Books, magazines, newspapers, TED talks, political speeches—a great deal of writing and speech is persuasive. Persuasion is not only a basic feature of daily life, but also a topic of formal study within the field of rhetoric, a discipline with origins in ancient Greek philosophy. There's a good reason that philosophy and rhetoric are linked: skillful speakers and writers can persuade others to do good or bad things.
This course combines a close study of rhetoric and ethics in order to make students both stronger analytical writers and better reasoners. We will explore and debate questions of ethics both ancient and modern while developing a powerful arsenal of rhetorical skills useful in persuading others. We will read and study political speeches by authors ranging from Cicero to Frederick Douglass to JFK, and we will also explore excellent persuasive essays, both from famous authors of the past and contemporary op-eds in newspapers. Students will finish the course with stronger rhetorical skills, but they will also have developed their capacity for ethical reasoning.