In rhetoric, students are primarily concerned with making arguments that are convincing. Rhetoricians who deviated from the truth were rightly skewered in Socrates' time for their problematic "sophistry"... but what about rhetoricians who don't intend to betray the truth?

Would you all place rhetoric under the umbrella of philosophy, or place it elsewhere, like over in the language arts wing of the university?

  • Persuasion/rhetoric belongs in literature and languages wing of Universities. Rhetoric is not concerned with truth, but with persuasion. Whereas philosophy, as a whole, is concerned with truth (not counting pragmatists, ofcourse). Therefore, the two are separate. My two cents. Nov 27, 2018 at 22:49
  • Are you familiar with the concept of the Trivium of Grammar => Logic => Rhetoric? The general idea of rhetoric in this context is that rhetoric exists as a consequence of true premises bound together by logical connections. In this sense rhetoric is just the communication of that logic. This falls into the "liberal arts" more than just philosophy.
    – JacobIRR
    Nov 28, 2018 at 0:51
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    See also the post What happened to rhetoric as a branch of philosophy ? Nov 28, 2018 at 9:27
  • thanks @MauroALLEGRANZA related question: can rhetoric be autonomous?
    – user35983
    Nov 28, 2018 at 23:34

1 Answer 1


Rhetoric is closely connected to Sophism and Sophistry

Rhetoric is usually described as an art of persuading (some audience about something). It is not particularly interested with truth, only with appearance of it. Rhetoric appeals not only to the reason, but much more to the emotions. In this regards, rhetoric is close to the psychology - many good rhetoricians used psychological tricks to make their public believe in something.

The first teachers of rhetoric were the Sophists. The Sophists had a curious philosophical outlook - they believed that for every argument there can be made a counter argument, and that there is no objective independent truth, morals etc ... The famous saying by Protagoras "Man is the measure of all things" is usually interpreted as exactly this: repudiation of universal truth. This moral relativism of Sophists was famously criticized by ancient philosophers like Plato, especially since Sophists made a living by teaching wealthy students how to make arguments pro et contra concerning various topics, and not trying to establish what is true (since they did believe that is individual). As a philosophical movement, Sophism was not very fruitful, for obvious reason. Still , they have left us with the art of rhetoric, just like Plato's student Aristotle left us with logic to discern truth trough Sophism.

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