« EelmineJätka »
DI PICHARD WHATELY was born in London, February ist, 1787, and ed.
ucated for the church at Oriel College, Oxford. In 1814, six
years after his graduation, he published his “Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte,which soon became celebrated. For many years he was a professor at Oxford, but in 1831 he became Archbishop of Dublin, and died in that city October 8th, 1863. His works on theology, metaphysics, and political economy are numerous, but the treatise on «The Elements of Rhetoric,” published in 1828, has probably exceeded the total circulation of all the rest.
THE ART OF PERSUASION
N ORDER that the will may be influenced, two things are requisite; viz. (1) that
the proposed object should appear desirable, and (2) that the means suggested should be proved to be conducive to the attainment of that object; and this last evidently must depend on a process of reasoning. In order, for example, to induce the Greeks to unite their efforts against the Persian invader, it was necessary both to prove that co-operation could alone render their resistance effectual, and also to awaken such feelings of patriotism and abhorrence of a foreign yoke as might prompt them to make these combined efforts. For it is evident, that however ardent their love of liberty, they would make no exertions if they apprehended no danger; or if they thought themselves able, separately, to defend themselves, they would be backward to join the confederacy; and, on the other hand, that if they were willing to submit to the Persian yoke, or valued their independence less than their present ease, the fullest conviction that the means recommended would secure their independence would have had no practical effect.
Persuasion, therefore, depends on, first, argument (to prove the expediency of the means proposed), and, secondly, what is usually called exhortation, that is, the excitement of men to adopt those means, by representing the end as sufficiently desirable. It will happen, indeed, not unfrequently, that the one or the other of these objects will have been already, either wholly or in part, accomplished; so that the other shall be the only one that it is requisite to insist on; viz., sometimes the hearers will be sufficiently intent on the pursuit of the end, and will be in doubt only as to the means of attaining it; and sometimes, again, they will have no doubt on that point, but will be indifferent, or not sufficiently ardent, with respect to the proposed end, and will need to be stimulated by exhortations. Not sufficiently ardent, I have said, because it will not so often happen that the object in question will be one to which they are totally indifferent, as that they will, practically at least, not reckon it, or not feel it to be worth the requisite pains. No one is abso
lutely indifferent about the attainment of a happy immortality; and yet a great part of the preacher's business consists in exhortation, that is, endeavoring to induce men to use those exertions which they themselves know to be necessary for the ato tainment of it.
Aristotle and many other writers have spoken of appeals to the passions as an unfair mode of influencing the hearers, in answer to which Dr. Campbell has remarked that there can be no persuasion without an address to the passions; and it is evident, from what has been just said, that he is right, if under the term passion be included every active principle of our nature. This, however, is a greater latitude of meaning than belongs even to the Greek Jáon, though the signification of that is wider than, according to ordinary use, that of term “passions.) But Aristotle by no means overlooked the necessity with a view to persuasion, properly so termed, of calling into action some motive that may influence the will; it is plain that whenever he speaks with reprobation of an appeal to the passions, his meaning is, the excitement of such feelings as ought not to influence the decision of the question in hand. A desire to do justice may be called, in Dr. Campbell's wide acceptation of the term, a passion; this is what ought to influence a judge; and no one would ever censure a pleader for striving to excite and heighten this desire; but if the decision be influenced by an appeal to anger, pity, etc., the feelings thus excited being such as ought not to have operated, the judge must be allowed to have been unduly biased; and that this is Aristotle's meaning is evident from his characterizing the introduction of such topics as “foreign to the matter in hand.” And it is evident that as the motives which ought to operate will be different in different cases, the same may be objectionable and not fairly admissible in one case, which in another would be perfectly allowable. An instance occurs in Thucydides, in which this is very judiciously and neatly pointed out; in the debate respecting the Mityleneans, who had beer subdued after a revolt, Cleon is introduced contending for the justice of inflicting on them capital punishment, to which Di. odotus is made to reply that the Athenians are not sitting in judgment on the offenders, but in deliberation as to their own interest, and ought, therefore, to consider not the right they may have to put the revolters to death, but the ex. pediency or inexpediency of such a procedure.
In judicial cases, on the contrary, any appeal to the personal interests of the judge, or even to public expediency, would be irrelevant. In framing laws, indeed, and (which comes to the same thing ) giving those decisions which are to operate as precedents, the public good is the object to be pursued; but in the mere administering of the established laws it is inadmissible.
