Aristotle On Rhetoric

.. scientist. While at Plato’s school, Aristotle developed a personal affection for Plato and learned many things from his instructor. However, he ultimately rejected Plato’s fundamental concepts and developed his own theories on matters of logic, ethics, metaphysics, as well as rhetoric. After the death of Plato in 347 B.C., Aristotle moved in with a former pupil of Plato, Hermeias.

During his three year stay, he married princess Pithias, Hermeias’s daughter. The couple had two children: a son named Nicomachus as well as a daughter. In 342 B.C Aristotle was invited to direct the education of young prince Alexander at the court of Philip II of Macedonia. During this time he continued his studies with a few private students of philosophy and completed his most famous work, the Rhetoric. He taught Alexander until King Philip was assassinated, after which the prince became king.

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In 335 B.C. he left Macedonia and returned to Athens to open his own school named Lyceum. Here he taught many popular subjects such as ethics, politics, and rhetoric before focusing his attention solely to metaphysics. With the death of Alexander in 323 B.C., and public scrutiny growing over his relationship with Alexander and other influential Macedonians growing, he turned his school over to Theophrastus and moved to the island of Euboea. Here he lived only a short time before dying in 322 B.C. at the age of sixty-two.

Aristotle’s Writings and Philosophies The majority of Aristotle’s writings have since been lost or destroyed in the years following his death. Each work that he produced, however, could be divided into three specific categories: popular writings, memoranda, and the treatises. The popular writings were written for a general audience and modeled after the dialogues of Plato. An example of these would be speeches and public addresses concentrating on particular subjects such as politics or ethics. His second type of text, the memoranda, was a collection of research material and historical records that Aristotle compiled throughout his many years as a student and research scientist.

Unfortunately most of the popular writing and memoranda of Aristotle have not survived the ages since his lifetime. The third group of writings, the treatises, is the only type that still exist today. They include lecture notes or textbooks written for the many classes that he taught at the Lyceum and other places across Greece The early writings of Aristotle exhibited his admiration for his teacher, Plato. He imitated Plato’s style by writing in dialogue form and using many of the same themes developed by his instructor. However, as he continued his studies at the Academy, Aristotle began to develop his own individual views which differed from those of Plato.

He began to concentrate on concrete, logical concepts as opposed to Plato’s more conceptual views. Although his views often clashed with those of his student, Plato continued to support Aristotle and encouraged him to promote his own theories of formal logic and rhetoric. These new ideas were expressed in his two most famous works, Organon and Rhetoric. The Organon, or instrument, was a collection of papers that included the Categories, Prior and Posterior Analytics, the Topics, and On Interpretation. In these, Aristotle introduced formal logic which he described as the instrument of knowledge.

The Rhetoric was written between 360 B.C. and 334 B.C. and dealt with the art of public speaking. This work is clearly written in response to Plato’s condemnation of this art. Aristotle was primarily concerned with the rhetoric of public address is the civic life of Greece (Kennedy 7). He believed rhetoric could be divided into specific cases where different types of rhetoric strategies could be used.

He called these strategies topoi. In Book Two of Rhetoric he lists twenty-eight common topoi. He also addresses other rhetoric elements such as style, diction, metaphor, and arrangement, but basically ignored the other canons of rhetoric. In any case, this work was the first example of psychological rhetoric ever presented. One of the most notable concepts developed by Aristotle was the notion of pisteis, or proofs.

He believed that there were three means in which persuasion could be accomplished in public address. Pisteis is divided into three sections: ethos, pathos, logos. Ethos is concerned with establishing the moral character of the rhetor. Pathos appeals to the emotions of the audience and logos is described as logical reasoning meant to engage the audience into the rhetors beliefs. Each of these three elements, though seperate, can be combined to elicit a maximum response from the audience.

Aristotle was the first to analyze an argument in a logical, orderly manner. He did this by using enthymemes and syllogisms. He described a syllogism as a deductive argument consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion (319). The generic syllogism is as follows: If A belongs to all B, and B belongs to all C, then A belongs to all C. A syllogism, when used in rhetoric context, was called an enthymeme.

An enthymeme is like a syllogism, except that its result is not new knowledge, but action (Brumbaugh 187). In an enthymeme the rhetor assumes that the audience is an active participant, will supply the missing part and be persuaded of the enthymeme’s truth by virtue of having participated in making it fully meaningful (Covino 48). Enthymemes and syllogisms, as you can see are very closely related. Through his many years of studying the elements of rhetoric, Aristotle developed a general definition that is still accepted today. He believed that [the function of rhetoric] is not to persuade but to see the available means of persuasion in each case (3).

His Rhetoric expressed that rhetoric is a tool applicable to any subject and from the universality of its basic, organized concepts (Kennedy 309). It encompasses an extremely large territory and is the propery of no other discipline . . . It impinges on all areas of human concern (Winterowd 14).

In this sense, he explained that even though all persuasive arguments are classified as rhetoric, each should be dealt with in its own case and individual of all other cases (14). It is Aristotle who first recognized the relationship between rhetoric and the various disciplines of the arts and sciences. He believed that rhetoric played a large part in every method of learning and there were specific tools which were essential to each type of study (Kennedy 12). Of these tool he felt that logic was one of the most important, if not the most important tool used in rhetoric thinking. Aristotle considered rhetoric a tool in argumentation, particularly the kind that arose in the courts and halls of government of his time. Since his lifetime the ideas of Aristotle have been carried on through the centuries and have remained a fixture in modern day theory. His interest in the logical, rational side of discourse remain with us today in many forms. For this reason it can be said with little argument that Aristotle is rhetoric.

After his death, Aristotle’s words were perpetuated at the Perpatetic school by his loyal followers. Unfortunatley many of his ideas disappeared in Western philosophy between 500 and 1000 A.D., but were preserved by Arabic and Syrian scholars which reintroduced Aristotle to the Western world between. Since this time, his ideas have been extremely influential in Western rhetoric analysis. Philosophy Essays.


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