2016 – 2017: Philosophy and Rhetoric

The relationship between philosophy and rhetoric has often been strained, if not hostile. Philosophers have regarded rhetoricians with suspicion, accused them of misleading the masses and squandering truth for power. Rhetoricians, on the other hand, have considered philosophers as politically naïve or even dangerous.

This series invites its speakers to rethink and challenge the sharp distinction between the two disciplines. There are good reasons to do so. It has, for instance, long been recognised that philosophy has its own rhetoric. Moreover, good rhetoric aims at reconciliation, rather than usurpation. At the same time, any rapprochement is not without its difficulties. It creates questions about disciplinarity, about truth and politics etc..

Click here for the series poster.

Preliminary details about the series are listed below. Please bookmark this page and check back for further updates over the coming months.

Upcoming Lectures

29 September – Dr Hannah Marije Altorf (Philosophy, St Mary’s University) Philosophy and Rhetoric: Retelling the Old Story


20 October – Dr Johan Siebers (Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Middlesex University London) The Zen of Rhetoric


19 January – Prof. Richard Toye, (History, University of Exeter) Should we always say what we mean, and mean what we say? Reflections on politics and the English language


9 February –  Prof. Kurt Barling (Journalism, Middlesex University London) A help or a hindrance? Rhetoric of race in a cosmopolitan world


2 March – Prof. Jennifer Saul (Philosophy, University of Sheffield) Dogwhistles and Figleaves: Techniques of Racist Political Manipulation


30 March – Prof. Lene Rubinstein (Classics, Royal Holloway) Ethos and Logos. Persuasion and Character in Classical Greek Theory and Practice

6 thoughts on “2016 – 2017: Philosophy and Rhetoric

  1. Debate teams, in high school and college, specifically teach their students not to tell the truth, but to win at any cost. These students often become lobbyists. A natural outcome of teaching rhetoric without a foundation of philosophy – as morality requires philosophy.

    That being said, I disregard a majority of the popular philosophers simply because they take chapters to say what can be said in a paragraph. I highly doubt the philosophic expertise of those whom can’t handle something as simple as communicating concisely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louis, I agree that rhetoric and philosophy are worth considering together, which is part of the reason we’ve launched this series of lectures. I also take your point about clarity. As a philosopher of language (by training), it’s something I think about a lot.


      1. I wouldn’t say they need accompany each other – a person can have philosophic expertise in isolation. But lacking the ability to concisely explain a concept, implies mental deficiency unfit for philosophy. Of course, the philosophers publishing when religion ruled, likely had to severely obfuscate their opinions to avoid being locked in a dungeon.

        I merely feel that no one should be taught to persuade – or even allowed freedom of speech – without being vetted as moral and responsible. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t promote the restriction of speech, in a subjugative society.


    1. Hi Mike, yes they are early evening lectures. We start at 5.15pm, and tend to finish by about 6.30 or a little after (including a good chunk of time for questions). Each talk is followed by a drinks reception. All are welcome, no former knowledge is expected, and there’s no registration to complete either. For more information on how to get to St Mary’s, follow this link: http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/contact/
      Hope that helps, but let me know if you have any other questions.


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