Deliberative Oratory

What Is Deliberative Rhetoric?

Deliberative Rhetoric (also known as Deliberative Oratory, and sometimes called Legislative Oratory) is one of three genres of oratory (along with judicialOpens in new window and epideicticOpens in new window rhetoric) exclusively concerned with counseling the audience about a future course of action in a political legislature. This sort of oratory was aimed towards policy and thus considered the future and whether given laws would benefit, or harm citizens of a given state.

CiceroOpens in new window by means of his rhetorical manual ‘De Inventione,’ describes deliberative rhetoric as concerned with arguments about the advantageous and the honorable. Advantageous in the sense that: it consists of security and power, whether internal or external to the state. Cicero further elucidates that the honorable may be grouped into simple and complex forms. The simple forms are those which by themselves constitutes wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. The complex forms of the honorable are both meritorious and advantageous and constitutes glory, rank, influence, and friendship.

The goal of deliberative speaking was to establish policies and pursue actions that contributed to the well-being of the citizenry. Thus, deliberative oratory involved weighing evidence for and against a policy or plan. It was oriented toward the future and influenced judgments about what should be done. A deliberative speaker must understand matters of law, politics, economics, trade, and warfare, and also grasp the qualities of civic life that contribute to the general good.

Sample Observation of Deliberative Oratory

The type of reasoning common to deliberative oratory occurs in many kinds of decision making. Deliberative reasoning addresses questions of the wise use of time, money, as well as other valuable resources. Thus, if one is deliberating to decide what type of career to choose, or whether to even learn a vocation, one is engaged in what Aristotle would call deliberative reasoning. Such was the case in 2 chronicles 18:5 &c. when Ahab, the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, were deliberating whether to go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or to hold their peace. Thence the king of Israel, Ahab, and the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat were engaging in deliberative reasoning and were conducting deliberative oratory.

The orator of deliberative speech specifically addresses ways and means, war and peace, national defense, imports and exports, and legislation. The issue of deliberation is action, and what that action shall be, results from a sense of utility or expediency, entertained by the orator’s audience.

The object of the orator then is to persuade his hearers, and to influence their conduct in relation to a future measure. His task is to inspire them with the belief, that the adoption of that, which he persuades, or the rejection of that, which he dissuades, would be useful either to the hearers themselves, or to their constituents, whom they represent.

Important Hint! 

Deliberative oratory basically encompasses any speech for or against given future action and deals with questions of the best uses of resources. Deliberative orators would need to know what the audience envisions as a good future, what they consider to be in their best interests, and what they think of as wasteful.

Further Readings:
Aristotle. Rhetoric. (Trans. George A. Kennedy. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.)
Cicero, De Inventione. (Trans. H.M. Hubbell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1968.)
Burke, Kenneth, Language as Symbolic Action. (Los Angeles: U of California P, 1968.)