Inspired by the question of the Daily Post, I would like to share an experience of and a thought on rhetoric. Yesterday, together with my collegues, I adressed an assembly of over a hundred people. It was all about how the city quarter is going to welcome and live with new neighbours, called refugees. To me, it was exciting. What I wanted to say was prepared, checked out with the team and exercised. Finally, I made it. The feedback outspoken was friendly and supporting.
Afterwords, there was a chance to talk about „speaking in the public“. Everybody has some experience and opinions. I remembered reading the Platonic dialogue „Georgias“, Socrates discussing with the sophist about the art of rhetoric. Georgias would convince you of this and the right opposite, he would sell you this or that. On the other hand, Socrates reminds, that every speech has to strive for truth.
So, rhetoric was an art for citizens in ancient Greece, for politicians, lawyers and so on. In the European and „Western“ tradition, rhetoric used to be one of the liberal arts, taught in schools and universities. Anglo-saxon as well as Roman traditions kept and still practice it. I wish to learn about the „Eastern“ traditions as well …
In Germany, there was a disruption of classical rhetoric. Idealistic authors and thinkers like Schiller and Hegel argued, it seemed artificial to them. They preferred a kind of natural speaking and wanted to sound „authentic“ rather than artificial. Finally, this development led to the ignorance of rhetoric. The rise, crime and genocide of national socialism was – among many other reasons – a consequence of not knowing how to distinguish between rhetoric and demagogy.
These days, public debate is on the refugee „tsunami“ or „avalanche“; the discussion rages on numbers and limits. What, if we received people as they are and by their name?