Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Logos, Ethos, Pathos. Classical Rhetoric Revisited

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Logos, Ethos, Pathos. Classical Rhetoric Revisited

Article excerpt

Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric

The relations between language, politics and rhetoric were subject to philosophical and sociological investigations from the very onset of philosophy, sociology and rhetoric, e.g. the three grand disciplines in quest of the answer to how words, the persuasive effect and community life are entwined. Philosophy of Heraclitus, that of Plato, of Aristotle, Diogenes the Cynic, Pirrho, or Epicurus was always embedded within certain politics and could always gain rhetorical momentum-the case of that being the subordination of philosophy to rhetoric and rhetoric to politics by sophists. The rationality of beliefs and actions is naturally a timeless topic of philosophical investigations. One could even say that philosophical thought originates in reflection on the reason embodied in cognition, speech, and action; and reason remains its basic theme.

Similarly, the history of rhetoric from Gorgias and Protagoras, through Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Seneca, up until twentieth century rhetoric pondering upon the question of "unity" of rhetoric was similarly embedded within a certain political context which was sometimes dedicated to furthering this end and sometimes not necessarily at all. Athenian democracy, to give but one example, renowned for treasuring rights of all citizens to speak at public gatherings was supportive to this end. In Rome, on the other hand, it was open legal process which played key role in this regard by allowing citizens to enter disputes on their own behalf. It might well explain why the structure of speech, line of argumentation and so many rhetorical figures embody the very idea of a legal speech.

Finally, symbolic interactionism of George Herbert Mead, social anthropology of Franz Boas, and above all Edward Sapir's project of anthropology of language-in itself a contribution to sociolinguistics and ethnography of speaking of Dell Hymes, and consequently Claude Lévi-Strauss' structuralism, Erving Goffman's sociology of everyday life, not to mention Pierre Bourdieu's theory of power and practice and generally speaking the contemporary theory of discourse in its richest diversity- have always been nothing but social theories considered from the point of view of "living speech" of participants of a "collective game" and as such they have been described within the context of social influence of linguistic and discursive structures on "non-discursive" or "non-linguistic" structures.

After all Teun A. van Dijk argues that instead of the usual direct relationship being established between society and discourse, this influence is indirect and depends on how language users themselves define the communicative situation. It is a widespread misconception, in traditional sociolinguistics, that social situations and their properties-such as class, gender or age of language users-exercise direct and unmediated influence on language use. Against such a conception of the relation between discourse and society van Dijk maintains that there is no direct link between situational or social structures and discourse structures-which are structures of very different kinds. The relation between society and discourse is indirect, and mediated by the socially based but subjective definitions of the communicative situation as they are construed and dynamically updated by the participants. These subjective definitions are the missing link between language and society so far ignored in pragmatics and sociolinguistics (Dijk van 2004; Dijk van 2009).

It was perhaps not until Jürgen Habermas put forward his theory of communicative action that society and social fact could be transformed into an ideal "communication community" devoted to developing conditions for free communication (Habermas 1984). It was thanks to Habermas that philosophy once again elucidated the key problem of interdependency of community life and communicative action, the problem which could be traced back as far as to Plato's Republic. …

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