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Rhetoric, Unfortunately, Is More Important Than Dialectic

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/21/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,289 times Debate No: 31235
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




My argument here is that, for better or worse, rhetoric is more important than dialectic. This is in a few areas:

1) The art of persuasion,

2) Actual policy, and

3) The usefulness of language.

First, rhetoric compresses nuanced meaning into words that accommodates the scarcity of attention span when discussing issues. That is by being artistic rather than logical, ordinary listeners can more easily pay attention and relate with what is being said. Lingo and jargon is ineffective and comes off as arrogant, but figurative language is down to earth and simpler to understand.

Second, rhetoric shows inside information over how actual policy can be construed and enacted. A rhetorician demonstrates an understanding of how words can be interpreted in multiple ways as well as how word games can be played. Therefore, a rhetorician is an expert not only in composing ordinary language, but also in anticipating misinterpretation and doing what's needed to prevent it.

Third, language is not merely an ideal set and syntax of words, but is an actual tool for directing others. A rhetorician understands this technique beyond simply being logical, but rather triggers an audience's switches in order to get desired results. This can even take place if the audience is not logically rigorous or methodical. Sometimes, people have pragmatic prejudices in their interpretations of words, so practice can happen by appealing to prejudice. Heck, sometimes, appealing to prejudice is necessary because it's central to an audience's motivation in general. Other times, it's necessary because there just isn't enough time to explain in detail.

To be clear, I am not arguing here that rhetoric is more proper. What I'm arguing is properness isn't necessarily the value of language. Rhetoric addresses improperness in the aforementioned styles. Dialectic does not.


My opponent has made the surprising comment: "My argument here is that, for better or worse, rhetoric IS MORE IMPORTANT than dialectic."

Who is more important, a scientific journalist or a scientist? They are both very important, but to find out who is most important, you imagine a universe without one of them. A universe without scientific journalists, will be one where scientific discoveries are made, but only few people can know and apply them. A universe without scientists however renders scientific journalists redundant. Therefore scientists are more important.

Rhetoric is the art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. The problem with rhetoric however, is that speaker who is doing the informing, persuading or motivating is not always right. The art of rhetoric is not about speaking the truth, but about speaking in a way that will be heard. Just as science is about the truth and scientific journalism is about being heard, so to is dialectic about the truth, and rhetoric about being heard.

You mention how rhetoric allows people to speak in a way that allows those of short attention spans to listen. This is important, but again I stress this is important only if the speaker is speaking the truth.

The way to arrive at the truth is not through rhetoric, but through dialectic. It is through rhetoric that the truth could be used to inform others, but without dialectic, rhetoric has nothing to share.

Socrates favoured truth as the highest value, proposing that it could be discovered through reason and logic in discussion: ergo, dialectic.
Debate Round No. 1


To be clear, I agree on the matter of truth, but without rhetoric, a speaker won't persuade others to believe in it. This is especially vital when we consider that the investigation of truth requires psychological commitment.

For example, say we have two speakers: an intuitively correct person (such as a scientist), and a communicatively charming person (such as a journalist).

Even if the scientist is correct about things, that correctness won't be appreciated if it's not communicated in a way that listeners can appreciate. Listeners will get confused, bored, believe the scientist is arrogant, and possibly feel threatened. The journalist can also embarrass the scientist by cherry-picking details and making artistic retorts.

There's also the matter of people being able to claim that truth is relative. Instead of analyzing how it's necessary for things to exist, people can simply synthesize what's possible for things to exist. In turn, they make appeals to emotion, popularity, misery, authority, and misery in order to justify their positions. That is they look at the most common positions, the average positions, and the results of positions in order to determine their "truthfulness" rather than analyzing whether or not something cause is the origin of what's happened.

To be clear, I agree that coming to the truth requires dialectic, but the actual truth isn't automatically what matters. It's what people want to believe to be true that matters.


My opponent's last paragraph states "To be clear, I agree that coming to the truth requires dialectic, but the actual truth isn't automatically what matters. It's what people want to believe to be true that matters."