There are many feelings, again, which it is evident should in no case be allowed to operate; as envy, thirst for revenge, etc., the excitement of which by the orator is to be reprobated as an unfair artifice; but it is not the less Decessary to be well acquainted with their nature, in order to allay them when previously existing in the hearers, or to counteract the efforts of an adversary in producing or directing them. It is evident, indeed, that all the weaknesses, as well as the powers of the human mind, and all the arts by which the sophist takes advantage of these weaknesses, must be familiarly known by a perfect orator; who, though he may be of such a character as to disdain em. ploying such arts, must not want the ability to do so, or he would not be prepared to counteract them. An acquaintance with the nature of poisons is Decessary to him who would administer antidotes.
T is not always advisable to enter into a direct detail of circumstances, which
would often have the effect of wearying the hearer beforehand with the ex
pectation of a long description of something in which he probably does not as yet feel much interest; and would also be likely to prepare him too much, and forewarn him, as it were, of the object proposed,- the design laid against his feelings. It will often, therefore, have a better effect to describe obliquely (if I may so speak), by introducing circumstances connected with the main object or event, and affected by it, but not absolutely forming a part of it. And circumstances of this kind may not unfrequently be selected so as to produce a more striking impression of anything that is in itself great and remarkable, than could be produced by a minute and direct description; because in this way the general and collective result of a whole, and the effects produced by it on other objects, may be vividly impressed on the hearer's mind ; the circumstantial detail of collateral matters not drawing off the mind from the contemplation of the principal matter as one and complete. Thus, the woman's application to the King of Samaria, to compel her neighbor to fulfil the agreement of sharing with her the infant's flesh, gives a more frightful impression of the horrors of the famine than any more direct description could have done; since it presents to us the picture of that hardening of the heart to every kind of horror, and that destruction of the ordinary state of human senti. ment, which is the result of long continued and extreme misery.
Nor could any detail of the particular vexations suffered by the exiled Jews for their disobedience convey so lively an idea of them as that description of their result contained in the denunciation of Moses: “In the evening thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! and in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were evening!»
In the poem of «Rokeby," a striking exemplification occurs of what has been said. Bertram, in describing the prowess he had displayed as a buccaneer, does not particularize any of his exploits, but alludes to the terrible impression they had left:
<< Panama's maids shall long look pale,
The first of dramatists, who might have been perhaps the first of orators, has offered some excellent exemplifications of this rule; especially in the speech of Antony over Cæsar's body.
THE NECESSITY OF BEING UNDERSTOOD
T is sufficiently evident (though the maxim is often practically disregarded)
that the first requisite of style not only in rhetorical, but in all composi
tions, is perspicuity; since, as Aristotle observes, language which is not intelligible, or not clearly and readily intelligible, fails, in the same proportion, of the purpose for which language is employed. And it is equally self-evident, though this truth is still more frequently overlooked, that perspicuity is a relative quality, and consequently cannot properly be predicated of any work, without a tacit reference to the class of readers or hearers for whom it is designed. Nor is it enough that the style be such as they are capable of under
standing if they bestow their utmost attention; the degree and the kind of attention which they have been accustomed, or are likely to bestow, will be among the circumstances that are to be taken into the account and provided for. I say the kind, as well as the degree of attention, because some hearers and readers will be found slow of apprehension indeed, but capable of taking in what is very copiously and gradually explained to them; while others, on the contrary, who are much quicker at catching the sense of what is expressed in a short compass, are incapable of long attention, and are not only wearied, but absolutely bewildered by a diffuse style.
When a numerous and very mixed audience is to be addressed, much skill will be required in adapting the style both in this, and in other respects, and, indeed, the arguments also, and the whole structure of the discourse, to the various minds which it is designed to impress; nor can the utmost art and diligence prove, after all, more than partially successful in such a case; especially when the diversities are so many and so great as exist in the congregations to which most sermons are addressed, and in the readers for whom popular works of an argumentative, instructive, and hortatory character are intended. It is possible, however, to approach indefinitely to an object which cannot be completely attained; and to adopt such a style, and likewise such a mode of reasoning, as shall be level to the comprehension of the greater part, at least, even of a promiscuous audience, without being distasteful to any.
