Art of Persuasion

Begins 3:59

According to Eco, the labor performed to overcode and to switch codes is ‘registered’ under the heading rhetoric.  Rhetorical labor must form part of a theory of sign-production because it raises questions about:

  1. How traditional rhetorical categories can fit into a semiotic framework;
  2. At what point new ‘semiotically oriented rhetoric’ or ‘new and autonomous branches of semiotics’ are needed to address the problems associated with over-coding and code-switching;
  3. In what sense can ‘ideology’ and ‘ideological discourse’ come within the scope of a semiotically oriented rhetorical framework. (p 277)

Eco first establishes a schematic diagram (Table 47 on p 277) that includes a summary of classical, modern and rhetorical objects he feels, either do, or should be included in a semiotic analysis.  In this table, rhetoric has three definitional sub-headings:  Inventio, Dispositio, and Elocutio – or the three rhetorical levels.

[SS It sounds like a spell from Harry Potter.]

Eco considers rhetoric as one of the “more complex manifestations of sign production”. (p 278) Traditionally, rhetoric was considered ‘the art of persuasion’. (p 277)  Rhetoricians did not consider this an underhanded device.  Instead it allowed for a complex intertwined mix of reasoning, emotion, historical evaluations and pragmatic motivations. (p 278)

But there are ‘aberrant’ performances of rhetorical modes of sign-production examples of which Eco lists as ‘fraudulent propaganda, mass persuasion and so-called ‘philosophical’ statements’. (p 278)  Eco assigns them the heading ‘ideological discourse’, which he defines as a one-sided argument that presents only a partial section of the semantic field that results in a covering up of the contradictory nature of the Global Semantic System. (p 277)

But the first challenge of rhetorical work is to get the attention of the listener.  The device used for this purpose was what is commonly called ‘a figure of speech’.  Unfortunately, over time rhetoric has been given [a bad rap].  (p 279)

[SS That’s a nifty and relevant use of a ‘figure of speech’!]

To ‘ancient theorists’ a figure of speech was a schema of unexpectedness.  But over centuries rhetorical figures of speech have become overcoded.  (p 279)  The element of unexpectedness has been replaced by a basket of ready-made sentences and figures, such as /fatherland/ and /free world/ with their fixed, pre-established meanings. (p 279)  These particular results of rhetorical overcoding, Eco believes, should not be considered within the theory of sign-production but rather viewed as examples within the theory of codes that deals with over-coded ready made expressions.

When used creatively rhetorical figures can change the way we consider content. (p 279) Typical rhetorical figures include metaphor and metonymy.  Metaphor is a ‘substitution by similarity’ and metonymy is a ‘substitution by contiguity’. (p 280)  Eco discusses examples he gives of both and develops a more detailed explanation of forms of substitutions, particularly distinguishing metonymy from another closely related form of substitution: synecdoche.  He concludes that the dichotomy proposed is ‘poorer that the traditional classification’. (p 281)  But these distinctions are noteworthy because of their direct concern with the ‘semiotic entailment’ or ‘meaning inclusion’. (p 281)

The system of semiotic inclusions calls for a ‘hierarchaization’ that denotes sememes as “the genus of which it is a species by hyperonymy, and connotes the species of which it s a genus by hyponymy. (p 281)  This allows us to record the fallacy of false causes and false forms. (p 281)

[SS Oh my goodness.]

Ends 5:01pm

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