Posts Tagged ‘Aristotle


Ong’s Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue

Walter Ong
Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Robert Clement’s Review

•    Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue is divided into four parts of varying length.
o    The first (“Issues”) presents the essential facts of Ramus’s career and dwells upon the famous M.A. thesis which was to demolish Aristotle-and which legend has him defending valiantly against attacks from all quarters.
o    Part II (“Background”) is a flashback to the scholastic, humanistic, and pedagogical background into which Ramus was born.
o    The third section (“Ramism”) is a detailed explanation of Ramus’s dialectic and method, from its first elaboration in his various works through the attacks launched against it to its final revisions. In this section stylistics and rhetoric assume important roles.
o    Part IV (“Sequel”) concerns itself with the spread and modifications of Ramism. “The internal structure and development of the Ramist outlook advertises particularly the mechanistic, quantitative bent in the scholastic mind, and calls attention to the importance of the scholastic arts course (and, indirectly, of the medical course) as against the scholastic theological course in the development of the sensibility of Western man.” (p. 306)
•    All in all, this careful book succeeds in correcting and expanding our knowledge of the thought and works of Ramus through a patient examination and rigid reconsideration of the source materials, old and new.
From T. K. Scott, JR.’s Review
•    Ramism is shown to have developed a tendency in scholastic logic to identify knowledge with teaching, and teaching with a simplified spatial approach to reality, a tendency which was reinforced by the diagrammatic tidiness made possible by letterpress printing.


Gross’ Rhetoric of Science

Alan Gross
The Rhetoric of Science
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Randy Harris’ Review

•    Compounding the presumption of that article, the book is surprisingly neglectful of other work in the field. There is barely a glance in the text at Bazerman or Myers. Simons, Lyne, Miller, Zappen, and several other influential rhetoricians of science are nowhere to be seen.
•    The book begins with much talk about “a neo- Aristotelian rhetoric of science” (6), outlining rhetorical genres and sketching stasis theory, but all that fades rather quickly away.
o    When Gross gets down to looking at scientific texts and processes, Habermas and Turner are more direct influences than Aristotle or Cicero. Nor, despite the emphasis on knowledge-making, do Scott or Leff or any others from the rhetoric-as-epistemic tradition make an appearance. The Sophists are invoked early but never employed.
•    Durant in the Times Literary Supplement dismissed his arguments to that end as (savour the irony) “mere sophistry,” and Ravetz complained in Nature that his work reduced science to “‘just words.”
o    Mere and just are familiar sticks for beating uppity rhetoricians, of course, and we shouldn’t lose any sleep over scientists worried that exposing their traffic in suasion might lower their status or jeopardize their grants
•    “The creation of knowledge is a task beginning with self-persuasion,” he tells us on the first page, “and ending with the persuasion of others” (3).
•    Suasion seems overlaid on science in these analyses, not constitutive of them, and Gross talks frequently as if rhetoric and scientific argumentation are two distinct entities (“rhetorical and scientific reasoning differ not in kind but only in degree”-12), rather than the latter being a subset of the former.
•    Plato, who says that first you find the truth, then you sell it. Plato’s model, not coincidentally, is the one that most scientists would offer.
o    Truth is ‘out there.’ Scientists find it. They phrase it in the most compelling terms, and others recognize it.
•    And a rhetoric that sells, instead of builds, is far too static for science.
•    This picture, of course, is a stick drawing of scientific disputes (ignoring, for instance, problems and solutions that arise only in the crucible of debate-E churning up data only for its ability to perforate U;
o    U inventing goals only because they are antithetical to E’s; each latching onto methods only for their corrosive effect on the other). But even this skimpy outline is fuller than Gross’s picture.
•    In short, there is not enough in The Rhetoric of Science about how knowledge gets built-via negotiation-in science.
•    But, through public disagreements (and public alliances), they display their arguments before their consumers-the workaday scientists who have to decide how they are going to spend the next few years of their time and energy, allocate their grant money, deploy their students.
o    More generally, scientific programs are like any consumer product-if fins work for this year for Ford, Chevy will have them next year-and theories are constantly infecting one another with attractive properties, constantly swapping suasions.
•    And, in the most unfortunate case of opportunity lost (perhaps because
Habermas leads him astray), Gross has a close look at the peer review process-as ripe a grove for epistemic rhetoric as any in science-and finds it a certification exercise. Knowledge is approved, not made, in Gross’ picture of peer review.
From Trevor Melia’s Review
•    In proposing to treat science “sub specie rhetoricae,” Alan Gross exemplifies both the problems and the potencies of the sophistic tradition in rhetoric.
o    Gross understands that the hegemony of rhetoric is threatened by plausible claims to knowledge of a reality beyond language.
o    He also recognizes that “science” poses the greatest threat in this respect
•    The result is that the rhetoric of science is in danger of being assimilated to a historically sensitive sociology of science.
o    Gross seeks to avoid that problem by explicitly mobilizing canonical works in classical rhetoric, especially those of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian, and supplementing them with contributions from such moderns as Chaim Perelman, Kenneth Burke, Vladimir Propp, Jiirgen Habermas, and Roland Barthes.
o    Chapters devoted to analogy in science, taxonomic language, style in biological prose, and the arrangement of the scientific paper are redolent of the categories, if not the concerns, of classical rhetoric.
•    More philosophically provocative is the attempt, by invoking the doctrine of stasis (an sit, quid sit, quale sit), to replace “scientific discovery” with “rhetorical invention.”
•    This latter feat is accomplished by a perhaps too facile bifurcation between the “brute facts of nature” and “science itself.”
•    On Gross’s rendition the rhetoric of science does not deny the brute facts of nature but does aver that they are neither science nor knowledge.
o    Thus for Gross, since science is by definition invented, anything discovered is by implication brute fact.
•    Both Gross and Prelli profit from that combination of semiotic insight and modern Continental philosophy that, treating language as not merely instrumental but constitutive of reality, renders everything as “text.”


Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting

Paul Ricoeur
Memory, History, Forgetting
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

Xvi: “In this way, the phenomenology if memory begins deliberately with an analysis turned toward the object of memory, the memory that one hase before the mind; it then passes through the stage of the search for a given memory, the stage of anamnesis, of recollection; we then finally move from memory as it is given and exercised to reflective memory, to memory of oneself.”
Chapter 1: Memory and Imagination
•    Two questions: of what are there memories? Whose memory is it?
•    To remember is to have a memory or to set off in search of a memory
•    What → who → how
•    Memory, reduced to recall, thus operates in the wake of imagination
•    Platonic: speaks of the present representation of an absent thing
o    It argues implicitly for enclosing the problematic of memory within that of imagination
•    Aristotelian: centered on the theme of representation of a think formerly perceived, acquired, or learned, argues for including the problematic of the image within that of remembering
o    Aristotle: “All memory is of the past”
•    Can a man who has learned something not know when he is remembering it?
•    Accept the identification between possessing knowledge and actively using it
o    Holding a bird v. keeping it in a cage
•    Platonic texts on memory: aporetic results and difficulties
o    Absence: explicit reference to the distinctive feature of memory in which the affections of the body and the soul to which memory is attached are signified
o    The relation that exists between the eikon and the first mark
•    Can the relation to the past only be a variety of mimesis?
•    History: trace or imprint?
o    “External” marks of writing: written discourse, image (wax impression), graphic
•    What do we remember: the affection or the thing that produced it?
o    If affection: then it’s not something absent one remembers
o    If the think: then how, while perceiving the impression could we remember the absent think that we are not at present perceiving?
•    Aristotle: distinction between mneme and anamnesis
o    Mneme: arises in the manner of an affection; simple evocation
o    Anamnemesis: active search; effort to recall
3: “If the ‘I’ in the first person singular is too hastily declared the subject of memory, the notion of collective memory can take shape only as an analogical concept, even as a foreign body in the phenomenology of memory.”
7:  “And yet, we have nothing better than memory to guarantee that something has taken place before we call to mind a memory of it.  Historiography itself, let us already say, will not succeed in setting aside the continually derided and continually reasserted conviction that the final referent of memory remains the past, whatever the pastness of the past may signify.”
9:  “The reference to time we might expect from the use of the verb ‘to preserve in memory’ is not relevant in the framework of an epistemic theory that is concerned with the status of false opinion, hence with judgment and not with memory as such.  Its strength is to embrace in full, from the persoective of a phenomenology of mistakes, the aporia of the presence of absence.”
11: “The idea of ‘faithful resemblance’ belonging to the eikastic art will at least have served as a relay.  Plato seems to have noted in the threshold of the impasse, when he asks himself: ‘what in the world do we mean by a ‘copy’?  We lose our way in the enumeration of examples that seem to escape the art of orderly division and, first of all, that of generic definition: ‘What in the world would we say a copy is, sir, except something that’s made similar to a true think and is another think that’s like it?’  But what is the meaning of ‘a true thing’? And ‘another thing’? And ‘like it’?”
14:  “Socrates proposes: ‘that our soul in such a situation is comparable to a book.’  ‘How so?’ asks Protarchus.  The explanation follows: ‘If memory and perceptions concur with other impressions at a particular occasion, then they seem to inscribe words in our soul, as it were.  And if what [the experience] is written is true, then we form a true judgment and a true account of the matter.  But what if what our scribe writes is false, then the result will be the opposite of truth.’”
15:  “To distinguish, not the persistence of memories in relation to their recall, but their simple presence to mind (which I shall later call simple evocation in my phenomenological sketch) in relation as a search.  Memory, in this particular sense, is directly characterized as affection (pathos), which distinguishes it precisely form recollection.”


