Essay on Response to Bitzer's Rhetorical Situation

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In The Rhetorical Situation, Lloyd F. Bitzer argues that what makes a situation rhetorical is similar to that which constitutes a moral action as he writes that, “an act is moral because it is an act performed in a situation of a certain kind; similarly, a work is rhetorical because it is a response to a situation of a certain kind”.(3) By defining the rhetorical situation in this way, Bitzer further contends that rhetoric is a means to altering reality. (4) It is through the use of discourse that one is capable of changing reality through thought and action. (4) Bitzer then elaborates upon the nature of a rhetorical situation by explaining that rhetorical discourse enters a situation when: providing a response to its state of affairs; …show more content…
Although Bitzer continues in the third section of his essay, by outlining the general characteristics or features of a rhetorical situation, it is his discussion of sophistical rhetoric that is most interesting. (11) He notes that a sophistic situation is one where a contrived exigence is, “asserted to be real... alleged constituents are due to error or ignorance,... and [it derives] from fantasy in which exigence, audience, and constraints may all be imaginary objects of a mind at play”. (11) He concludes that, “rhetoric is distinguished from the mere craft of persuasion which, although it is a legitimate object of scientific investigation, lacks philosophical warrant as a practical discipline”. (14) While Bitzer’s insights into how one may think about the way in which rhetorical discourse acts upon and therefore alters the reality of a situation, it is difficult to see his point in stating that the “mere craft of persuasion” lacks philosophical warrant as a practical discipline. The clearest reason it seems, is implied from the examples that Bitzer uses, none of which are theological or religious in nature, but rather the examples he provides are usually political. Although one is left to speculate as to what categories Bitzer would include in sophistical rhetoric (other than a play or novel), might theological and religious discourse be subsumed under
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