Beth yw rhethreg a pham ydyw’n bwysig?

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Yn syml, rhethreg yw’r gelfyddyd o ddwyn perswâd. Mae’n bresennol ym mhob agwedd o’n bywydau (wrth annog darpar bartner i ymuno â chi am bryd o fwyd, wrth ofyn am fenthyg car eich rhieni, wrth argyhoeddi ar blentyn i fynd i’r gwely neu wrth ymgyrchu i aros yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd neu ei gadael).

Yn ddiweddar, defnyddir rhethreg yn yr ystyr ddifrïol; fodd bynnag nid yw bod amser wedi bod â chysylltiadau negyddol. Yn aml caiff ei rhagflaenu gan dermau megis ‘gwag’ i ddisgrifio atebion sy’n aml yn llyfn ac yn cuddio’r gwir a roddir gan wleidyddion i gwestiynau sy’n ymddengys i fod yn rhai syml.

Mae’n bwysig gwybod bod rhethreg yn llawer mwy nag arddull siarad ac nid yw’n ffenomen negyddol reddfol. Yn nhermau ffurfio astudiaethau rhethreg mae arnom ddyled fawr i athronwyr Groeg yr henfyd.

Caiff datblygu rhethreg yn aml ei olrhain i ddau ffigwr Sisilaidd o’r enw Corax a Tisias. Yn ôl y chwedl, roedd Corax (Groegaidd: Brân) yn llefarydd enwog – bu’n cynrychioli pobl yn ystod dadleuon barnwrol ac roedd ymhlith y rhai cyntaf i ddyfeisio system lle y gellid deall y gelfyddyd o ddwyn perswâd. Gan fod yn ymwybodol o enwogrwydd a ffortiwn Corax (oherwydd câi ei dalu am ei ymdrechion), roedd Tisias yn awyddus i ddysgu sgiliau rhethreg fel y gallai hefyd droi ei law at gynrychiolaeth gyfreithiol. I’r diben hwnnw, cyflwynodd Tisias gynnig i Corax gan ddweud: ‘dysgwch sgiliau rhethreg i mi a thalaf am y cwrs ar ôl i mi ennill fy achos cyntaf’. Cytunodd y ddau ar y telerau hyn. Yn hwyrach, fodd bynnag, cafwyd dadl pan wrthododd Tisias dalu Corax gan ddweud bod addysgu Corax mor ddi-glem ac analluog fod Tisias wedi methu â dysgu dim. Clywyd yr achos gerbron llys Groeg yr henfyd. Bu’n rhaid i Corax a Tisias baratoi eu dadleuon.

Wrth gyflwyno’r achos cyflwynodd Tisias y ddadl ganlynol: ni ddylai fod angen iddo dalu Corax ar gyfer y cwrs am fod yr addysgu mor wael. Pe bai’n methu ag argyhoeddi ar y llys ei fod yn gywir yna dylai ennill yr achos oherwydd byddai ei berfformiad gwael yn dyst o’i ddiffyg sgiliau rhethregol – ac yn dystiolaeth bod Corax yn athro gwael. Pe bai Tisias yn llwyddo i argyhoeddi ar y llys (a dangos y sgiliau rhethreg sydd eu hangen er mwyn argyhoeddi arnynt) yna ei ddadl oedd y byddai’r sgiliau hyn wedi cael eu datblygu er gwaethaf addysgu Corax yn hytrach nag o’i herwydd.

I’r gwrthwyneb, sail dadl Corax oedd pe bai Tisias yn colli, ei anallu ei hun fyddai ar fai a phe bai’n ennill byddai’n dangos bod gwersi Corax wedi bod yn effeithiol. Fel y digwyddodd, cafodd yr achos ei daflu o’r llys ond dengys y chwedl y gall rhethreg fel disgyblaeth gael ei holrhain i’r pwynt yma mewn hanes os nad cyn hynny. Yn ogystal â hyn mae’n dangos y gall rhethreg fel pwnc gael ei rhannu, ei haddysgu, ei hastudio a’i dysgu. Roedd astudio rhethreg yn arfer bod yn rhan o addysg glasurol. Enw’r sylabws oedd y trifiwm ac roedd yn cynnwys gwersi ffurfiol mewn tri phrif faes: gramadeg, rhesymeg a rhethreg.

