On our makeshift Christmas Eve last night, my significant other asked me, would I rather sit down and share a meal with Plato or Aristotle? My mind immediately picked Aristotle, as his writings on rhetoric created and have forever impacted my field of study and my own personal interest in rhetoric. There are many aspects of communication and rhetoric that find their roots in Aristotle's writings, but there has always been one aspect of his teachings that has bothered me. I believe my first issue was learning about the distinction between types of rhetoric in my Classical Rhetoric class in undergraduate. Aristotle detailed the separation of rhetoric into four aims or goals: to inform, to entertain, to seek truth, and to persuade. When one thinks of rhetoric, one primarily thinks of the classic, Aristotelian definition: the ability to see and understand in any situation, the available means of persuasion. This prioritizes "to persuade" as the most important and valuable aim of rhetoric. Without going into too much detail on the nuances of rhetoric, this is the aspect with which I have dedicated my education and (I hope) my future career into researching, teaching, and advising about. I began thinking to myself, though, what really separates these aspects? Is persuasion truly that different from informing, entertaining, and seeking truth?
These points are important to me, as my interest in studying rhetoric is the means of which persuasion occurs, how power is transmitted, obtained, and enforced, along with different categories of situations where persuasion occurs. If rhetoric can and should involve all aspects of communication, then there are many unstudied and little examined paths of inquiry that could benefit from a rhetorical lens. There are examples of persuasion being applied as a method to what might be considered traditional forms of media, such as movies. One that comes to mind is the work of Rushing and Frentz on symbolic convergence theory in movies , notably their 1995 book, Projecting the Shadow, The Cyborg Hero in American film.
These crossovers between the three can occur and I believe they should occur more often. There are opportunities for more ideas to be created, overlaps to reveal hidden meanings, and new partnerships in the research in fields of cultural, critical, rhetorical, and political endeavors.