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Chapter 3: On Rhetoric and its Relation to Fact


It is difficult to delve deep into rhetoric and the persuasive arts without first addressing the medium's inexorable detachment from fact -- or, put more simply -- that which is obviously true.

Many of my colleagues in the Basilica Gnostra are quick to dismiss the value of an education based in the study of rhetoric for the simple reason that rhetoric emphasizes the form an argument takes rather than the basis of the argument itself.  Any argument not grounded in hard, irrefutable facts is not worth being made, fought for or upheld, according to them.

But the is a world beyond the syllogism, beyond the progressions of postulates and conclusions of discourses. And, perhaps most importantly, there exist people over whom fact holds no meaning. It is in these times that a knowledge of rhetoric -- of stance, elocution and dramatization -- can reign.

Another oft-given reason for the avoidance of studying rhetoric, made by the scribes and aides of the Domus Politica, is the insistence that knowledge of rhetoric might somehow corrupt or otherwise pollute the moral fiber of the one that employs it. Surely, such detractors suggest, that just as martial or financial power stokes the flame of ambition in those who wield it, so could the power of influence wielded by a rhetorician give way to equally rampant ambition.

Against such claims I can only stand with mouth agape.

Rhetoric is a product of our enlightened minds -- to compare it with martial authoritarianism or the practice of usury, to present it as merely another avenue for one being to express dominance over another, is wholly absurd. True, rhetoric is a means to an end. But to achieve mastery over rhetoric, one must open one's mind to a corpus of the finest works these lands have to offer-- "The Missgivings," by Ballarde Oreigh, Decanus Kerrine's "Twenty-Five-and-One Supports," -- and internalize them. To excel at rhetoric is to be worldly; one must examine issues from all sides. (And to those that are easily persuaded by even an amateur, I might argue that they are asking to be taking advantage of!)

In light of such a testament, then -- in the understanding that rhetoric requires such a breadth of knowledge -- how can my opponents presume to know that rhetoric will yield to corruption? How can a mind that has seen so much, studied great works and diversified their perception to such ends, fall to base temptation? Is the pursuit of rhetorical ability not, in its own way, a quest for self-enlightenment? And under such a view, how could we ever assume that such a person could succumb?