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Understanding The Audience And Efficiency Of Rhetoric By Aristotle

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Understanding Aristotle’s Rhetoric

Audience as an element of rhetoric has changed over time and changed throughout the course of history. One leading example of the contrast between the modern idea of audience and its original meaning is the way it was taught and observed by Aristotle. Aristotle defines rhetoric as “speech designed to persuade,”. According to Thomas L. Pangle’s The Rhetorical Strategy Governing Aristotle’s Political Teaching, Aristotle's Politics elaborate upon our full assessment of that type of social life in which beings can disclose their nature as political animals in the most complete way. Such a society's foremost qualifications concern the size, sophistication, and urban population concentration (Pangle, 1). The towns that spread across the Eastern Mediterranean for several generations up to the moment Aristotle resided in have encountered these circumstances fruitfully. Therefore, Aristotle concentrated his study on this region's political existence in the previous epoch of his own. There have been arguments made that Aristotle’s didactic approach of rhetoric is not dissimilar from modern ways of thinking. This argument supports a more general attempt to reconcile Aristotle's theory with modem rhetoric views.

The modern interpretation and teachings of the rhetorical audience has its differences and its similarities with Aristotle’s way of thinking. While rhetoric may still be seen as a way to persuade, the basic idea of audience and other elements of rhetoric are defined more clearly. When delivering rhetoric through spoken word or writing, one of the biggest and most important questions is who to write or speak to. As stated by Aleciamarie Magnifico in Writing for Whom? Cognition, Motivation, and a Writer's Audience, there are two main ways writers answer this. The cognitive research tradition says to focus on how our brains handle writing situations while the cognitive sociocultural tradition says to concentrate on interactions among contexts, identities, and texts. Although these two strategies are common, a handful of recent studies are delving into the audience of the rhetoric and its relevancy to written composition. The focus of understanding Aristotle’s thought processes and comparing it with today’s is to explore similarities between each school of thought surrounding rhetorical audience; the cognitive research tradition and sociocultural tradition (Magnifico).

The Efficiency of Rhetoric Depends on its Audience

In the article Whipping It Up! An Analysis of Audience Responses to Political Rhetoric in Speeches From the 2012 American Presidential Elections., Peter Bull clearly exemplifies the different reactions a rhetor can receive upon giving a speech and whether or not they use the correct rhetorical devices. Bull explains that American politicians encountered individualized and isolated remarks and reactions such as applause and crowd outbursts. The Japanese and British politicians that were studied harbored consistent and collective responses that showed the rhetoric was effective and well-received. This was the first study that shows such a strong correlation between significant positive crowd reaction and electoral success for the American politicians whose speeches were studied (Bull, 15). This proves that the speech’s efficiency has a very strong relationship with the audience’s receptiveness and the rhetorical devices used.

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When a speech is being written, there are two audiences that can be thought of. The first one is made up of real people outside of the written word who will read the paper or hear the speech. The second is within the text and is implied in itself. The author must accommodate to either one (Park 249). The latter evokes a set of attitudes, reactions, conditions, etc. which may not fit with the actual people hearing and absorbing the information. The default for most writers and speakers is to address the first form of the idea of audience (Park 249). This makes sense because it is more concrete and commonly thought of, but can rhetoric really be fully effective while only addressing that side of audience? This concrete image of an audience of people sitting and listening to what a speaker has to say is key to opening the second idea of audience, the more abstract one. Once the physical audience is addressed, the discourse can accomplish its goals and do what it set out to do by referring to the audience’s knowledge and motivation. This forms the context of discourse and the end of discourse (Park 250).

The Audience can Affect the Writing Itself

After researching the different interpretations of a work’s audience, it is clear that the preconceived idea of audience held by the author while writing will affect the piece. By asking “What audience do you have in mind?” whilst writing, we are trying to shorten the arrival at the awarenesses and conceptions within our consciousness (Park 250). This meaning or interpretation of rhetorical audience is extremely important for teachers or anyone who needs to learn more about an audience they are addressing. This meaning of audience is more elusive than the classical version and affects the writer differently. If you have this stream of consciousness while writing your real audience or that of listeners and readers will be more specifically targeted. The audience as it exists in the writers’ mind and as it shapes the rhetoric is nothing but a complicated group of conventions, implied reactions, attitudes, and estimations (Park 251).

The Audience can be Anyone who is Able to Judge Your Rhetoric

In the article Rhetoric in the economy: Consumption and Audience. Metin M. Cosgel relates rhetoric to economic consumption and explains their similarities and parallels. Cosgel points out the fact that economists use a number of rhetorical devices in their arguments. He explains that people now understand that the thoughts on rational theory choice-based logic in economics produces a incomplete picture of the broad process. The newer thought process of this reveals that economists must learn to use metaphors, analogies, stories, and other more complex rhetorical devices combined with logistics to present arguments in a way that is effective (Cosgel 4). This idea follows the pattern presented by Douglas Park that encompasses the idea that the audience is larger and broader than one might realize at first. Assuming the average economist has to use rhetorical skills to make a business deal or create a valid argument, Park’s second-wave school of thought is valid and expands outside of traditional writing.

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Understanding The Audience And Efficiency Of Rhetoric By Aristotle. (2021, September 22). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
“Understanding The Audience And Efficiency Of Rhetoric By Aristotle.” Edubirdie, 22 Sept. 2021,
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