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Analysis the Rhetorical Appeal of Two Texts

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Abstract

The paper analyzes the rhetorical appeal of two texts through the prism of three classical modes of persuasion — Ethos (appeal to authority), Pathos (appeal to emotion), and Logos (appeal to logic). The two texts are intended for the same target audience, yet they advocate different perspectives on the issue of same-sex marriages employing different rhetorical techniques.

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Introduction

The two articles, ‘Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions’ developed by the Committee on Marriage and Family Life of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and ‘A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage’ by Professor Daniel C.

Maguire, a Catholic Theologian at Marquette University, delve into the contemporary debate of same sex union. The first one presents the conservative orthodox view of the Catholic faith on same sex union while the second article presents an unorthodox view which is more liberal and accepting. Both articles advocate a stand on the same issue and aims to spread the good news of their stand.

While using almost the same source, the bible and the interpretation of the word of God, both authors argue in different directions which do not directly rebut each other.

Comparative Rhetorical Analysis

Comparative Structural Analysis

Provided that the structure of the text is important for effective comprehension by the target audience, textual design merits further reflection. The first text is structured in the form of Q&A session with an introduction, conclusion, and suggestions for further reading. The second text is structured not as clearly as the first one. Four introductory paragraphs are followed by two questions, namely whether same-sex unions are marriages, and what objections exist to same-sex unions. Then the author proceeds with listing five objections to homosexuality and offers a conclusion.

After a comparative analysis of the structure of the two texts, it becomes evident that the first text has a more effective structure. It creates an impression of consistency and integrity of the text; needless to say, the reader’s understanding of the text is more effective when textual design is appropriate.

Additionally, presence of the list of suggested reading adds credibility to the authors’ argument, since it suggests that other authoritative figures and organizations share their opinion. The list of ‘Further Reading’ includes such well-respected publications as Catechism of the Catholic Church, ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ by Second Vatican Council, and ‘On the Family’ by Pope John Paul II. It can be interpreted as classical appeal to authority. Similar function is performed by Reference Section in the second text, yet the sourced cited there are less authoritative.

Rhetorical Analysis of the USCCB Article

The first text essentially establishes that the reflection on the issue will be done ‘using reason and faith’ (USCCB). In other words, the authors of the text recognize Ethos in the sense of appealing to religious feelings and Logos in the sense of appealing to reason as the main media for conveying their message, Logos being the predominant one.

The authors start with setting the definition for discussion, which provides more clarity and better structure for any debate. The authors define marriage as ‘a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love’ (USCCB). This definition is supported with appeal to Ethos by referring to Catechism of the Catholic Church that teaches that a marriage should be a mutually loving union open to the procreation of children. Such position by the Church should hardly elicit surprise, since the defense of heterosexual marriage has been a major thread in modern Catholic philosophy.

The answer to the second question is also based on appeal to authority. Extensive quoting of Genesis and Ephesians adds credibility to the argument that marriage is a sacred union between man and woman.  The answers to subsequent questions are based on appeal to reason. The effects on children, society at large, and marriage as a natural institution are analyzed. Appeal to authority is sometimes used to back the argument.

Generally, this text features little rhetorical devices or illustrative language. It is written in scientific style with well-structured logical arguments. Evaluating the appropriateness of such style for the intended audience, it is necessary to admit that many modern day Catholics prefer rational arguments in favor of traditional religious beliefs. Consequently, the text may appeal to many of them. The recent trend in Catholic philosophy is that it does not present ‘any new theological arguments regarding homosexual, but advances clear logical arguments against the legal acceptance of same-sex unions’ (Catholic World News).

Rhetorical Analysis of Maguire’s Article

The second text focuses on Ethos and Pathos as the main means of persuasion, although Logos is used as well. A variety of rhetorical devices are used in line with the main persuasion strategy.

In the opening paragraph, the author points out that in the past the Church ‘accepted homosexuality more openly and even had liturgies to celebrate same sex unions’ (Maguire). This rhetorical device is a typical example of appeal to history. While it can be effective as a mean of persuasion, from the point of view of reasoning, it is a classical logical fallacy. Such rhetorical device, also called appeal to tradition or normative appeal to history, is present ‘when it is argued that because something has been done a particular way in the past, it ought to be done that way in the future…The way that things have always been done is not necessarily the best way to do them. It may be that circumstances have changed, and that what used to be best practice is no longer’ (CriticalThinking.org.uk).

