medieval universities. Furthermore, rhetoric did not regain its popularity until the Renaissance, however other forms of writing did help the progression of rhetorical thought. In the sixteenth century one influential figure in the rebirth of classical rhetoric was Erasmus who wrote Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style. This book became the top text used for this topic. During this same period a movement began that changed the schools curriculum which led to rhetoric losing its place. However, in the eighteenth century rhetoric came back around.

In the ending of the seventeenth century, traditional rhetoric came close to becoming a genres in history, poetry and literary criticism. Before the end of the seventeenth century, rhetoric failed and came under attack by adherents of new science. This new type of science claimed that rhetoric was concealed the truth and encouraged the use of embellishment instead of direct language. Furthermore, a more profound and direct influence on rhetoric at the beginning of the seventeenth century was Francis Bacon`s theory of psychology. However, it wasn’t until the middle of the eighteenth century that the epistemological theory of rhetoric arose. Which focused on mental faculties to persuade the elocution movement. This type focused on delivery and lasted through the nineteenth century.

Rhetoric today is not quite the rhetoric Aristotle had intended. In modern society rhetoric has taken a turn. Rhetoric now is thought of a form of political language. According to the “Encyclopdia of Rhetoirc,” this definition had many shifts some of which being the shift from argument to language, from the consumer to the speaker, from something symbolic to something oral (Solane, 2006). Recently the definitions of rhetoric has slowly been emerging in the educational system and into society. Rhetoric has increased in popularity.

The evolution of rhetoric shows how drastically society had changed over time. In the ancient times, rhetoric recognized that disagreeing amongst one another was natural because everyone has different opinions and thought process. Rhetoric back then offered a way to deal with disagreements in a polite way. Today however, rhetoric is given a frowned upon name because of its associations with disagreement. In today’s world “disagreement” has a negative connotation in society. In modern time now, it is used as a means to go against disagreement.


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