2 minute read

Rhetoric

Ancient and MedievalAristotle And His Successors

Aristotle set the tone of later ideas with his concept of the three major audiences (already found in Isocrates as three kinds of oratory, judicial, political / deliberative or "epideictic"—the audience is either a judge dealing with actions in the past [court cases] or the future [deliberative assemblies], or a spectator [listening to a speech in praise or blame of something/someone but not required to make a judgment]). Aristotle's discussion of emotion and character—analyzing the feelings in an audience and the expectations the audience may have of the speaker (pathos and ethos respectively) and the strong links with argumentation (dialectic)—all in book II—were decisive for the future of the subject, as was book III on style, arrangement, and the parts of the speech. Thus "rhetoric" began its career by being forced into the straitjacket of the art or skill or preceptive system for finding what may be persuasive in any communications situation, as distinct from the direct "magic" of word power, stressed for example by Gorgias (fifth century B.C.E.), an early member of a group that came to be called "sophists," that is, professional purveyors of "wisdom" and techniques that might lead to success in the world. A "stylistic" tendency had its outcome in the debate between protagonists of the "Asian" ("ornate") and "Attic" ("restrained," but originally assuming conscious imitation of Athenian writers of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E.) styles in Roman antiquity, in the emphasis upon style in the works of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (who lived at Rome in the last years of the era before Christ), Longinus (possibly Cassius Longinus, a rhetorican of the third century A.D.), and Hermogenes (second century C.E., known as perhaps the most important Greek rhetorician of the Roman Empire). Aristotle himself assumed that the user of rhetoric would be a "good person," thus linking rhetoric with "virtue," a link that had its origins, perhaps, in Isocrates' emphasis upon the orator's moral qualities and wide-ranging skills and knowledge. It was a link that remained strong, in Cicero, Augustine, and even in Alcuin's De rhetorica et virtutibus (730–804 C.E.) Rhetoric (copia dicendi ac summum eloquentiae studium—"abundance of speech and the most elaborate study of eloquence" according to the terms used in Cicero's De inventione 1.1) was capable of good or evil, and although the initial incentive toward civilized modes of living must have been implanted by a uniquely eloquent individual, there came a time when masters of eloquence paid insufficient attention to philosophy with the consequence that the state suffered (all this to be found in the proem to the De inventione). In later times the term "rhetores" was often reserved for those who used eloquence for shallow and selfish ends.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRhetoric - Ancient and Medieval - Graeco-roman Origins, Aristotle And His Successors, Roman Imperial Rhetoric, Medieval Transitions, Late Medieval Transformation