It is obvious, and has often been remarked, that extreme consciseness is ill suited to hearers or readers whose intellectual powers and cultivation are but small; the usual expedient, however, of employing a prolix style by way of accommodation to such minds is seldom successful; most of those who could have comprehended the meaning, if more briefly expressed, and many of those who could not do so, are likely to be bewildered by tedious expansion; and being unable to maintain a steady attention to what is said. they forget part of what they have heard before the whole is completed. Add to which, that the feebleness produced by excessive dilution (if such an expression may be allowed) will occasion the attention to languish; and what is imperfectly attended to, however clear in itself, will usually be but imperfectly understood. Let not an author, therefore, satisfy himself by finding that he has expressed his meaning so that, if attended to, he cannot fail to be understood; he must consider also (as was before remarked) what attention is likely to be paid to it. If, on the one hand, much matter is expressed in very few words to an unreflecting audience, or if, on the other hand, there is a wearisome prolixity, the requisite attention may very probably not be bestowed.
The best general rule for avoiding the disadvantages both of conciseness and of prolixity, is to employ repetition; to repeat, that is, the same sentiment and argument in many different forms of expression; each in itself brief, but all together affording such an expansion of the sense to be conveyed, and so detaining the mind upon it, as the case may require. Cicero among the Ancients, and Burke among the modern writers, afford, perhaps, the most abundant practical exemplifications of this rule. The latter sometimes shows a deficiency in correct taste, and lies open to Horace's censure of an author,—~Qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam,)— but it must be admitted that he seldom fails to make himself thoroughly understood, and does not often weary the attention, even when he offends the taste of his readers.
Care must of course be taken that the repetition may not be too glaringly apparent; the variation must not consist in the mere use of other synonymous words, but what has been expressed in appropriate terms may be repeated in
metaphorical; the antecedent and consequent of an argument, or the parts of an antithesis, may be transposed; or several different points that have been enumerated, presented in a varied order, etc.
It is not necessary to dwell on that obvious rule laid down by Aristotle, to avoid uncommon, and, as they are vulgarly called, hard words,- that is, those which are such to the person addressed; but it may be worth remarking that to those who wish to be understood by the lower orders, one of the best principles of selec. tion is to prefer terms of Saxon origin, which will generally be more familiar to them than those derived from the Latin (either directly or through the medium of the French), even when the latter are more in use among persons of education. Our language being, with very trifling exceptions, made up of these ele. ments, it is very easy for anyone, though unacquainted with Saxon, to observe this precept if he have but a knowledge of French or of Latin; and there is a remarkable scope for such a choice as I am speaking of from the multitude of synonyms derived, respectively, from those two sources. The compilers of our Liturgy being anxious to reach the understandings of all classes, at a time when our language was in a less settled state than at present, availed themselves of this circumstance in employing many synonymous, or nearly synonymous, expressions, most of which are of the description just alluded to. Take, as an instance, the Exhortation: « acknowledge and « confess »; « dissemble” and “cloke); “humble” and “lowly”; “goodness » and mercy »; «assemble) and meet together. » And here it may be observed that, as in this last instance, a word of French origin will very often not have a single word of Saxon derivation corresponding to it, but may find an exact equivalent in a phrase of two or more words, for ex. ample, «constitute,» «go to make up”; “arrange,” “put in order);
; (substitute," "put in the stead, etc.
In adapting the style to the comprehension of the illiterate, a caution is to be observed against the ambiguity of the word « plain,” which is opposed sometimes to obscurity, and sometimes to ornament; the vulgar require a perspicuous, but by no means a dry and unadorned style; on the contrary, they have a taste rather for the over-florid, tawdry and bombastic; nor are the ornaments of style by any means necessarily inconsistent with perspicuity; metaphor, which is among the principal of them, is, indeed, in many cases, the clearest mode of expression that can be adopted; it being usually much easier for uncultivated minds to comprehend a similitude or analogy than an abstract term. And hence the language of savages, as has often been remarked, is highly metaphorical; and such appears to have been the case with all languages in their earlier, and consequently ruder and more savage state; all terms relating to the mind and its operations being, as appears from the etymology of most of them, originally metaphorical, though by long use they have ceased to be so; for example, the words “ponder,» «deliberate," «reflect,) and many other such, are evidently drawn by analogy from external, sensible, bodily actions.
OF ELEGANCE AND STRENGTH
LEGANCE requires that all homely and coarse words and phrases should be
avoided, even at the expense of circumlocution, though they may be the
most apt and forcible that language can supply. And elegance implies a smooth and easy flow of words in respect of the sound of the sentences; though a more harsh and abrupt mode of expression may often be at least equally energetic.