Er bod addysgu rhethreg fel rhan o addysgu ffurfiol a chyffredin wedi dod i ben erbyn y cyfnod i mi fod yn ddigon hen i fynychu’r ysgol, nid yw hynny’n golygu bod gan y ffenomen lai o gyffredinolrwydd na phwysigrwydd yn ein bywydau heddiw. Gall astudio rhethreg heddiw fod o fwy o bwys nac mewn unrhyw gyfnod arall mewn hanes. Caiff ei gweld ym mhobman. Yn yr oes wybodaeth lle y ceir newyddion 24 awr a chaiff dadleuon eu cwtogi i 140 o nodweddion ar Twitter neu eu cyfleu trwy meme, dealltwriaeth o rethreg yw, mewn ffordd, llythrennedd gwybodaeth. Ni chredaf mai gormodiaith fyddai datgan bod ein democratiaeth yn dibynnu ar lythrennedd o’r fath. Yn ogystal â rhoi’r sgiliau a fydd eu hangen arnoch i ddadadeiladu a gwerthuso dadleuon, mae llythrennedd rhethreg yn eich galluogi i adeiladu eich dadleuon argyhoeddiadol eich hun: a fydd o fudd mawr i chi yn y brifysgol a’r tu hwnt iddi.

Am cwrsiau yn y dyfydol, ewch yma.

What is rhetoric and why is it important?

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Put simply, rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It is present in every aspect of our lives (when cajoling a prospective partner to join you for dinner, when asking to borrow your parents’ car, when convincing a child to go to bed, or when campaigning to remain in/leave the European Union).

Recently, rhetoric has come to be used in a pejorative sense; however, it has not always had negative associations. It is often prefixed by terms such as ‘empty’ to describe the often equivocating, glib answers that politicians provide to seemingly straightforward questions.

It is important to know that rhetoric is much more than merely a style of speaking, and it is not an innately negative phenomenon. In terms of the formalisation of the study of rhetoric, we owe much to the ancient Greek philosophers.

The development of rhetoric is often traced to two Sicilian figures names Corax and Tisias. The story goes that Corax (Greek: Crow) was an orator of great renown – he represented people in judicial disputes and was among the first to devise a system whereby the art of persuasion could be understood. Being aware of Corax’s fame and fortune (as he was paid for his efforts), Tisias was keen to learn the skills of rhetoric so that he too could turn his hand to legal representation. As such, Tisias approached Corax with a proposition, saying: ‘teach me the skills of rhetoric and I’ll pay you for the course after I’ve succeeded at my first trial’. The pair agreed on these terms. Later, however, there was a dispute when Tisias refused to pay Corax , saying that Corax’s teaching was so inept and incompetent that Tisias had failed to learn a thing. The dispute made its way into the ancient Greek court. Both Corax and Tisias had to prepare their arguments.

Tisias, bringing the case, put forward the following argument: he should not have to pay Corax for the course because the teaching was so poor. If he should fail to convince the court that he was right, then they should also find in his favour as his poor performance would be evidence of his lack of skills in rhetoric – and proof that Corax was a rubbish teacher. If Tisias managed to convince the court (and display rhetorical skills necessary to convince them) then his argument went that these skills would have been developed in spite of Corax’s teaching rather than because of it.

On the contrary, the basis for Corax’s argument was that if Tisia lost, it was down to his own incompetence and if he won, it demonstrated that Corax’s lessons had been effective. As it happened, the case was rubbished and thrown out but the story serves to highlight that rhetoric as a discipline can be traced at least this far in the past. As well as this, it shows that as a subject, rhetoric could be divided, taught, studied and learned. Indeed, this study of rhetoric used to make up part of a classical education. The syllabus was known as the trivium – and comprised formalised lessons in three main areas: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Although the formal and commonplace teaching of rhetoric had stopped by the time that I was old enough to attend school, that doesn’t mean that the phenomenon has any less prevalence or importance in our lives. Indeed, the study of rhetoric today may be more important than at any previous point in our history. It is everywhere. In the information age of 24-hour news coverage, where arguments can be condensed to 140 characters on Twitter or memeified, rhetorical understanding is, in effect, information literacy. I don’t think that it’s hyperbole to state that our democracy depends on such literacy. As well as equipping you with the skills necessary to deconstruct and evaluate arguments, rhetorical literacy enables you to build your own convincing arguments: a skill that will serve you well both in and beyond university.

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