Aristotle Teaches Persuasion: The Psychic Connection

Steven D. Jamar
Howard University School of Law; Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ)

Scribes, Vol. 8, pp. 61-102, 2001-2002


This article demonstrates that at the heart of Aristotle’s Rhetoric is deep instruction in how to make your arguments resonate most effectively with the audience – how to make a psychic connection between the speaker and the audience is the core, unifying theme of the whole Rhetoric. In demonstrating this thesis, I focus primarily on how, to Aristotle, logical argument, particularly the enthymeme (rhetorical syllogism), is less about logic per se than about knowing and connecting with the audience. To Aristotle, logical arguments are persuasive not because of something inherently true about logic, but rather because the audience values and responds to logical arguments. That is, logic is not outside human experience, but of it. Even the seeming inevitability of the syllogism has been shown to be culture-bound, at least in the sense that one must believe in it for it to be persuasive. One can choose not to believe either in its logic or in its completeness or precision. In the law completeness and precision are sought after, but never fully realized or realizable. Hence even the honored syllogism is open to rhetorical attack.

Aristotle Teaches Persuasion- The Psychic Connection

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