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Emotions and personal experience in rhetoric - Essay Example

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Your Name Prof’s Name Date Emotion, Personal Experience and Rhetoric: a dangerous combination? Personal experience forms a fundamental component of how everyone interacts with their world: it creates ideas, as well as strategies for communicating them…
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Emotions and personal experience in rhetoric
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Prof’s Emotion, Personal Experience and Rhetoric: a dangerous combination? Personal experience forms a fundamental component of how everyone interacts with their world: it creates ideas, as well as strategies for communicating them. Thus it can also be an incredibly important aspect of rhetoric. Politicians have used personal experience for many, many years, describing their childhood, the values taught to them in their upbringing and so on, all in an effort to self-mythesize and connect to voters in terms they can understand. This kind of rhetoric can be incredibly powerful, because of its emotional resonance and ease of understanding, but it can also be a double-edged sword, because it is so difficult to transfer to different contexts, and so bound in emotional understanding. In the assigned text, personal experience plays several important rhetorical roles. In fact, it fills most rhetorical purposes that are possible: it is the reason the author is interested in the subject, forms the basis for the author’s authority on the subject of vaccination and disability that he or she discusses, and serves as an emotionally poignant point of connection between the author and his or her audience, which both strengthens and weakens his or her argument simultaneously. The author’s interest in the subject – vaccination and its link with disabilities such as autism – seems to stem entirely from his/her personal experience in dealing with his/her family. The author seems that he/she would have no other interest in the subject if not for the fact that it has, in his/her opinion, directly impacted his/her family. The author discusses the effort his/her family put into pregnancy, “not smoking,” and “not drinking” and being careful about mercury intake via fish, only to have, all of that work undone by vaccinations, or so he/she believes. Personal experience also serves as this person’s primary source of authority on the subject. Though he or she does quote some statistics at the close of the argument (with no evidence of where those statistics arose or other efforts to validate them), they demonstrate no formal or informal education that would authorize them to talk on the subject. They give no indication that they possess a degree in science or medicine, for instance, and other than a basic injunction for his or her readers to “read” up on the dangers of vaccinations, shows no particular proclivity towards academic education. So this author’s authority to speak on the dangers of vaccination seem to stem entirely from the fact that he/she vaccinated her seemingly healthy children, and then soon afterwards began noticing symptoms of severe illness that he/she continues to connect to the vaccination. Personal opinion as the basis for authority is important, rhetorically speaking. It can be an incredibly convincing argument, especially in the right contexts. When people make decisions with which their peers have experience, one of the first things they do is seek advice from people who have greater experience: from everything from laser eye surgery to parenting advice, as a society we value personal experience very highly. It is, however, also more dubious, especially on issues such as this where there could be significant scientific factors at play. Finally, personal experience serves as an emotional touch-stone throughout this piece. The author tells heart-wrenching and touching stories that are extremely rhetorically effective: the tale of a boy who “does not know his letters at 5” and “cannot get his hand to hold his toothbrush” cannot help but touch even the most cold hearted of readers. This emotional pull ensures that readers will connect to this narrative, feel for the author, and possibly be more sympathetic to his or her points. The emotional pull of this work can also weaken the author’s rhetorical standing, however. Everyone understands that emotion is something that can interfere with reason, and when the author, by attempting to construct a cause-effect relationship out of two events, the giving of vaccines and the acquiring of illness, on some level relies on reason. But a reader will realize that this author has incredible emotional investment in the case, because it is so intensely personal. And they will realize that there is a significant chance that those emotions might inhibit the author’s reasoning, and thus, while possibly sympathizing with him/her, viewing him/her somewhat more dubiously. Personal experience is one of the most important parts of experience formation, but rhetorically, it can be a double edged-sword, giving and removing authority, poise, and emotional control. Read More
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