The first part of chapter three analyzes the five canons of rhetoric and highlights Platonic dialectic and Aristotle’s topics. The first interesting idea that was readdressed through the chapter was the definition of rhetoric itself and how Pullman depicts it as mostly persuasive instead of focusing on its other components. For instance, the author’s example of his doctor friend and his olympic patients really highlighted rhetoric’s placebo effect, or in this case, a solely persuasive factor of rhetoric. While a rational argument wouldn’t be just telling the athlete what he or she wants to hear, the doctor still uses the placebo effect, or rhetoric, in order to reassure the athlete in the most persuasive way. This example clearly favors rhetoric’s persuasive quality and I believe it leads to more of the misleading or manipulating ideas that people usually have about rhetoric.
Another idea that Pullman discusses is Aristotle and his role in rhetoric. Pullman compares Aristotle’s ideas on rhetoric as the same or at least very similar to Gorgias’ ideas on rhetoric (134). However, reading against Pullman’s grain, later Aristotle’s topics are revealed and his definition of rhetoric is much more in-depth than Gorgias’ definition is. In fact, the reading only covers a few of Aristotle’s special topics and oratories. The book focuses on the forensic oratory which is Aristotle’s least favorite oratory but would likely be Gorgias’ favorite or only oratory, further highlighting their differences.
The most interesting part of the reading though ends with framing. I think it’s especially revealing how Pullman defines framing as to “control an argument’s outcome by constraining the terms, trying to force [emphasis mine] people to see the issue as one way when it could be others” (149). I can reconnect this definition of framing back to the earlier definitions of rhetoric as something persuasive and even forceful. Not only that, but Pullman highlights that framing is everywhere just like rhetoric and persuasion are. I tend to see this because almost everything is framed in a least some way to help a person develop an intended idea over something. The examples I always think of and am aware of most of the time are survey samples. This is a problem because instead of allowing someone to form his or her own thoughts, the questions are framed in a way that already influence one’s decisions. Something like this is especially dangerous in a survey or voting situation at polls. A lot of legislation that wants to be approved is framed in a way where voters cannot possibly disagree with it without prior knowledge. What are some examples that you have seen of framing?
Furthermore, I think Pullman uses his own idea of framing with the language or ideas he chooses. One example of this is the author’s take on e-books vs. paper books. Pullman frames his argument for an object’s purpose and not the “look.” He frames the section by saying that things that are easily accessible are more purposeful and then references that paperback fans’ love the “feel and smell” of a real book, i.e. not purposeful. What Pullman does not mention is the fact that things can be easier to read on paper and easier to understand or follow giving paperbacks more purpose than depicted before. All of these interesting layers prove to be important when considering rhetoric and its effect on persuasion.