Mastering Persuasion: Insights from Aristotle to Homer Simpson

What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach United States About the Art of Persuasion is a title written by the not-so-famous, (but exceptionally fluent) Jay Heinrichs. Although the title is indeed a mouthful, it serves its function in drawing the reader in. Also; the incredibly long title is a little hint of what Heinrichs entails in his book, an endless supply of details on how to correctly and influentially make use of rhetoric, the art of persuasion. The book is divided into five areas, each one being subdivided into different techniques on how to use rhetoric to your benefit, in any provided scenario.

The very first section, Offense, teaches the reader how to use rhetoric to their advantage. Recommendations such as, mastering the art of agreeability, (arrangement by character, arrangement by reasoning, and contract by feeling) is given and this is enormously important since it is very important to always have the control in an argument.

Heinrichs wants us to utilize the tool of agreeability and our audience to gain that power.

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Another piece of suggestions Heinrichs gives is to control the mood, sway your audience's point of view in your favor. The section describes how feeling is substantial from experiences and expectations. The better you can explain an experience, or certain outlook to an audience, the more feeling you can stir up, hence getting them onto your side. This is why telling a detailed story is suggested to change someone's mood. "Don't participate in name-calling. Do not rant. Aristotle said that one of the most efficient state of mind changers is a comprehensive narrative.

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The more brilliant you make the story, the more it looks like a genuine experience, and the more your audience will think it could occur again. You provide them a vicarious experience, and an expectation that it could occur to them." (Heinrichs 83) He uses the instance of the timeless funny movie Ruthless Individuals. Danny DeVito sends his girlfriend a sex tape, nevertheless she hasn't seen it yet. He calls her and informs her all of the "improper" things he wishes to do to her (relating to 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.

Works Cited

  1. Heinrichs, Jay. Thank You For Arguing. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007. Text.
Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Mastering Persuasion: Insights from Aristotle to Homer Simpson. (2016, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Mastering Persuasion: Insights from Aristotle to Homer Simpson essay
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