Aristotle, Joshua Bell, and Persuasion

Watch the video. Then I’ll have a few words about this after the jump.

So, I think Conor Neill has an interesting example here. The most insightful bits to me are the application of ethos, and what credibility the institution lends Joshua Bell.

As was noted in the YouTube comments, what it’s missing is a discussion of audience and situation, and that’s where I think Aristotle would’ve gone first, before bothering with any discussion of persuasion. The audience in the theatre has already decided they want a particular kind of experience: to relax, be enlightened, to enjoy a style of music they already appreciate. The audience in the subway is very different. In the subway, people are in a hurry. Maybe many of the passersby don’t like classical music. Maybe they do like it, but are not in an emotional state that allows them to enjoy it. While I don’t think any of this diminishes Neill’s observations, these are additional important Aristotelian arguments for making sense of what’s happening in the Joshua Bell story.

I should also credit former student Adam Parker Goldberg with sending me this video a couple of years ago. Thanks, Adam!

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