Kerferd’s The Sophistic Movement

G.B. Kerferd
The Sophistic Movement
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter One: Introduction

•    Sophists provoked their own condemnation, first by Socrates then Plato
1: “Even the revulsion of Plato felt by those to whom Plato felt by those whom Plato has tended to appear as a reactionary authoritarian has done little for the sophists.  Condemned to a kind of half-life between Presocratics on the one hand and Plato and Aristotle on the other, they seem to wander for ever like lost souls.”
2: “Throughout all, two dominant themes – the need to accept relativism in values and elsewhere without reducing all to subjectivism, and the belief that there is no area of human life or of the world as a whole which should be immune from understanding achieved throughout reasoned argument.”
Chapter Two: Towards a History of Interpretations of the Sophistic Movement
•    Aristotle: The sophistic art consists in apparent wisdom which is not in fact wisdom, and the sophist is one who makes money from “apparent and not real wisdom”
•    Two charges: sophists are not serious thinkers and teachings were profoundly immoral
4: “They define the sophist (1) as the hired hunter of rich young men, (2) as a man who sells ‘virtue’, and, since he is selling goods not his own, as a man who can be described as merchandising in learning, or (3) who sells it retail in small quantities, or (4) as a man who sells goods that he has fabricated in person for his customers.  On another view, (5) the sophist is one who carries on controversies of the kind called Eristic in order to make money from the discussion of right and wrong.  (6) A special aspect of kind of sophistry is then identified as a kind of verbal examination called Elenchus which educates by purging the soul from the vain conceit of wisdom.  […]  Finally at the end of the dialogue, after a long digression, we come to (7) where the sophist is seen as the false counterfeiter of philosophy, ignorantly framing contradictions that are based on appearances and opinions rather than reality.”


Poulakis’ Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece

John Poulakis
Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    If you tell people for 100 years that they are dogs, they’ll start barking
•    Reactionary argument—only kind of rhetoric is sophistical
•    History without language
o    Little is gained by arguing that Plato was wrong about the sophists
•    Language without history
•    Re-reading the sophists as they were is impossible—too many influences on the their reinterpretation (time passage, etc.)
•    Time-and-place dependent understandings
•    Discussion of the past constitutes an interpretive construction from a particular perspective of the present
•    Threat the rhetoric of the sophists in order to stimulate new thinking on our rhetorics
Xi: “Moreover, they have been trained to believe that their susceptibility to the charming words of others constitutes a weakness to be overcome by means of such fortifying agents as approved versions of reason, dialectical know-how, and objectivity.”
1: “Today, the narrative repertoire on Hellas’ early rhetoricians includes stories about a suspect epistemological and moral doctrine (Plato), a necessary moment in the history of philosophy (Hegel), a unique cultural phenomenon (Nietzsche), and a profound intellectual movement (Jaeger, Kerferd).
From Christopher Lyle Johnstone’s Review
•    The present work is the product of the approach he embraces: it is comprehensive rather than narrowly focused, it credits the Older Sophists with a “rhetorical consciousness” rather than being concerned (as Schiappa was) that rhetorike was coined b y Plato in the 4th century, and it seeks to interpret sophistical writings in terms of their themes, patterns and cultural milieu rather than strictly in terms of what the textual evidence alone permits. At the same time, however, Poulakos aims at something like Schiappa’s historical reconstruction: the book situates the sophists in the cultural environment of the latter half of the fifth century B.C., examines the preserved textual materials of and about the sophists, and considers three major receptions of sophistic rhetoric in an effort to “derive a rhetoric that can be called sophistical” (4).
•    Poulakos promises to “treat past texts not as fixed monuments to be consumed cognitively but as elusive documents that can stimulate readers to rethink the constitution of their own lives. . .” (3).
•    Poulakos asserts that “whether we are looking at a past work or its past reception, the perspective of the present is unavoidable.” Thus he dismisses the “extremes of classical philology, which claims to interpret texts objectively, and modernist criticism, which often disregards their historical character” (7).
•    After reviewing the principal political, cultural, economic and intellectual developments that shaped 5th-century Athens, the chapter examines the status of the sophists as itinerant teachers of oratory and disputation in cities where they were always “other.”
•    The next chapter, entitled “Terms for Sophistical Rhetoric,” explores in some detail the notions of opportunity, playfulness and possibility “as constitutive functions” of the cultural milieu of the sophists. It does so by first reviewing “two common ways of reading the sophists” and then by proposing a third “which attends… both [to] the cultural dynamics discussed in the previous chapter, and to some sophistical texts . . . influencled] by these dynamics” (53). […]These terms are kairos (opportunity), paignion (game, play), and to dunaton (the possible). They were selected because, we are told, they help explain common features of sophistical texts and because they can render the sophists’ rhetorical practices meaningful
•    Poulakos concludes that for Plato the teaching and rhetorical practices of the sophists provided the counterview against which he could articulate and argue for his vision of the superiority of the philosophical to the rhetorical life.
•    Isocrates, on the other hand, seems to have maintained a much more ambivalent and ambiguous attitude toward the sophists. “Indebted to the tradition the sophists had initiated, Isocrates imitates their work but only up to a point; time and again, he follows their example but never entirely” (142).
•    Aristotle’s reception, according to Poulakos, was characterized by both the preservation and the correction of sophistic thinking: “because they contributed to the cultural reservoir of rhetorical insights, [Aristotle held that] the sophists are historically important; but because their reasoning was often flawed, it needs to be corrected” (150).
•    One implication of this view is that “the rhetoric of the sophists has no end-point…. [W]ith the sophists there is no truth, no unity, no telos” (189). Moreover, “sophistical rhetoric labors to utter novel words, fresh insights, and original thoughts.” It disrupts “established norms of linguistic action, . . . shatters aspects of conventional wisdom, . . . unsettles the sensibilities of the accepted tradition” (190). Thus it calls into question habits of perception and traditional modes of thought by “challenging what other rhetorics take for granted. Accordingly, it cultivates skeptical attitudes. . .” (191).


