Analyse the relative effectiveness of the rhetorical techniques used by Alain de Botton in 'Consolations of Philosophy'

Essay by ManseUniversity, Bachelor's April 2006

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'Consolations of Philosophy' by Alain de Botton is a collection of essays arranged into a self-help-style book. Its purpose is to find consolation for a variety of modern-day problems such as a lack of money or unpopularity within the works and beliefs of the great, influential philosophers. Rather than to support the idea of philosophy being out-dated and no longer relevant in our lives, de Botton brings together the ideas of six philosophers to re-ignite its fundamental practicality. Ben Rogers said in The Sunday Telegraph that 'de Botton has done a great service in reminding us of their existence.'

When writing essays, Cicero stated in his Rhetorica ad Herennium that there were six main rhetorical devices to implement: Exordium, catching the audience; Narration, setting forth the facts; Division, setting forth the points stipulated and points to be disputed; Proof, setting forth the arguments that support one's case; Refutation, refuting one's opponents' arguments, and peroration, summing up the argument and stirring the audience.

We can see many examples of these requirements in De Botton's Consolations of Philosophy.

To look into de Botton's use of rhetorical technique, it is easiest to progress through each essay and philosopher in turn. One of the techniques we come across in the book's first essay on the philosophy of Socrates, is de Botton's use of images, an example of 'exordium'. There are two main purposes of these pictures, the first being to support the text by adding simple, visual information. The second concerns the choice of images included in the essay. To start they seem naive, lacking certain detail and of poor quality, but this is not a result of poor choice by the author or even of lack of available material. By choosing these humble images, de Botton manages to make the book look and...