The article proceeds with arguing that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is heterosexism. It also uses the rhetorical device of comparison by claiming that heterosexism is no better than racism, anti-Semitism, or sexism. Analyzing the efficiency of this approach, it is necessary to note that the general parlance and direction of argument are not exactly suitable for the intended audience. In the first paragraphs, the author defends same-sex unions on the grounds of equality anti-discrimination. Arguing from such civil rights perspective is rather a feature of secular tradition of critical thought than classical theology.

However, the author backs his argument with appeal to authority by stating that different sexual orientations are clearly part of God’s plan for creation. He also impacts this argument by quoting Acts of the Apostles that grants no right to declare unclean anything that God has made. The author continuously appeals to the reader’s emotions by declaring that discrimination and prejudices are sins. In order to reach out to wider audience, the author also appeals to values common to all mankind, such as the lofty ideal of justice — he argues that condemning homosexual relationships that are more stable and exemplary than heterosexual is ‘surely unjust’ (Maguire).

He proceeds with another appeal to authority by quoting the Catholic theologian Father Andre Guindon and Mary Hunt who both justify same-sex union and push the case for greater acceptance of homosexuals and their relationships.

After justifying same-sex unions as such, the author moves on to arguing that such unions can be regarded as marriages. The author suggests a definition of marriage as ‘unique and special form of committed friendship between sexually attracted persons’ (Maguire). As it was mentioned before, in any debate, it is of paramount importance to provide a clear definition and establish a standard or criterion for judging the issue. Therefore, this rhetorical technique is effective.

Then, the author tests both heterosexual and homosexual marriage against the established standard. He shows that homosexual unions are sometimes more successful and more lasting than heterosexual. Along with that, the author uses Pathos by using emotionally-charged adjectives to show that homosexual unions can involve ‘exclusive, committed, enduring, generous, and faithful love’ (Maguire).

The author proceeds with discarding popular objections against homosexual marriages. In order to justify such approach, the author uses Ethos and quotes St. Thomas Aquinas who believes that people should know the objections to any teaching that they accept.

Dealing with the first objection, the author uses Logos to show that Bible is rather descriptive than prescriptive. Although the Bible says all homosexual activity is evil and sinful, not everything written in the Bible should be treated as guide to action. He cites examples of justification of slavery and male domination over females, both found in the Bible.

In rebutting the second objection, the author uses Ethos and suggests that Catholics should be guided by three sources of truth — the hierarchy, the theologians, and the wisdom and experience of the laity — and not merely the hierarchy.

Objections #3 and #5 are handled in a similar ways by appeal to reason. The author shows that popular beliefs are simply untrue from scientific point of view. As for Objection #4, the author uses an effective rhetorical device of posing a false dilemma:

‘Also known as the ‘either/or’ fallacy or the fallacy of false choices, this fallacy takes the form of only acknowledging two (one of which is usually extreme) options from a continuum or other array of possibilities’ (Pope).

The author argues that children are better off when being raised in a homosexual union than ‘languishing in an institution or, worse, dying from neglect’ (Maguire). Here only two options are acknowledged, and one of them is extreme, which definitely speaks in favor of the first one. However, there are many other options, such as raising the effectiveness of foster care or providing additional incentives for heterosexual couples to adopt.

In the concluding section, the author relies on Ethos and Pathos. He appeals to generally recognized ideals (justice, truth, and love) and also cites several Catholic philosophers and moral theologians.

Conclusion

Giving a tough-but-fair evaluation of the effectiveness of both texts, the conclusion can be made that both text are commensurate in terms of their effectiveness. Since the texts rely on completely different modes of persuasion, it is hard to judge which of them is more persuasive in the context of target audience. Given that the target audience is varied and dispersed, either text uses effective rhetorical techniques.

References

Catholic World News. ‘Vatican on Same-sex ‘Marriage’.’ July 31, 2003. May 25, 2007. <http://www.daily-meditations.org/SameSex.html>

Committee on Marriage and Family Life of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). ‘Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.’ November 12, 2003. May 25, 2007. <http://www.usccb.org/laity/manandwoman.shtml>

CriticalThinking.org.uk. ‘Logical Fallacies: Appeal to History.’ 2006. May 25, 2007. <http://www.criticalthinking.org.uk/appealtohistory.html>

Maguire, Daniel C. ‘A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage.’ April 20, 2006. May 25, 2007. <http://www.religiousconsultation.org/Catholic_defense_of_same_sex_marriage.htm>

Pope, Kenneth S. ‘Logical Fallacies in Psychology: 18 Types.’ 2003. May 25, 2007. <http://www.kspope.com/fallacies/fallacies.php>

 

Cite this Analysis the Rhetorical Appeal of Two Texts

Analysis the Rhetorical Appeal of Two Texts. (2016, Sep 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparative-rhetorical-analysis-2/

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