The study of rhetoric is a valuable thing. It’s somewhere partway between poetry and philosophy, two other eminently worthwhile objects of study. But it is distinct from both of them, and merits consideration in itself.
Rhetoric used to be a standard part of the curriculum, over many centuries, spanning from ancient Greece and Rome, through the Middle Ages, and well into modern times. In the past century or so, however, it has lost its place of honour.
Rhetoric is valuable to study even if you never use it to convince anybody of anything. It helps us think through our own ideas more clearly, and helps us listen to the ideas and argumentation of others in a way that is both more critically aware, and also more artfully appreciative, than we might otherwise be capable of.
Study rhetoric, even if you think you will never use it. Study rhetoric, and maybe someday you will use it.
You never know when you might have the need or the opportunity to speak up against an injustice or to honour something that is undervalued. The more potent our words in such a situation, the more likely we are to shape the world around us into something better and more beautiful.
The study of rhetoric is a useful thing, and it is a bridge by which we may learn to value other things that are just as valuable even if not always so obviously useful. Love of rhetoric may spark an interest in philosophy. It may help make our ears sharp to the ways of the poet. It may help us care about questions of virtue and honour.
Rhetoric should not be our sole passion, but there’s still an important place for it. It is a good supplement to many other worthwhile objects of study, and in the arenas where it is useful, it is very useful indeed.