What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion is a title written by the not-so-famous, (but extremely well-versed) Jay Heinrichs. Although the title is indeed a mouthful, it serves its purpose in drawing the reader in. Also; the extremely long title is a little hint of what Heinrichs entails in his book, an endless supply of information on how to correctly and influentially utilize rhetoric, the art of persuasion. The book is divided into five sections, each one being subdivided into different strategies on how to use rhetoric to your advantage, in any given situation. The first section, Offense, teaches the reader how to use rhetoric to their advantage. Advice such as, mastering the art of agreeability, (agreement by character, agreement by logic, and agreement by emotion) is given and this is tremendously valuable because it’s important to always have the control in an argument.
Heinrichs wants us to use the tool of agreeability and our audience to gain that power. Another piece of advice Heinrichs gives is to control the mood, sway your audience’s perspective in your favor. The section describes how emotion is consequential from experiences and expectations. The better you can describe a sensation, or certain outlook to an audience, the more emotion you can stir up, thus getting them onto your side. This is why telling a detailed story is recommended to change someone’s mood. “Don’t engage in name-calling. Don’t rant. Aristotle said that one of the most effective mood changers is a detailed narrative. The more vivid you make the story, the more it seems like a real experience, and the more your audience will think it could happen again. You give them a vicarious experience, and an expectation that it could happen to them.” (Heinrichs 83) He uses the instance of the classic comedy film Ruthless People. Danny DeVito sends his mistress a sex tape, however she hasn’t viewed it yet. He calls her and tells her all of the “inappropriate” things he wants to do to her (regarding the tape), and she gets the wrong impression.
She interprets that the tape is actually of a murder, because of the way he refers to it, thus scaring her into a panic. Although this wasn’t the way he envisioned for her mood to alter, it still did. The next section is titled Defense. It goes over logical fallacies, their downfalls, how to spot them, and much more. Such as, the “Seven Deadly Sins” of rhetoric, and the defensive tools of practical wisdom. A fallacy, by definition, is an argument that uses poor reasoning. Before one uses a fallacy, it’s important to have full understanding or else you risk losing your whole ethos aspect of your argument. Heinrichs gives three important parts to detecting fallacies. “All you have to do is look for a bad proof, the wrong number of choices, or a disconnect between the proof and the conclusion.” (Heinrichs 146) The following two sins are Tautology and False Choice. Tautology just repeats the premise, or principle of the argument.
The example given was “Fan: The Cowboys are favored to win since they are the better team.” (Heinrichs 155) Fundamentally, tautology is the same thing that gets repeated in different words. Next, we have False Choice. False choice is the many questions fallacy, in which two or more issues are mixed into one. “A related fallacy, the false dilemma, offers the audience two choices when more actually exist.” (Heinrichs 163). The objective with this sin is to not only sidetrack, but to narrow down the audiences choices. The last two of the seven sins are Red Herring and Wrong Ending. Red Herring is the sin that “…distracts the audience to make it forget what the main issue is about. A variant is the straw man fallacy, which sets up a different issue that’s easier to argue. You say, “Who drank up all the orange juice?” and your spouse says “Well, you tell me why the dishes aren’t done.”” (Heinrichs 163) Wrong Ending is essentially the proof failing to lead to the conclusion.
There are many different fallacies that fall under this sin, it is vital to be weary when using it. Section four is Advanced Offence. The title of the section essentially explains itself. It teaches the reader more elite or clever ways to win an argument. Which side your audience is swayed towards has a lot to do with the way an argument is worded. Word choice is tremendously significant. Using tools such as analogy, oxymoron, rhetorical questions, hyperbole, and coyness are essential. “The Greeks called them “schemes”, a better word than “figures,” because they serve as persuasive tricks and rules of thumb.” (Heinrichs 202). Towards the end of the chapter, Heinrichs always gives a summary of what was said and taught. These summaries are extremely helpful in clarifying any misconceptions acquired by the reader.
A personal favorite in Advanced Offence is the aspect of weighing both sides. “This category of figure sums up opposing positions and compares or contrasts them. The either/or figure (dialysis) offers a choice, usually with an obvious answer. The contrasting figure (antithesis), on the other hand, can be more evenhanded. These side-by-side figures sum up an argument on your own terms, allowing you to define the issue.” (Heinrichs 219) Overall, the only question I had about this book was, why on Earth would this man write a book about the art of persuasion, and also, how is he married? Heinrichs seems to be a know-it-all, and as everyone knows, women hate that. Additionally, several of the terms were a bit perplexing and I’d need a bit of practice and assistance in fully understanding them, and be able to use them in my regular vocabulary.
Heinrichs, Jay. Thank You For Arguing. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007. Text.
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