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Role of rhetoric - Essay Example

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Rhetoric is present almost everywhere in our society today. From television advertisements to newspapers and magazines to political commentaries and even speeches by politicians, rhetoric is being utilized to introduce ideas and concepts, which determine to a large extent, the way people live their lives and form their beliefs and thoughts…
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Role of rhetoric
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Rhetoric is present almost everywhere in our society today. From television advertisements to newspapers and magazines to political commentaries and even speeches by politicians, rhetoric is being utilized to introduce ideas and concepts, which determine to a large extent, the way people live their lives and form their beliefs and thoughts. Rhetoric, therefore, is a powerful tool of persuasion. Amidst all these rhetorical devices, however, false consciousness is both created and maintained as a result of rhetoric. As this essay will argue, rhetoric creates a false consciousness among individuals and within a society by instilling beliefs and thoughts that could be an inaccurate or incorrect representation of reality; and it maintains this false consciousness by inhibiting the enlightenment of these same individuals from discovering and understanding "reality".
Rhetoric, defined by Aristotle as "the act of finding the possible means of persuasion in reference to any given situation," plays an integral role in both creating and maintaining false consciousness. It persuades people to accept as true ideas of a society, which are either an "ideal type", or worse, one that is made up. Hence, rhetoric plays an essential role in the "constitution of meaning." In this sense, the use of rhetoric becomes a powerful tool of persuasion that could be used ethically or that could corrupt and lead to false consciousness.
This could be illustrated both in the level of the society and in the level of the individual. In the level of society, one can turn to the manner that today's society views aesthetics and beauty. False consciousness has created an idea of beauty and perfection that is characterized by a slim body, flawless skin, and asymmetrical facial features. Advertising companies and manufacturers of beauty products, in an effort to sell and market their products has instilled in today's society a very superficial conception of beauty. If we look at magazine and TV ads, they all persuade its audience towards one idea - that unless a person has a perfect body and a perfect face, then he or she is not beautiful. As a consequence, we now live in a society clamoring for perfection. Sales of beauty and slimming products have gone on overdrive. Some have even gone to the extreme and went under the knife. Such use of rhetoric, in the form of advertising, has created a very insecure population. Although there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection, the effect rhetoric had on people's psyche is very troubling. It is characteristic of what Aristotle refers to as "sophistry" - using rhetoric to pursue one's own interests. In this case, it is the interest of a profit hungry beauty industry. Eventually, as we see today, people accept the ideas about beauty and their inferiority - they either transform themselves to a more "perfect" person, or they strive hard to create an illusion of perfection.
False consciousness is maintained because through the use of rhetoric, the enlightenment of these people and societies, which is a necessary precondition for the destruction of false consciousness and the realization of what is true, are inhibited. Rhetoric allows the social structures that perpetuate false consciousness to pervade. Literature today, such as fairy tales, for example, perpetuates in children beliefs about beauty and kindness. It presents the main characters, which children are taught to relate to, as a paragon of beauty, perfection, and kindness; while the villains are described as ugly and evil. Hence, these children grow up believing that being good is equated to being beautiful and vice versa. Since a person's character is built based on their experiences as a child, they grow up striving to be like these main characters - beautiful princesses.
Rhetoric, therefore, creates and maintains false consciousness by instilling ideas and beliefs on people, which they accept as definitive of who they are and what they can do. It maintains this false consciousness because it inhibits the enlightenment of these people by constantly reminding and convincing them about their false reality. Read More
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