Whether it is the ringing of your alarm clock waking you up in the morning or a suggestive description of boiling lentils, Heinrichs insists that the elements of argument are all around us. He elucidates that the difference between an argument and a fight however, is the outcome. One fights to win, but one argues to achieve agreement. Heinrichs suggests that an argument should revolve around one of the three core issues: blame, values, or choice, and further stresses the importance of using either the past, present, or future tenses respectively in order to maintain control of an audience’s response. Another important rhetorical distinction of argument is Aristotle’s Big Three: logos, argument by logic, ethos, argument of character, and pathos, argument of emotion. Ethos, described as the most important appeal by Aristotle himself, embodies the element of decorum, or the “art of fitting in” among the expectations and beliefs of your audience. Additionally, a persuasive ethos should establish virtue, practical wisdom, and selflessness to underpin the credibility of a speaker. Heinrichs also explains how pathos appeals to an audience’s beliefs by stimulating emotions through methods of storytelling, volume control, and simple speech to create ones of anger, patriotism, and emulation. Furthermore, logos uses the audience’s point of view to the arguer’s advantage through the technique of commonplace, a viewpoint the audience knows or believes. Logos is reinforced with deductive logic, applying that commonplace to a particular situation to prove your conclusion, and inductive logic, the use of facts, comparisons, and stories to form a belief.
Heinrichs continues by examining the common logical fallacies that occur in everyday life, such as in the cunning tactics employed by politicians, salesmen, or even doctors, that often mislead an audience. Heinrichs assures that by mastering these fallacies, one can spot this “bad logic” as one of the seven logical sins, either by recognizing a bad proof, the wrong number of choices, or disconnect between proof and conclusion. However, Heinrichs explains that simply pointing out the use of a logical fallacy does not make a good rhetorician, but instead proposes that one should instead expose the fallacy in order to gain the upperhand. The only reason to “call a foul,” according to Heinrichs, is if the argument breaks the one rule of rhetoric: arguing the inarguable. Breaking this rule often involves the use of the wrong tense, an inflexible hold onto values, humiliation or innuendo, threats, or utter stupidity. Heinrichs also goes beyond challenging logos by demonstrating how to evaluate one’s ethos through its basic principles of disinterest, virtue, and practical wisdom. By comparing the needs of the persuader to your own needs and looking for the disconnects, you can identify whether the persuader has disinterest. A persuader who also tries to prevent a choice lacks rhetorical virtue. Checking where one lies in a mean helps avoid extremists. Heinrichs also stresses the importance to seek those with phronesis, the ability to find the sweet spot in between your personal needs and problems because only then can you confirm their qualities of disinterest, virtue, and practical wisdom.
According to Heinrichs, the secret to fitting in involves the identity strategy. This method brings the audience together as a cohesive group and establishes the speaker as the ideal leader. This method causes the audience to consider the speaker’s choices as an expression of the group. Heinrichs illustrates a successful example with America’s forty-third president, George W. Bush, who possessed a distinct talent for code grooming. Bush utilized multiple codes with precise common places and diction based on each of his audiences. For example, Christian code focuses on starting his sentences with the word “and” to replicate the Bible. Identity strategy helps influence an audience to identify with you due to the use of language that resonates specifically with them. Another aspect of this strategy involves figures of speech, which range from the teenager’s dialogue to a sports announcer’s multiple yoking or to the well-known idiom. These rhetorical tricks and techniques can help spice up one’s arguments. However, all is lost when the wrong thing is done at the wrong time, or in other words, when one does not master the art of kairos. A good rhetorician will be able to recognize changing circumstances or moods for a persuasive moment. Understanding kairos also helps the speaker use the right medium based on the timing, the kind of appeal desired, and the certain gestures you want to make. Heinrichs suggest that each medium requires a different rhetorical technique, and when used correctly, can be the make or break of a situation.
In a world infested with destructive hatred and high tensions, people tend to resort to the act of brash fighting instead of arguing. Our culture and politics have grown more and more polarized, and consequently, hinders the prospects of effective change. However, Heinrichs proposes a simple solution: reinstituting rhetoric into our society. In the last section of the book, Heinrichs hopes to guide the reader to implement rhetoric in everyday speech in order to create more productive arguments. In his hypothetical speech about fighting noise pollution, Heinrichs introduces Cicero’s five canons of persuasion: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Under the arrangement, Heinrichs outlines the six-step plan that consists of exordium, narration, division, proof, refutation, and conclusion, putting ethos first, then logos, and lastly pathos. Alongside the virtues of proper language, clarity, vividness, decorum, and ornament, this basic rule of thumb crafts an argument that retains the audience’s attention and allows us to fit in. Furthermore, Heinrichs emphasizes that in order to know when to use the right tools, we must observe other arguments through the lens of goals, ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos. As arguers, Heinrichs advises that we adapt to a situation with the appropriate methods, but to also concede when in doubt. Arguments have the potential to truly create progress but cannot succeed if rhetoric remains misused. We must teach others the art of persuasion, just as Heinrichs taught his son and daughter, and as rhetorically trained citizens, help find more common ground to reduce the division in our society.