Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Seven of the best books about the techniques of persuasion

Edith Hall is Professor in the Classics Department at King's College London.

Her books include Aristotle's Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life.

At the Guardian, Hall tagged some of the best books on the "techniques of persuasion – which the ancient Greeks called the science of rhetoric" – including:
The instrumentality of ancient speechmaking in the political oratory of more recent times is also explored in Garry Wills’s Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America. Wills examines the inspiration behind Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 address at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Pennsylvania – Pericles’ oration at the funeral of the Athenian war dead of 431BC, recorded by Thucydides. Pericles rousingly concluded, “Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.” Lincoln praised not the dead but the principles on which their country was founded.

Wills argues that his speech was revolutionary in assuming that the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, was the supreme articulation of American government. He proposed that the US is a single nation and a single people, rather than an association of separate states. Lincoln follows Pericles in grasping a historic opportunity to frame a vision of his whole community and its values. He also followed the classical structure of Pericles’ oration in discussing first the dead and secondly the living – survivors, the bereaved – and instructing them on their future.
Read about another entry on the list.

Lincoln at Gettysburg is among Laurence Tribe's six book recommendations.

--Marshal Zeringue