By

Ben Lewis

October 23, 2019

The Art of Rhetoric

Libertarians complain a lot about people not being persuaded, but I wonder how much of that is due to libertarians not being persuasive. This essay is a really good look at rhetoric as an essential art in the process of argumentation.

“For the most obvious truth about rhetoric is that its object is the whole man. It presents its arguments first to the rational part of man, because rhetorical discourses, if they are honestly conceived, always have a basis in reasoning. Logical argument is the plot, as it were, of any speech or composition that is designed to persuade. Yet it is the very characterizing feature of rhetoric that it goes beyond this and appeals to other parts of man’s constitution, especially to his nature as a pathetic being, that is, a being feeling and suffering. A speech intended to persuade achieves little unless it takes into account how men are reacting subjectively to their hopes and fears and their special circumstances."

Libertarians often treat their audiences almost with a sense of disdain, as if they're put out that the masses are holding on to ideas that the libertarians have dialectically proven false. Weaver's nod to rhetoric as the art of understanding the causes of your audience's beliefs, and using that understanding to frame convincing arguments, is badly needed in libertarian argumentation.

About the author

Ben is a writer living in Ohio with his family. His reading interests are focused primarily on history and traditionalist conservatism and their relation to libertarianism. He is a contributing editor for Austro Libertarian.

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