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Rhetoric and Poetics

March 22, 2005

Lately I’ve been working through Adler’s Synopticon from Britannica’s Great Books set. It’s been the most wonderful thing I’ve ever studied. He has each subject ‘Peace’, ‘Immortality’, ‘Justice’, ‘Love’, ‘Honor’, ‘Government’, ‘Universals & Particulars’ — every major philosphical topic and an overview of what each major philsopher’s view is on the topic. Then at the end of each section it has an ‘Additional References’ section for furthur reading of books outside of the set.

I think that set was the single best investment I’ve ever bought. I spend hours each day reading from it. Recently I studied Rhetoric. First written about by Aristotle, it’s basically a super indepth overview of the art of persuading people to hold a certain view. Whether it be in oratory, writing, or anything. It’s fascinating. I’ve found it to be better than any marketing book I’ve ever read, even though it’s not even marketing. What style to speak based on the content you’re saying, everything. He covers three types of oratory (1) political (2) forensic and (3) ceremonial.

“Political speaking urges us to either to do or not do something …”

“Forensic speaking eithe rattacks or defends somebody …”

“Ceremonial oratory praises or censures sombody”

So if you didn’t know what Rheteric is, now you kind of do. I’m going to soon read Aristotle complete work on Rhetoric as well as his Poetics. As for Rheteric, I’m going to study all the rules, then I plan to compare them with the rules found in various marketing books. The stuff is so similar, but Rhetoric has such an edge over those ‘How To’ books. I’ve noticed most speaking and many ‘marketing’ books just give you some set of rules to go by and practice. You’re always wondering if they’re being all-inclusive. Aristotle actually goes into in-depth philosophy about the psychology of the mind, in-depth study on each and every emotion and how each are manipulated, etc. Way more depth than you’ll find elsewhere. The root of the matter. If you understand this, you can market products, orate at speeches, anything. It’s all about either attacking/defending views, moving people to action, and establishing justice and honor based on people’s actions and lives.

Also I mentioned Poetics, as in, yes, poetry. I always hated poetry, but that was because I didn’t know what Poetry was. Most people think what makes something a ‘poem’ is how it’s written — all that verse and stanza crap. Rhyming lines. Aristotle doesn’t define poetry solely as that. The word ‘poetry’ has been so mangled and manipulated by people since the 18th century that nobody knows what it USED to be. If you study Poetry today, you’ll be reading these long, nonsensical rhyming line stories. Though I suppose you could constitute this as poetry, I personally hate that crap. They act like just because the stupid lines rhyme this makes the thing special. Aristotle does acknowledge the different writing styles in his work on Rhetoric, ‘prosaic’ and ‘poetic’. I’ve actually come to find out, Aristotle’s Poetics isn’t about any of that crap at all. In the Poetics his emphasis is not upon the devices of language or the sentiments of the poet, but upon the construction of the plot, the development of character, the diction and thought of the characters — in short, upon the subject matter of the poem rather than upon the feelings of the poet and the eloquence with which he expresses them. This applies to anything. Ever wondered why this movie is good and another bad? This person’s a good story teller and this person isn’t? Ever wanted to be able to create good stories? Well this is it, all the rules you have to follow or most likely it’s not going to be that good. There seems to be two base books on which the subject started — Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace’s ‘Art of Poetry’. It seems all arguments for all forms of story creation all stem from the points espoused in these two books. Horace taking the opposite view on certain things. But these are the basis, the beginning, the founders, the ultra guys if you’re wanting to study story telling. If you’re reading any book on story writing you’re reading a recap or these two books and chances are it won’t be near as good or have the indepth philosophy behind it. You’ll find yourself following some checklist instead of actually understanding the rules themselves. I hate checklists. How did you derive the checklist? If they don’t go into depth on that, I can’t stand it. I hate vagueness.

I love studying things most people don’t know about. It takes forever to find out works like this, but when you do you’ve found a real gem. It’s always worth it.

Once I do the in-depth study hopefully I’ll be able to post my research under The Synopsis under ‘Rhetoric’ and ‘Poetry’.

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