Aristotle’s Rhetoric

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Hamartia: error in judgment; flaw; a fault
o    Fault: springs from error innocence
•    Qualitative Parts: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and melody
•    Quantitative Parts: Prologue, episode, parode, stasiman, exode
•    Oratorical interest not in parallel between oratory and poetry, but in those between rhetorical and dialectical argumentation
•    Different forms of the soul (Plato): some are ruled by one emotion, others by another
o    By knowing different forms, one can shape argument in specific ways
•    Syllogism as “evidence”
o    But also how these proofs can be mishandled and false
•    Aristotle compares to the first principles of demonstrative science
o    Xviii: “What he means is that a mathematician starts with say a proposition about the angles of an equilateral triangle and goes on to show that, because the triangle with which he happens to be concerned is equilateral, its angles must be stated in the proposition.  As Aristotle sees it, our speaker who makes his case for peace proceeds basically in the same manner as this mathematician.”
•    Presentation of an argument need not bring out logical form (don’t bore audience)
•    Rhetoric is a counterpart of dialectic
•    Essence of rhetoric: appeals of emotion to warp the judgment
•    Definition of rhetoric: faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion
•    Argumentative persuasion = demonstration = rhetorical form is enthymeme
•    The rhetor must provide himself: power of evincing personal character (credibility); power of stirring emotions; power of proving a truth
•    Rhetoric must adapt itself to its audience
•    Three kinds of rhetoric:
o    Political (Deliberative): Future
o    Forensic (legal): Past
o    Epideictic (Display): Present
•    Political speaker enhanced by knowledge of four sorts of governments
•    Epideictic speaker is concerned with virtue and vice: praising one and censuring the other
•    Forensic speaker should have studied wrong doing: motives, perpetrators, victims
•    Non-technical means of persuasion (don’t strictly belong to art of rhetoric):
o    Law, witnesses, contracts, tortures, oaths
•    Enthymemes: not carry reasoning too far back, not put in all the details
o    Start from a commonplace
•    “I have done.  You have heard me.  The facts are before you.  I ask for you judgment.”
Xii: “It is safe to say that the speaker’s own and immediate concern is with his contemporary audience, Aristotle certainly visualizes a speech not as composed for the admiration of literary connoisseurs though all time but as designed for a specific, practical end, as delivered before an audience, as calculated to prove and convince.  In the nature of things it could hardly have been otherwise.”
Xiv: “Plato had rejected rhetoric—the artificier of persuasion—on the ground that its practitioners seek to persuade without having either knowledge of or regard for the truth.  The orator who aims at pleasing the crowd, while working for his own ascendancy, is a slave to the desire for power and operates within a scheme of utterly false values.”
Xvi: “Instead he starts in the case of each emotion with a precise and carefully worded definition which at once indicates under what conditions this emotion may be aroused and what kind of people are amenable to it.  The more specific statements concerning the occurrence of these emotions are derived from this initial definition which serves as a kinds of first principle or basic premise.  This is good scientific method, and a speaker possessed of such knowledge would be able to assess a given situation and to decide what passion could be aroused (or allayed) and how this should be done.”
8: “Since rhetoric—political and forensic rhetoric, at any rate—exists to affect the giving of decisions, the orator must not only try to make the argument of his speech demonstrative and worthy of belief; he must also make his own character look right and put his hearers, who are to decide, into the right frame of mind.  As to his own character: he should make his audience feel that he possesses prudence, virtue, and goodwill.”


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