Rhetoric, Debate, Argument, Negotiation, Public Speaking, Communication, etc.

Patterns of effective rhetoric

  • Consider saying very little. Everything you say is like a movement in a sword fight, it may present openings for your opponent to exploit.
    • Later: Hmm...I'm not persuaded of this. I guess what I would say is that you don't want to put out low-quality arguments, because they'll
  • Choose your point of attack very carefully...
  • ...and then drive a Mack truck through it. Hit it as hard as you can.
    • Examples
      • Hitler seems to have given largely the same speech over and over to lots of audiences. He hit hard on the same points, and may have even refined the points he hit on through experimentation and seeing what the audience responded most to.
  • You should write up an article explaining what rhetoric can learn from sword fighting.
  • Why is there a pattern of major figures not showing excitement?
    • Perhaps because it's hard to look genuinely excited without actually being excited...
    • ...and if you are actually excited, it is harder to control your behavior and you may slip up in a way that your opponent can exploit.
    • Examples
      • Howard Dean was mocked for his overexcitement
  • The Socratic Method

Good rhetoricians

  • YouTube - Max Landis
    • He speaks with uncommon energy / enthusiasm.
    • He also speaks with confidence.
    • in some videos his pacing and inflection sounds heavily influenced by Ira Glass.


  • Benjamin Franklin
    • https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20203/20203-h/20203-h.htm
    • While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method; and soon after I procur'd Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many instances of the same method. I was charm'd with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our religious doctrine, I found this method safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took a delight in it, practis'd it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I continu'd this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced anything that may possibly be disputed, the words certainlyundoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or apprehend a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting; and, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat everyone of those purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For, if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire. Pope[22] says, judiciously:

      "Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
      And things unknown propos'd as things forgot;"

      farther recommending to us

      "To speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence."

      And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think, less properly,

      "For want of modesty is want of sense."

      If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,

      "Immodest words admit of no defense,
      For want of modesty is want of sense."

      Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it) some apology for his want of modesty? and would not the lines stand more justly thus?

      "Immodest words admit but this defense,
      That want of modesty is want of sense."

      This, however, I should submit to better judgments.