ABSTRACT

In the previous two chapters, I argued that human persuasive eff orts are continuous with the rhetorical acts of other animals. Rhetoric is, in fact, a category of animal signaling. Specifi cally, it is the intentional act of communicating to inform or manipulate a conspecifi c or audience-construct. I write audience-construct because audiences as human beings envision them really do not exist. There is no true gestalt of audience, and this is one of the constraints biology places on rhetorical acts: we do not have the capacity to fully comprehend the mental states of every individual we address. Rather, we mash them together into a vague representation of common characteristics we call ‘audience.’ This conception of audience has far-reaching consequences for the practicing rhetor, not least of which is the knowledge that no rhetorical performance will ever be perfect. There is no catchall approach to persuasion, and while formal training in the art of persuasion may increase one’s awareness of persuasive strategies, the appropriate metaphor for this sort of training is still that of adding tools to one’s toolbox; there are no magic wands in rhetoric.