A rhetorical approach of the Steven Pinker’s article “Why Free Speech Is Fundamental” is one of the key factors that determine its success and the level of persuasiveness among the audience. According to author’s opinion, the freedom of speech is the value that has a high importance for each individual irrespective of his or her country of residence and its political system. Therefore, the targeted audience of the article is each member of society. As it follows from the article’s title, the author is targeted to prove that even though there are numerous debates in society, free speech is a fundamental value and right. Therefore, the argumentative purpose is to support the abovementioned thesis. The central argument chosen by Pinker is that the fact of talking about freedom of speech and exchanging of thoughts about it is the evidence that society requires free speech and that free speech exists. Further author’s arguments discover this question from other sides and strengthen the thesis. The discussion of the problem from different sides significantly heightens the level of article’s persuasiveness, as it does not leave space for doubts, which may rise during its reading. Therefore, Steven Pinker’s article is a powerful tool for proving the importance of freedom of speech.
The convincing effect of the article is not a matter of accident but the result of professionally implemented rhetorical techniques. The first of them is the use of rhetorical appeals, which include logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is used first. The author applies to the historical background of the freedom of speech recognition in amendments to the Constitution. He also provides the readers with socially important cases related to freedom of speech where the main figures are “disinvited commencement speakers, jailed performance artists, exiled leakers, a blogger condemned to a thousand lashes by one of our closest allies.” (Pinker). Moreover, the use of logos is evident in the structure of the paper. The rhetorical question about the value of free speech in the introduction of the piece is a correct decision, which creates an appropriate atmosphere and makes the audience interested in it. The next appeal used in the article is ethos. The author implements citations of the Pope Francis, dean of the journalistic school, and philosopher Karl Popper. The author also contemplates about the position of the prominent American lawyer Oliver Holms when saying “Even Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous exception to free speech — falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater — is easily abused, not least by Holmes himself” (Pinker). His mentioning of this highly respected American judge creates an additional positive effect.
Referencing of well-known social members, whose authority and level of social recognition is so high, creates an atmosphere of credibility and trust to the statements of the article. The fact that the author applies to prominent persons engaged in different social spheres especially strengthens the effect of the article. As far as emotions significantly influence the impression of the reader from the article, it is also necessary to include pathos in the article. The author provides it through the use of vivid language. For instance, right after giving the first argument about the freedom of speech, the author writes: “Those who are unimpressed by this logical argument…” (Pinker). This sentence makes the reader reevaluate the strength of the argument given before and perceive it as a strong one, as the author claims with confidence that this argument is impressive and logical. Right after it, the author reminds that there are numerous stories proving that all the things truly discovered in society were reached through free speech (Pinker). Such an approach also leads to inspiration and belief in the fundamentality of free speech.
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The next technique is a wisely created arrangement of the article. The article starts with a historical background, which highlights the development and current situation with free speech in modern society. Afterward, the author provides a rhetorical question that determines the answer to it and points that support it. After the first argument is given, the author switches to the next one where he refers to the philosopher’s opinion and historical events. The third argument is also provided with the rhetorical question and answer to it. While supporting this argument, the author applies not only to the history but also to the literature. After all the arguments are presented, the author makes an important rhetorical move. He admits: “It’s true that free speech has limits” (Pinker). This is a correct decision, as the abovementioned statement enables the author to demonstrate his objectiveness in the discussion of the problem. In addition, author’s statement explains his understanding of acceptable limits. The closing sentence of the article also is valuable as a part of the article’s arrangement. It states: “And if you object to these arguments — if you want to expose a flaw in my logic or a lapse in my accuracy — it’s the right of free speech that allows you to do so” (Pinker). Therefore, this sentence makes it almost impossible to argue with the necessity of free speech. Even the ability to disagree with the author is a result of free speech. Generally, the peculiarity of the article’s arrangement is in two things. First, there are numerous rhetorical questions, which help the author make the readers think about definite issues. Second, each argument includes additional convincing sources, which enables the author to reach a high level of persuasiveness. The style of Pinker’s piece is also an important detail. While reading the article, there is an impression of the personal discussion of the existing problem with the author. There are some facts, questions, and the author constantly refers to the reader. Therefore, there is an environment of the interesting an extensive discussion, during which the author manages to convince the reader being their constructive opponent.
The context of the piece is also important for the creation of an appropriate impression from the article. The title of the paper and the thesis stated at the outset of the article make it clear that the general topic of the paper is the meaning of free speech for society. However, the advantage of this article is that in the context of the piece, the author describes all the aspects of freedom of speech, its different sides, historical roots, and ways of development.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the article, which is targeted to persuade the reader of the importance of some social issues, should be written with the use of all necessary rhetorical techniques. Only such an approach to the writing of the article may lead to its success among the readers. The article “Why Free Speech Is Fundamental” concerns an important social issue, which is currently proclaimed as one of the core values – freedom of speech. After the detailed analysis of the rhetorical approach used in the article, there are no doubts that the author reached his goal and managed to provide his piece with all necessary rhetorical techniques. Ethos, pathos, and logos, which are professionally implemented in the paper, create an appropriate attitude to the article. The style of the article and its context also make their contribution to the general impression. Therefore, freedom of speech is a value that helps society reach progress and continue self-development and improvement. Without freedom of speech, it is difficult to imagine prosperous society. As far as the discussed article managed to make abovementioned statements clear and persuasive, it is necessary to conclude that the author used all the rhetorical techniques successfully.
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