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Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers that attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.


  • The rhetorical process functioned in many areas other than speech: Curtius wrote about 'rhetorical landscape representations' while Serpieris speaks of 'la retorica al teatro' (the rhetorical use of theatrical space), and music historians have learned that the language and approach of musical theory in the Middle Ages were borrowed directly from medieval grammar and rhetoric.
  • For rhetoric, he could not ope
    His mouth, but out there flew a trope;
    And when he happen'd to break off
    I' th' middle of his speech, or cough,
    H' had hard words,ready to show why,
    And tell what rules he did it by;
    Else, when with greatest art he spoke,
    You'd think he talk'd like other folk,
    For all a rhetorician's rules
    Teach nothing but to name his tools.
  • Delivery, delivery, delivery.
    • Demosthenes, Response when asked to name the three most important components of rhetoric, as quoted in Institutio Oratoria (c. 95) by Quintilian; also in Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence (2004) by Cheryl Glenn, p. 150
  • Plato sees true rhetoric as psychology which can fulfill its truly “moving” function only if it masters original images [eide]. Thus the true philosophy is rhetoric, and the true rhetoric is philosophy, a philosophy which does not need an “external” rhetoric to convince, and a rhetoric that does not need an “external” content of verity.
  • Academic writing excuses itself from rhetorical care in the selfless service of some precise truth—and then deforms our only means for speaking truth.
    • Mark D. Jordan, “Christian Rhetoric: Scraps for a Manifesto,” Cross Currents, 56 (3), p. 328
  • What do you believe was on the mind of the ancient Romans that they called the arts of speaking humanity? They judged that, indisputably, by the study of these disciplines not only was the tongue refined, but also the wildness and barbarity of people’s minds was amended.
    • Philipp Melanchthon, “Praise of eloquence” (1523), Orations on Philosophy and Education, C. Salazar, trans. (1999), p. 66
  • The relations between rhetoric and ethics are disturbing: the ease with which language can be twisted is worrisome, and the fact that our minds accept these perverse games so docilely is no less cause for concern.
    • Octavio Paz, El mono gramático (The Monkey Grammarian), ch. 4 (1974)
  • Rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong … And so the rhetorician's business is not to instruct a law court or a public meeting in matters of right and wrong, but only to make them believe.
  • Rhetoric, I shall urge, should be a study of misunderstanding and its remedies.
  • Since we want not emancipation from impulse but clarification of impulse, the duty of rhetoric is to bring together action and understanding into a whole that is greater than scientific perception.
    • Richard Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric, “The Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric,” p. 24. (1953)
  • Rhetoric in its truest sense seeks to perfect men by showing them better versions of themselves, links in that chain extending up toward the ideal.
    • Richard Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric, “The Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric,” p. 25. (1953)
  • Concerning the utility of Rhetoric, it is to be observed that it divides itself into two; first, whether Oratorical skill be, on the whole, a public benefit, or evil; and secondly, whether any artificial system of Rules is conducive to the attainment of that skill.
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