McComiskey’s Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric

Bruce McComiskey
Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Who were the sophists?
o    More difficult to answer than imagined
o    Plato’s influence on the negative usage of the term forced Aristotle to use it in reference to unethical speakers
•    Aristotle, in Sophistical Refutations: The art of the sophist is the semblance of wisdom without reality, and the sophist is the one who makes money from an apparent but unreal wisdom”
•    Sophist = wise man before Plato changed the meaning
•    New interpretations of sophistic dialogues accepted the Plato/sophist divide, but favored the sophists over Plato
o    Revalued the sophists through Plato’s texts, not sophistic texts
•    Social turn in rhetorical studies (Trimbur): turn toward social constructionism and (social) epistemic rhetoric
•    Poulakis: sophistic definition of rhetoric: “rhetoric is the are which seeks to capture in opportune moments that which is appropriate and attempts to suggest that which is possible.”
•    The sophists used logos – not rhetoric – to refer to their art of discourse
•    deCerteau: impossible to construct the past as it actually was
•    Although all neosophists engage in the critical act of appropriation, not all neosophists appropriate ancient doctrines in the same way
o    Three critical approaches:
•    First, there are a few neosophists who appropriate Plato’s characterization of these traveling teachers, either valuing Plato’s misrepresentations or disparaging them
•    Second, there are a few more neosophists who put aside Plato’s misrepresentations of sophistic doctrines, appropriating doctrines instead from actual sophistic texts and historical interpretations of them in order to find common threads among the ‘older sophists’ and contemporary composition and rhetorical theorists (Jarratt; Poulakis)
•    Third, the lion’s share of neosophists put aside Plato’s misrepresentations of sophistic doctrines, appropriating doctrines instead from actual sophistic texts and historical interpretations of them in order to understand the unique contributions of individual sophists, usually Protagoras and Gorgias, to contemporary rhetorical theory and composition studies (Crowley; Neel; Scott; Vitanza) (11).
•    New sophistic rhetoric relies on three assumptions: knowleges/epistemologies can be understood within defining context of particular cultures; rhetorical methods rely on probability, affect, and kairos; relativistic rhetoric of the right moment supports democratic power formations that depend on the invention of ethical arguments.
5: “First, some scholars take Plato at his word, disparaging the sophist as greedy cheaters.  Second, some scholars accept what Plato says about the sophists, but they value, rather than disparage, these traveling teachers based on Palto’s characterization.  Third, some scholars put aside Plato’s misrepresentations of the sophists, examining the sophistic texts themselves in order to discover common threads among the most prominent ‘older’ sophists.  Fourth, some scholars put aside Plato’s misrepresentations of the sophists, examining the sophistic texts themselves in order to understand the unique contributions of each individual sophist in the context of pre-Socratic thought.”
5: “In ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Benjamin writes, ‘For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.’  This is, of course, what was happening in the revival of sophistry. In what had come to be known as ‘the sophists’ –those ancient antifoundationalists, champions of democracy, teachers of rhetoric- many scholars found a friend in the fray,  ancient validation for the arguments they wanted to make about contemporary rhetoric, arguments that were almost as marginalized, it seemed, as those criticized by Plato over 2,000 years hence.”
8: “As the human mind evolves in response to new technologies and social institutions, its ability to capture the ‘truth’ of the past erodes irretrievably.”


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.”

January 2019
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