This article revisits the nonverbal rhetorical tradition in Confucianism and examines how Confucianism actualized the tradition through its careful consideration of supernatural forces. In Confucianism, genuine persuasion produces actual change and transformation of one’s course of action, not merely verbal conviction. Speech only is not enough to genuinely persuade others. A speaker must transform others by his exemplary acts in the rites and holy ceremonies where supernatural forces and the notion of the afterlife hold a significant place. While Confucius was not interested in discussing the existence of demons and ghosts or their actual function in society, he recognized that their supposed and assumed existence in holy rites would provide society with an opportunity for genuine persuasion, which leads people to actual changes and reforms in their political and moral life. Discussing the nonverbal mode of persuasion in Confucianism may enhance contemporary democracy in two aspects. First, nonverbal persuasion recognizes those who may have difficulty in actively participating in verbal communication, such as the disabled, immigrants, foreigners, and politically and socially marginalized people, in political discourses. Second, the positive role of civic religion in contemporary societies may be discovered.
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