Before reading Aristotle, I was unsure of what rhetoric meant. I had heard the term passed around in a communications class here and there, but had never dug deeply into the meaning of the word. Truthfully, I am still a little confused – but I’m better off than I was before.
Aristotle stresses rhetoric as persuasion – actually, he describes it as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion” (chapter 2). This is all very confusing. But then, he breaks down the modes of persuasion for the reader into three simple bullet points:
1. Personal character of the speaker (their credibility)
2. Putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.
3. Proof provided by the words of the speech itself.
So, if I am understanding Aristotle correctly, rhetoric is the study of how persuasion occurs. Once I got past the strange language and fancy words, it was easier to understand at least the basics of the topic.