Should We Use Aesthetic Techniques in Persuasive Speech? New podcast out now
Jamie Dow on how sonorous, humorous or rhetorically elegant language can help us to get our message across more effectively and change people's minds, as part of the Ethics Untangled series
Dr Jamie Dow is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the IDEA Centre. He is particularly interested in Ancient Philosophy, and much of his research is concerned with what philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle can tell us about the ethical questions we face today. Recently, he's been thinking about the use of aesthetic features in persuasive speech.
Episode 7 of the Ethics Untangled podcast describes how sonorous, humorous or rhetorically elegant language can help us to get our message across more effectively and change people's minds.
There are lots of ways of doing this. We might want to describe our opponent's position in a humorous way to invite our listeners to join us in ridiculing it. We might want to vary the rhythm and pitch of our speech to lend it musicality.
We might want to begin successive sentences with a repeated phrase, in a sequence of three (a ‘tricolon’) where the final sentence cleverly subverts the expectation set up by the preceding two. Or pepper our prose with pellets of punchy alliteration.
But is this stuff okay, or is there always something morally suspect about this kind of approach? If we want people to come round to our point of view for the right reasons, shouldn't we be focusing purely on the content of what we're saying?
To try to answer this question, Jamie uses two examples of persuasive speech which use aesthetic approaches very effectively - speeches by Barack Obama and Martin Luther King. He also talks about the implications of his research for people who are using persuasive speech in everyday life.
Listen now to Should We Use Aesthetic Techniques in Persuasive Speech?