I strongly disagree with the statement that my opponent has made. I propose that what people want to believe is not as important as the truth. If something is important to me, it allows me to achieve my personal goals, or allows those I care about to achieve their goals. Similarly, something is important to a society if it allows that society to achieve its goals.

Imagine a society whose goal is to construct a battle ship for an upcoming war. Two companies then present to the people two separate plans for the construction of the battle ship. They could both present their rhetorical arguments to persuade the crowd, or they could use a dialectic approach to determine the plan that maximizes the positive outcomes for the society (e.g. lowest cost, most efficient, most reliable etc). Which society do you think is most likely to win the war? The society using rationality and reason, or the society that uses rhetoric to make its decisions?

In such practical matters as the example above, the truth is of utmost importance. The truth determines the likelihood of survival for the community, or to a lesser extent, the likelihood of the community achieving its goals. A community that disregards the truth, in exchange for personal beliefs and values, is at risk of their own destruction when presented with genuine threats to their survival, or is at risk of not fulfilling their goals.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has taken affirmative defense in terms of a counter-proposal. His argument is based around a manipulation of the word "is" by referring to actual reality rather than the art of persuasion among people within reality.

Unfortunately, my opponent still ignores the value of psychology in committing towards investigation. He ignores how personal goals are subject to what people believe in, and how social goals require organization inspired by the morale of what people believe in.

Whether in civilian or military life, this even applies to my opponent's argument over constructing a battleship in a war. A battleship requires planning. People don't plan unless they're committed. A rhetorical argument will commit people to investigate how a battleship is planned. A dialectic argument, while possibly technically correct, does not commit people to investigate planning in the first place.

My opponent also carries this on to victory in the war itself. One, winning the war itself is a secondary issue. Two, even fighting a war depends on organization and morale themselves which are rhetorical, not dialectical, issues. That is people have to be committed towards fighting the fight in order to win.

Lastly, my opponent assumes that survival is intrinsically valuable, but this isn't necessarily the case. A side that wins the war by oppressing its own people has transformed survival into slavery. Yes, it might exist, but that existence no longer has importance. Without rhetoric, the people will not identify with the society they live within. They will feel like they're robots, simply carrying out orders.

Thank you for reading. Please vote Con.


I quote my opponent:

"He ignores how personal goals are subject to what people believe in."

I do not deny that personal goals are subject to what people believe in. Our argument is however about what is the best way to have people come to believe in something, which in turn influences personal goals. Should people come to believe in something by witnessing rhetorical persuasions, or should people come to believe in things by witnessing and being a part of dialectic discussions? The latter is definitely superior, because without it, society would never progress to new levels of understanding, but would rather just continually reaffirm often incorrect beliefs. For example, a society based on rhetoric alone, would never have accepted the truth that the world is round, as it was against the predominant religious beliefs at the time. It is only through dialectic discussion, through rationality and reason, that there false beliefs were exposed. This example shows why dialectic trumps rhetoric.

I also quote:
"A dialectic argument, while possibly technically correct, does not commit people to investigate planning in the first place."

I strongly oppose this statement. When people listen to a dialectic, a discussion using reason and rationality to come to conclusions, people are more likely to respect the conclusions that are drawn.

Finally my opponent says:
"Without rhetoric, the people will not identify with the society they live within. They will feel like they're robots, simply carrying out orders."

This is exactly the opposite of the truth. Through dialectic, citizens are not simply "carrying out orders" but rather the citizens can see the rational and logical reasons underpinning their actions, and how it benefits their society as a whole. They are thus more eager to contribute to a world they understand. Dialectic is rational, but still based on benefiting society.

To conclude, I quote my opponent one last time:
"Thank you for reading. Please vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Daktoria 4 years ago
I wrote this early in the morning. Sorry for the last remark. It's supposed to mean, "Please vote Pro."

Posted by Theqeustioner 4 years ago
I think nobody is goig to accept ur debate
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Nimbus328 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Great debate! Both sides! Con had two spelling errors: there/their to/too