The ability to communicate is an important skill that anyone can possess. Communication takes different forms, modes and styles. Persuasive communication is one type that has received much attention from scholars. Persuasive communication requires speakers to convince their audiences to take some form of action or adopt a different viewpoint as well as behavior or perception. Morality has persistently been a contentious issue in societies. What constitutes a moral act differs to different people, depending on their understanding of concepts, generation and the prevailing circumstances in which the act is performed. This paper explains the evaluative functions of words, especially the use of rhetoric techniques in the re-description of morals.
Rhetoric ideology refers to people's attitudes towards ethics, language or politics that construct a rhetorical theory. Rhetoric techniques are more concerned with principles of convincing people other than the substance of their arguments, therefore, improving an individual's ability to use language in persuasion (Phelan 63). Moral re-description, on the other hand, refers to a situation where people provide new meanings to moral issues, hence, making something look good or bad (Wilson 48). Such re-descriptions usually mirror a fundamental attempt to transform existing social beliefs and perceptions of issues. A term that originally commended an action may in turn be used to solicit disapproval (Phelan 83). Conversely, a condemnatory term may receive praise. In this case, societies must trans-value and reconsider their moral values. When there are certain re-descriptions, society usually alters its attitudes towards certain practices, hence, altering their normative vocabularies as well (Wilson 91).
The evaluative forces of such terms are caused by the unending social transformations. Additionally, these changes originate from actions that are described by evaluative terms that may not be used in other circumstances (Phelan 73). Rhetoric techniques help people treat changing concepts in the context of historical enquiry. This assists in concentrating on the concepts employed to appraise and describe morality. To do this, people must focus on several terms that people use in their habitual expressions of such concepts. In natural languages, the terms are the names people give to the virtues and vices, hence, performing evaluative and descriptive functions. People use these terms in their descriptions of motives and actions of their performance. However, if their application criterion is reflected in other state of affairs or actions, then the application serves to evaluate as well as describe it. The intention is to persuade audiences that despite their appearances, those terms are applicable in virtue of their regular meanings, to the present situation.
This make the audience view such behavior in a fresh moral light, therefore, a previously commendable situation may become condemnable and vice versa. Whenever people use such terms, they wish to impose a certain moral vision on the social world. Scholars of rhetoric re-description such as Aristotle and Quintilian provide examples of how one can utilize re-descriptive rhetoric techniques. An example of such a re-description may be illustrated by a court scenario. If one finds himself in a law court, facing an advocate who has convinced the judges against him by using certain words and the accused cannot deny the facts, what can he do? He should restate the fact, differently by assigning different causes, different mind states and different motives for the actions. Above all, the accused must elevate his actions through words; for example, use liberality instead of prodigality, courage instead of recklessness, copiousness instead of extravagance and simplicity of mind instead of negligence.
Another example lies in generational differences, in perceptions. What may appear as child discipline in one generation may be child abuse in another generation. The essence of using rhetoric techniques is to replace an evaluative portrayal with a rival term that portrays the deed no less credibly, but consequently serves to position it in a contrasting moral light. The intention is to persuade audiences to accept the new descriptions and adopt new attitudes towards the action at hand. People should not confuse this technique as merely a case of word substitution. Prodigality and liberality do not have the same meaning. However, what one person perceives as prodigal, another person may perceive as liberal. Therefore, the argument is that actual behavior possesses a dissimilar moral character from what dialectical opponents may assign to it.
Rhetoric became well developed, attracting studies during the Greek democracy.
Classical rhetoric's birthplace is ancient Athens' states. This is mainly because the democracy of Athens shepherded all free males into politics (Corbett 82). This required them to be prepared to stand and convince other people to support or reject a particular legislation. Because this society valued rhetoric ability, a group of teachers came up and began a rhetoric school, the Sophists. The main objective of the Sophists was to teach men how to debate and speak. The Sophists were able to win debates, even without prior knowledge of the topic by using confusing analogies, clever wordplay and flowery metaphors (Corbett 122). Aristotle criticized the Sophists, accusing them of misusing it. However, he saw rhetoric as a tool for aiding people to understand the truth. He came up with a treatise, The Art of Rhetoric, where he instituted a system of teaching and understanding rhetoric (Corbett 135). This rhetoric technique belongs to Aristotle, Quintilian and Cicero classical studies and writings.
According to Aristotle, rhetoric study and the ability to be truly persuasive depend on three communication elements: the speech, the audience and the speaker. Additionally, Aristotle says there are three categories of persuasive speeches: ceremonial, legal and political speeches. Politically, the speech's audience consists of decision makers whose focus is the future, hence, the aim is to persuade audiences to undertake certain courses of action. Therefore, political rhetoric is either ethical or moral. In legal speeches, the theme is always the past, with the truth as its determination. This makes legal speeches vary logically. Lastly, a ceremonial speech addresses the present, with a concern of a person's honor or dishonor. Therefore, the emphasis of ceremonial speeches is aesthetic.
In addition to the types of speeches and elements, Aristotle adds three rhetoric modes. These are ways of accomplishing persuasion. These include pathos, logos and ethos. Ethos is the speaker's character, in which audiences determine whether the speaker is worth their attention or trust. It is important for speakers to be good people and find ways of communicating this to their audiences. Logos are the strengths and limitations of the speaker's arguments. When audiences read or listen to a persuasive speech, they judge it on its arguments logical strengths. Pathos is the audiences' emotions. Speakers must always consider their audiences’ feelings. In all of these, Aristotle emphasizes technique and relevance of arguments to human nature. Cicero, on the other hand, placed emphasis on liberal education. According to him, one could only be persuasive if they were knowledgeable in art, literature, politics, law, ethics and medicine. A liberally educated individual would easily connect with audiences from various backgrounds.
Quintilian came up with rhetoric canons including invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. In the inventions category, the speaker seeks a way of refining his arguments. After that, the speaker must arrange and organize these arguments in order to create maximum impact. The style category refers to the ways in which the speaker presents their arguments by use of rhetorical techniques and figures of speech. The speaker must also learn and memorize their speech and lastly, the delivery process in which the speaker uses gestures, tone of voice and pronunciation to deliver the speech.
Misconceptions about rhetoric techniques of moral re-description are common. One may view these techniques as a way people use to pass reprehensible behaviors, policies or characters as morally acceptable. However, this is not the case. These techniques provide another perspective of viewing issues or actions, in a way that is non judgmental, while still maintaining their original perceptions. They make people understand that their cognitive recognitions are different and what one person sees as reprehensible, another may see as acceptable, depending on certain circumstances and contexts. The major difference may arise by the terms people use to describe morality. It helps in ensuring the need of being open minded and accommodative, without losing the moral values that the society has implemented. This is because by using certain evaluative words, it would be easy to condemn an individual who would not be condemned in another geographical location or era. Therefore, before passing judgment on an individual's action, it is important to consider other facts relevant to the situation. It also explains that in most cases, what people term as immoral only depends on the person's attitudes and exposure.
The use of rhetoric techniques has been present in human languages for many years. However, their recognition began with classical rhetoric after the rise of Greek democracy when the Sophist came up. Later, Aristotle, Quintilian and Cicero advanced this understanding. The main point of using rhetoric technique to re-describe moral is to provide fresh moral perspectives of seeing actions, behaviors and issues, therefore, adopting new attitudes towards concepts. It argues that a term that one person uses to describe an action as moral or immoral may differ from another person's perception of the term, depending on the circumstances.