Psychagogia and the Rhetoric of Desire and Affect

Samuel Mateus

Madeira University (Portugal)


Abstract: When referring to rhetoric, most people focus on the argumentative, rational and critical reasoning involved in the art of persuasion. It is that logocratic (logos) dimension that is most alluded to when we think about the discursive skills an orator must possess in order to convince others that it is plausible to accept the arguments he advances that support his claims.

Yet, affect is another way through which we reason and think.

In this paper, I want to explore the genealogy of affective rhetoric. I suggest that not only pondering on emotional persuasion is crucial to contemporary, mediatized communication (including advertising and political communication), as also affective rhetoric is already implicit in the definition of early Greek rhetoric. In his dialogue Phaedrus, Plato already describes the affective nature of rhetoric and persuasion when he qualifies it as psychagogia.

Exploring rhetoric as psychagogia opens the door to the rhetoric of desire and the pervasive role of emotions in today’s advertising rhetoric. Emotions and desire are not a secondary or even a to-avoid aspect of rhetorical persuasion but the very core through which we think, decide and decide to act.

Keywords: rhetoric, emotions, desire, affect, psychagogia, advertising rhetoric.

Rhetoric and Communications E-journal, Issue 35, July 2018,,, ISSN 1314-4464

Read the original of the text (in English)