Wednesday September 19, 2012 Dr. Cathleen Kaveny was nice enough to visit Loyola University Maryland and speak about the art of rhetoric and how it has been used by many people throughout history. She also spoke about how it has been most recently, misused by many politicians today. Dr. Kaveny also was able to juxtapose the need rhetoric and the just war theorem which can easily be applied to Jesuit ideals.
Dr. Kaveny asked the short, but deep question, “Is rhetoric Uncivil?” her short answer was not always. She believes that, similar to war, the use for rhetoric can be just. The guidelines that she uses to determine if it is just is as follows, just cause, competent authority, comparative justice, right intention, proportionalities, and finally the use of it must be the last resort. One may be able to tell that these are the same criteria for a just war, which as Dr. Buckley pointed out, did not have great success.
Just cause, Dr. Kaveny said was simple, is the reason why you have to use rhetoric actually just, or moral. For example to properly use rhetoric the reason why must be to promote good. Competent authority means that the person that will be using the form of speaking should actually know what they’re talking about and be in a position to use the hoped for outcome of the rhetoric. Right intention, goes along with just cause, but also digs a little deeper into the meaning, which is to say you cannot just use the, just cause, to cover up an ill intention. Proportionalities, is simply weighing the cost versus the benefits. Last Resort means what it says that rhetoric should be the absolutely last resort.
With the upcoming election, Dr. Kaveny’s words may be able to offer some good advice. We should not just take what either side say as truth because they are clearly just using rhetoric and Dr. Kaveny would say that it is in an uncivil way. She touched on how each party makes the other look like they stand for just one meaning, and they could care less about anything else. For example the democratic party makes Mitt Romney look like he does not want women to have rights because his beliefs about planned parenthood, on the other side how Republicans make Obama out to be some communist because his tax and healthcare policies. To make fully aware decision one must look at the individual idea rather than the big picture.
Relating the speech to some Jesuit ideas that I have been aware of from my Jesuit education is quite easy. One of these ideals is discernment, one cannot just look at the surface of each candidate, or how well they speak, or what the other party says they “stand for” one must look deep into each individual’s plan and own beliefs.
Just as war is an evil that many Jesuit and Catholics despise, I have become aware of the evils of speech. Speech can kill just as a war can. Without the “Just rhetoric” criteria the Dr. Kaveny offered during the event it may come too easy to be sucked into someone’s idea without thinking about it first. Just as someone may look at a war before entering it, you must also look at rhetoric under the same criteria before fully believing it. Dr. Kaveny was able to really plant a seed into the students mind not to just vote to vote, or just look at the speeches of each parties, or the overview of what they stand for. Using the criteria she mentioned is an easy way to determine who really does have just morals as they speak.
Dr. Cathleen Kaveny’s take on rhetoric was very eye opening and has made many people re-examine the way they may view the world. Especially the politicians today that may have been using the art form unjustly. It was great to be able to hear from her on a topic that I honestly have not thought much about.