The former is defined in my long-suffering hardbound Collins dictionary as “the rational investigation of being, knowledge and right conduct” and the latter as “the study of the technique of using language effectively” or alternatively as “speech or discourse that pretends to significance but lacks true meaning”.
The conundrum (“puzzling question or problem”) of which is the more important in communications today, philosophy or rhetoric, is one which I have found myself musing over of late. Especially this past week, post the UK election results.
As a ‘professional’ communicator (as defined by me as one that earns his living from communications) one ought to assume that rhetoric is the more important. Some might argue that it is all about rhetoric and indeed my last post would suggest that this is what the PR industry believes, or believed, during the debate.
However, in today’s social world where most facts are freely available to all online and can be debated in various forums as video clips, eloquent blog prose or 140 character tweets, I am not sure that this is still true. Clearly, across the whole UK the most significant election campaign appears to have been the Conservative and Unionist one. However, I doubt that this was simply due to rhetoric. My own belief is that it's success was due to the importance UK voters placed on philosophy – the campaign was effective because more voters believed the ‘facts’ put across by the Prime Minister.
Clearly in Scotland the situation is different. The central SNP message that SNP MPs would be a stronger voice for Scots was an incredibly successful campaign rhetorically. However, this was primarily based upon the ‘fact’ of them being part of the UK government. It will be fascinating to watch how the SNP campaign for the Scottish Parliamentary elections next year develops, given that the SNP is the government, and whether philosophy increases or reduces the number of SNP MSPs.
Yours a professional in rhetoric, but fundamental believer in philosophy,