Bryan Garsten
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In Saving Persuasion, Bryan Garsten uncovers the early modern origins of today's suspicious attitude toward rhetoric and seeks to loosen its grip on contemporary political theory. He argues that the artful practice of persuasion ought to be viewed as a crucial part of democratic politics. Against theorists who advocate a rationalized ideal of deliberation aimed at consensus, Garsten argues that a controversial politics of partiality and passion can produce a more engaged and more deliberative kind of democratic discourse.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03751-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Persuasion
    (pp. 1-22)

    In democracies, quiet people rarely enter politics. Democratic political life is dominated for the most part by people who like to talk. Of course, there are exceptions, a few politicians who defy this expectation and build a reputation for quiet efficiency or inconspicuous integrity. But the quintessential democratic politician is a smooth talker, winning and inspirational in front of crowds and irresistibly persuasive behind closed doors. Democratic politicians are often good storytellers, adept with compliments and able to charm even some of their critics. On the strength of these talents, they enjoy the popularity of a successful general without having...

  5. I Against Rhetoric

    • CHAPTER 1 The Rhetoric against Rhetoric: Hobbes
      (pp. 25-54)

      Like Plato, Hobbes both attacked the art of rhetoric and made masterful use of it. Though some readers have sought to evade this tension, Hobbes did not make it easy for them. Throughout his political writings he criticized orators and rhetoricians even as he deployed their favorite techniques. InLeviathan, where the tension is most obvious, he associated metaphors with the art of rhetoric and insisted that they should be “utterly excluded” from “demonstration, Councell, and all rigourous search of Truth.”¹ He characterized his book as a work of both demonstration and council, proudly claiming that “no other Philosopher hitherto,...

    • CHAPTER 2 Persuading without Convincing: Rousseau
      (pp. 55-83)

      In aspiring to legitimate our chains rather than free us from them, Jean-Jacques Rousseau accepted and deepened Hobbes’s attack on the politics of persuasion. He pointed the way toward a new sort of rhetoric against rhetoric, a prophetic language of conscience and community that would go even further in closing off the realm of controversy than Hobbes’s efforts had. Those are the claims of this chapter. I must defend them against a set of considerations that might lead one to think that Rousseau was friendly to classical rhetoric, such as his famous nostalgia for ancient city-states, his explicit praise of...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Sovereignty of Scholars: Kant
      (pp. 84-112)

      In the last two chapters I have argued that both Hobbes and Rousseau sought to suppress the politics of persuasion, and that they did so by asking citizens to alienate their capacity for private judgment to a unitary and authoritative source of public judgment. In this chapter I will argue that Kant followed in their footsteps. When Kant defended the “public use of reason” he was implicitly attacking the public use of rhetoric. Critical reason played the role of sovereign, immunizing those who used it against rhetorical appeals to their particular judgments. While Kant was interested in vindicating a certain...

  6. II For Rhetoric

    • CHAPTER 4 Drawing upon Judgment: Aristotle
      (pp. 115-141)

      Since the modern suspicion of persuasive rhetoric is rooted in a crisis of confidence about the human capacity to use judgment in politics, any rehabilitation of rhetoric will have to address that crisis by offering a sympathetic account of judgment. Many theorists have turned to Aristotle’s ethical writings on this topic, and for good reason. Unlike philosophers who approach ethics through rules or principles, Aristotle insisted that no general codes could fully capture what made human choices good. While he acknowledged that rules of thumb could be helpful, he assumed that the final determination of what was appropriate at any...

    • CHAPTER 5 Conviction and Controversy: Cicero
      (pp. 142-173)

      When citizens commit themselves to a politics of persuasion, do they thereby commit themselves to any particular principles? The art of rhetoric—most familiar to us today as the lawyer’s art—is associated more often with pragmatism than with principle. People who are skilled at making both sides of a controversy seem persuasive display an argumentative dexterity that can seem incompatible with strong moral and political convictions. In fact, many theorists defend rhetoric precisely because it promises to undermine the dogmatism implicit in principled political opinion. As we saw in Hobbes, citizens who hold their views with the unwavering certainty...

    • CHAPTER 6 Persuasion and Deliberation
      (pp. 174-212)

      Sometimes people make a case for the importance of rhetoric by pointing to the way in which inspiring speeches can spark us to noble action. They admire the motivational power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to the crowds on the Mall in Washington, D.C. or Churchill’s words to the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. This motivational defense of rhetoric is compelling. We do need people who know how to energize citizens and move them to action, especially in modern mass societies that encourage political apathy. But the motivational defense of rhetoric is also limited. In restricting...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 215-252)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-268)
  9. Index
    (pp. 269-276)