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In today's increasingly polarized political landscape it seems that fewer and fewer citizens hold out hope of persuading one another. Even among those who have not given up on persuasion, few will admit to practicing the art of persuasion known as rhetoric. To describe political speech as "rhetoric" today is to accuse it of being superficial or manipulative. In "Saving Per In today's increasingly polarized political landscape it seems that fewer and fewer citizens hold out hope of persuading one another. Even among those who have not given up on persuasion, few will admit to practicing the art of persuasion known as rhetoric. To describe political speech as "rhetoric" today is to accuse it of being superficial or manipulative. In "Saving Persuasion," Bryan Garsten uncovers the early modern origins of this suspicious attitude toward rhetoric and seeks to loosen its grip on contemporary political theory. Revealing how deeply concerns about rhetorical speech shaped both ancient and modern political thought, he argues that the artful practice of persuasion ought to be viewed as a crucial part of democratic politics. He provocatively suggests that the aspects of rhetoric that seem most dangerous--the appeals to emotion, religious values, and the concrete commitments and identities of particular communities--are also those which can draw out citizens' capacity for good judgment. 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.


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In today's increasingly polarized political landscape it seems that fewer and fewer citizens hold out hope of persuading one another. Even among those who have not given up on persuasion, few will admit to practicing the art of persuasion known as rhetoric. To describe political speech as "rhetoric" today is to accuse it of being superficial or manipulative. In "Saving Per In today's increasingly polarized political landscape it seems that fewer and fewer citizens hold out hope of persuading one another. Even among those who have not given up on persuasion, few will admit to practicing the art of persuasion known as rhetoric. To describe political speech as "rhetoric" today is to accuse it of being superficial or manipulative. In "Saving Persuasion," Bryan Garsten uncovers the early modern origins of this suspicious attitude toward rhetoric and seeks to loosen its grip on contemporary political theory. Revealing how deeply concerns about rhetorical speech shaped both ancient and modern political thought, he argues that the artful practice of persuasion ought to be viewed as a crucial part of democratic politics. He provocatively suggests that the aspects of rhetoric that seem most dangerous--the appeals to emotion, religious values, and the concrete commitments and identities of particular communities--are also those which can draw out citizens' capacity for good judgment. 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.

