According to most dictionaries, rhetoric is the art of using the language and directing language skills in oral or written communication. To be well understood, a person has to effectively communicate taking into account the listener’s background and abilities to perceive.
Studying rhetoric is to develop communication abilities as language has become one of the most important inventions of mankind. Through communication abilities, people pass knowledge to each other.
However, the audience decides to keep or refuse the knowledge that a rhetorician is trying to pass.
The term rhetoric was first introduced by Greeks who used it to explain a crucial political talent to use the language persuasively. Rhetoric theories have been developed for more than 2,000 years and people still have a lot of doubts of what is rhetoric and how it works.
Nowadays, rhetoric is based on a conception of reality, of human nature, and of language .To make it more comprehensible, rhetoric is a closed system of defining what can, and cannot, be known; the nature of the knower; the nature of the relationship between the knower, the known, and the audience; and the nature of language.
Rhetoric is thus ultimately implicated in all a society attempts. It is at the center of a culture’s activities. Now, looking at rhetorics of a particular society we can understand whom are we talking to and how should we talk to make it easy to understand us.
As I have mentioned before, rhetoric has many theories to it; however, the most significant ones are transactional theories. What they basically say is that knowledge and understanding come from interaction between rhethor and the audience. It does not necessarily have to be an oral speech. The written sources are also developed using rhetoric. Thus, rhetoric is in the base of knowledge and acquiring this knowledge.
Traditionally, rhetoric was viewed as the art of persuasion. However, some add an idea of rhetoric as epistemic. The assumption that rhetoric as the persuasion to truth is faulty. Plato said that if there is truth and it can be understood by some, what is the purpose of rhetoric? The idea was proposed as “the dynamic of elite.” This elite would know the truth and explain it to the masses. Idea of rhetoric-as-epistemic requires individual participation in knowing.
Knowledge is dependent on the experiences of the community. The very part of knowing is being committed to what one knows. The commitment is created as knowledge. Truth is the knowledge in a temporal sense. This argument is used to bring the audience and speaker to an even level.
The speaker and the audience unlock themselves to each other and using a trade of opinions along with the understanding that is dissimilar from their starting point. Rhetoric is viewed as a power that creates the truth and at the same time relies on the truths that come with the sense of beginning.
There is not the slightest possibility that people can communicate without sharing knowledge and the other way around, share knowledge without communication. When we talk, write, wave to somebody, we pass some information to responders without even thinking about it. However, the knowledge is not quite identical for everyone.
That is where the major complexity in observing rhetoric as epistemic comes from. Different groups of people use different symbols that mean different things. It is when the second part of episteme (the first is knowledge), understanding, is mandatory. When two groups of people have understood each other, only then they can share knowledge.
The purpose of rhetoric will live as long as communication itself. Although, there is still a great number of discussions that are going on about rhetoric as epistemic; and it will be that way as long as people would be able to use their communicative and analytical skills.