Aristotle's Rhetoric and the Ethics of Modern Advertising Essay

Aristotle's Rhetoric and the Ethics of Modern Advertising Essay

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Aristotle's Rhetoric outlines the three main purposes of rhetoric as political, legal, and ceremonial. Persuasion is the main point of all three of the main venues for rhetoric. Rhetoric “may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion” (Aristotle 22). Rhetoric can also be seen as a primer to explain the methods of persuasion used in modern-day commercials and advertisements. While the classic methods of effecting persuasion are pertinent to our understanding of how different forms of advertising work, there are also a host of modern day techniques that have changed the landscape of rhetoric. Namely, what has changed is three-fold. First, modern-day advertising has a much more visual delivery. Second, traditional oratory is rarely used in modern day commercials. Finally, there is a departure from what Aristotle would say is ethical within the rhetoric of the modern day. Advertising is attempting to sell you something. Unlike in the time of Aristotle, we live in a capitalist society where most rhetorical methodology is designed to produce a specific action from the audience to purchase an item, not simply to win an argument. The duty of oratory has changed from the Aristotelian definition. We can then ask, what can we learn from the rhetorical devices of Aristotle in responding to today's advertisements and commercials?
However broad these changes may seem to the modern day audience, it is important to
show how the classical methodology of effecting persuasion is relevant today. Aristotle states the three means of effecting persuasion are “ (1) to reason logically, (2) to understand human
character and goodness in various forms, and (3) to understand ...

... middle of paper ...

...nd logos are used by ad-writers in an attempt to persuade them, the public can look clearly at the underlying purpose of the advertisement. As Corbett and Connors point out, “a knowledge of rhetoric can help us to respond critically and appreciatively to advertisements, commercials, political messages, satires, irony, and double-speak of all varieties” (25). A close reading of Rhetoric and other forms of ancient rhetoric can be beneficial to a student who wishes to truly understand how advertising and commercials work. The ability to wade through advertising that only offers a mild truth, or worse yet a lie, has become a great attribute associated with post-modern American thinking. After a careful study of Rhetoric's past, we as Americans may be able to discern truth from propaganda, need instead of want, and fact from fiction.

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