30 review for Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Honestly, you would probably be okay reading just the last chapter--but what a chapter! Garsten argues that the political theorists of the Enlightenment got it all wrong; instead of appealing to some sort of universal common standard for political deliberation, we need to be more comfortable with how people actually think. Because, in our age "efforts to avoid rhetorical controversy tend to produce new and potentially ore dogmatic forms of rhetoric" we need to realize that "public reason was inges Honestly, you would probably be okay reading just the last chapter--but what a chapter! Garsten argues that the political theorists of the Enlightenment got it all wrong; instead of appealing to some sort of universal common standard for political deliberation, we need to be more comfortable with how people actually think. Because, in our age "efforts to avoid rhetorical controversy tend to produce new and potentially ore dogmatic forms of rhetoric" we need to realize that "public reason was ingested by philosophers to quell religious controversy by subjecting debate to authoritative standard"-in Hobbes' case, representation, in Rousseau's "prophetic nationalism" and in Kant's "public reason." Garsten suggests that all three of these standards result in what he calls "liberal alienation"--the way that "from implied unanimity [...] dissenters feel alienated"--if you feel like you can't participate in "general deliberation," your concerns are unaddressed. The result is a polarization where those not invited to the deliberative party strike out against those who exclude them. (And yes, Garsten invokes Hitler and how German concerns were polarized instead of addressed.) Instead, Garsten recommends that we make more space for alternative arguments, including those that are based in partiality, passion and privacy. He defends these elements against the common Habermasian critiques against them and says that what should count as deliberative argument is simply "when we make decisions delibeartley [...] when we purposefully consider [...] the factors relevant to the our decision." We need to, instead of excluding our adversaries because of their "bad reasoning," see each other and respect each other for how the actual existing individual thinks and feels. In all of this there is still the threat of demagoguery. As a potential solution, Garsten invokes Madison, whose theories about small, localized governments within a extended territory can be extended to deliberation: break issues down into smaller, localized, even interested issues, and make sure that there is plenty of space for things to be re-evaluated in the future, and that even if one issue is decided, it doesn't by extension mean that all of the other issues are. Small, piecemeal disputes are best. These institutional strictures structure the individual though and directions deliberation--there can' be any thought of "If I were king," because there aren't any kings to be had. Ultimately, Garsten promotes a defense of persuasion where we look at each other,and speak to each other--not that we're BFFs or brothers, but that we "pay attention to fellow citizens and to their opinions," not as their opinions should be constructed, or we think they should be, but as they are. The best purpose of persuasion is that it forces us to think beyond ourselves, to encounter others as they are, instead of trying to make them in our own image.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    The best book I've ever read explicitly about rhetoric by a political philosopher. Garsten finds it necessary to defend persuasion against its theoretical uprisings, and finds those situated at the earliest moments of Enlightenment thought. His analysis of a "Rhetoric against Rhetoric" in the work of Hobbes is useful in mining the otherwise hidden connections between Hobbesan and Kantian thought: both require a kind of vocal submission to a sovereign (external in Hobbes and internal in Kant). Gar The best book I've ever read explicitly about rhetoric by a political philosopher. Garsten finds it necessary to defend persuasion against its theoretical uprisings, and finds those situated at the earliest moments of Enlightenment thought. His analysis of a "Rhetoric against Rhetoric" in the work of Hobbes is useful in mining the otherwise hidden connections between Hobbesan and Kantian thought: both require a kind of vocal submission to a sovereign (external in Hobbes and internal in Kant). Garsten is helpful in reminding us about an anxiety towards a figure of an "orator" who disrupts cognitive and civic processes, and the way such unsettling imagery leads to a compromised language that hinders, rather than argues for, progressive alliances. In Rousseau, Kant, Hobbes, and Arendt, this contradicts certain ideas of public discourse that are supposed to be founded on reason, because it sees persuasion as such a overwhelming negative entity. My only regret is that Garsten did not continue to work his way through Enlightenment thought: a section on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume would have been helpful, as would a reading of the rhetorical projects that followed from the attacks made by paradigmatic philosophers. Garsten finds his solution in Aristotle and Cicero, and not in the compromised versions we find in later revisions of them. There we find a defense not only of persuasion, but also of judgment (a term he notes that Kant does not defend in his critique, but challenges at every step). The result is an ennobling of a discipline often derided.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Drew Maliniak

    Top 5 most important books I read in college.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Luke Juday

    Saving Persuasion is an informative book with an important thesis. The attractive cover and accessible summary description are a bit misleading though. Bryan Garsten is a good writer, but this is a thoroughly academic book. Most of its length is devoted to surveying the debate on rhetoric as it developed in the early modern period. This includes many lines of argument that are not going to seem immediately relevant to a lay reader, but which make Saving Persuasion a sound piece of scholarship fo Saving Persuasion is an informative book with an important thesis. The attractive cover and accessible summary description are a bit misleading though. Bryan Garsten is a good writer, but this is a thoroughly academic book. Most of its length is devoted to surveying the debate on rhetoric as it developed in the early modern period. This includes many lines of argument that are not going to seem immediately relevant to a lay reader, but which make Saving Persuasion a sound piece of scholarship for those already familiar with the subject.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marie-Frances

    Worst book ever! Too dry! There are more fun ways how to learn about Persuasion and rhetoric tools.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Suagee-beauduy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wells Lucas Santo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arielcalaban

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenni Jackson

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Ferrel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chad

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Clay

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Merchant

  16. 4 out of 5

    William O. II

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick Scott

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ave.keller

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denise

  22. 5 out of 5

    Edward Berdan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam Spurlock

  27. 4 out of 5

    Reader99

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kate Maddalena

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

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