Author Tells How Rhetoric and Logic Play a Role in Debate

Jay Heinrichs, author of “Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach us About The Art of Persuasion”, graced us rhetorically-inclined Spartans with a wonderful presentation last Friday, Nov. 2.

He spoke about the types of rhetoric, and how they influence our everyday lives.

He opened his presentation in an unorthodox manner – namely “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. Apparently Kurt Cobain was quite the rhetorician in his own right.

After this, Heinrichs introduced us to his son, and how a simple problem with an empty tube of toothpaste was in fact a debate of rhetoric akin to the Sophists of ancient Greece.

Heinrichs told us how he was first introduced to rhetoric: although his school did not teach it, he was a huge history buff and he also liked pulling random books off of the shelves in the library.

One day, he pulled down a dusty old book that turned out to be a transcript of John Quincy Adams’ lecture on rhetoric to a class at Harvard, done while he was a Professor and a U.S. Senator.

Thanks to the assistance of an audience member who was an avid comic book reader, Heinrichs demonstrated the art of concession: He agreed with the man on his topic, but in a way that forced the opponent to start to work with him.

He explained that this is because the point of rhetoric was not to win the fight, rather to get what you want. If your objective is to avoid a confrontation, and begin to sway your opponent over to your line of thought, then concession is a perfectly reasonable way to get this.

As he spoke, Heinrichs mentioned the debate between rhetoric and logic. He described one of the least likely candidates for president, based on their balance, which surprised me as well as most of the audience: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

According to Heinrichs, Senator Clinton cared almost nothing about public relations and rhetoric, choosing to focus almost entirely on the facts, and logic. As he put it, “I can only imagine what she talks about in the shower: ‘Universal Health Care

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