It was a decade...
The 35 Greatest Speeches in History In a free republic the ideal citizen must be one willing and able to take This speech is famous for the man in theMythology defines the basis of literature today, while it has shaped writings of all kinds for thousands of years.
The first book of the Rhetoric treats the three species in succession. Rhet. I.4–8 deals with the deliberative, I.9 with the epideictic, I.10–14 the judicial species. These chapters are understood as contributing to the argumentative mode of persuasion or—more precisely—to that part of argumentative persuasion that is specific to the respective species of persuasion. The second part of the argumentative persuasion that is common to all three species of rhetorical speech is treated in thechapters II.19–26. The second means of persuasion, which works by evoking the emotions of the audience, is described in the chaptersII.2–11. Though the following chapters II.12–17 treat different types of character these chapters do not, as is often assumed, develop the third means of persuasion, which depends on the character of the speaker. The underlying theory of this means of persuasion is elaborated in a few lines of chapter II.1. The aforementioned chapters II.12–17 give information about different types of character and their disposition to emotional response, which can be useful for those speakers who want to arouse the emotions of the audience. Why the chapters on the argumentative means of persuasion are separated by the treatment of emotions and character (in II.2–17) remains a riddle, especially since the chapter II.18 tries to give a link between the specific and the common aspects of argumentative persuasion. Rhetoric III.1–12 discusses several questions of style (see below ), Rhetoric III.13–19 is on the several parts of a speech.
Though we clung desperately to our remaining drops of confidence from the pinnacle of eighth grade, they evaporated under the sheer intensity of high school.
Aristotle joins Plato in criticizing contemporary manuals of rhetoric. But how does he manage to distinguish his own project from the criticized manuals? The general idea seems to be this: Previous theorists of rhetoric gave most of their attention to methods outsidethe subject; they taught how to slander, how to arouse emotions in the audience, or how to distract the attention of the hearers from the subject. This style of rhetoric promotes a situation in which juries and assemblies no longer form rational judgments about the given issues, but surrender to the litigants. Aristotelian rhetoric is different in this respect: it is centered on the rhetorical kind of proof, the enthymeme (see below ), which is called the most important means of persuasion. Since people are most strongly convinced when they suppose that something has beenproven (Rhet. I.1, 1355a5f.), there is no need for the orator to confuse or distract the audience by the use of emotional appeals, etc. In Aristotle's view an orator will be even more successful when he just picks up the convincing aspects of a given issue, thereby using commonly-held opinions as premises. Since peoplehave a natural disposition for the true (Rhet. I.1, 1355a15f.) and every man has some contribution to make to the truth (Eudemian Ethics I.6, 1216b31,) there is no unbridgeable gapbetween the commonly-held opinions and what is true. This alleged affinity between the true and the persuasive justifies Aristotle's project of a rhetoric that essentially relies on the persuasiveness of pertinent argumentation; and it is just this argumentative character of Aristotelian rhetoric that explains the close affinity between rhetoric and dialectic (see above ).
Of course, Aristotle's rhetoric covers non-argumentative tools of persuasion as well. He tells the orator how to stimulate emotions andhow to make himself credible (see below ); his art of rhetoric includes considerations about delivery and style (see below ) and the parts of a speech. It is understandable that several interpreters found an insoluble tension between the argumentative means of pertinent rhetoric and non-argumentative tools that aim at what is outside the subject. It does not seem, however, that Aristotle himself saw a major conflict between these diverse tools ofpersuasion—presumably for the following reasons: (i) He leaves no doubt that the subject that is treated in a speech has the highestpriority (e.g. Rhet. III.1, 1403b18–27). Thus, it is not surprising that there are even passages that regard the non-argumentative tools as a sort of accidental contribution to the process of persuasion, which essentially proceeds in the manner of dialectic (cp. Rhet. I.1, 1354a15). (ii) There are, he says (III.1, 1404a2f.), methods that are not right, but necessary because of certain deficiencies of the audience. His point seems to be that the argumentative method becomes less effective, the worse the condition of the audience is. This again is to say that it is due to the badness of the audience when his rhetoric includes aspects that are not in line with the idea of argumentative and pertinent rhetoric. (iii) In dealing with methods of traditional rhetoric, Aristotle obviously assumes that even methods that have traditionallybeen used instead of argumentation can be refined so that they support the aim of an argumentative style of rhetoric. The prologue of a speech, for example, was traditionally used for appeals to the listener, but it can also be used to set out the issue of the speech,thus contributing to its clearness. Similarly, the epilogue has traditionally been used to arouse emotions like pity or anger; but assoon as the epilogue recalls the conclusions reached, it will make the speech more understandable.
While in the later tradition the use of metaphors has been seen as a matter of mere decoration, which has to delight the hearer, Aristotlestresses the cognitive function of metaphors. Metaphors, he says, bring about learning (Rhet. III.10, 1410b14f.). In order to understand a metaphor, the hearer has to find something common between the metaphor and the thing the metaphor refers to. For example, if someone calls the old age “stubble”, we have to find a common genus to which old age and stubble belong; we do notgrasp the very sense of the metaphor until we find that both, old ageand stubble, have lost their bloom. Thus, a metaphor not only refers to a thing, but simultaneously describes the thing in a certain respect. This is why Aristotle says that the metaphor brings about learning: as soon as we understand why someone uses the metaphor “stubble” to refer to old age, we have learned at least one characteristic of old age.
Originally the discussion of style belongs to the art of poetry rather than to rhetoric; the poets were the first, as Aristotle observes, to give an impulse for the study of style. Nevertheless he admits that questions of style or, more precisely, of different ways to formulate the same subject, may have an impact on the degree of clarity: “What concerns the topic of lexis, however, has some small necessary place in all teaching; for to speak in one way ratherthan another makes some difference in regard to clarity; although nota great difference…” (Rhet. III.1, 1404a8–10). Clarity again matters for comprehension and comprehensibility contributes to persuasiveness. Indeed Aristotle even claims that the virtue or excellence (aretê) of prose style ultimately depends on clarity, because it is the genuine purpose of a speech is to make something clear. In prose speeches, the good formulation of a state of affairs must therefore be a clear one. However, saying this is not yet enough to account for the best or excellent prose style, since clear linguistic expressions tend to be banal or flat, while good style should avoid such banality. If thelanguage becomes too banal it will not be able to attract the attention of the audience. The orator can avoid this tendency of banality by the use of dignified or elevated expressions and in general by all formulations that deviate from common usage. On the one hand, uncommon vocabulary has the advantage of evoking the curiosity of an audience. On the other hand the use of such elevated vocabulary bears a serious risk: Whenever the orator makes excessive use of it, the speech might become unclear, thus failing to meet the default requirement of prose speech, namely clarity. Moreover, if thevocabulary becomes too sublime or dignified in relation to prose's subject matter (Aristotle assumes it is mostly everyday affairs), theaudience will notice that the orator uses his words with a certain intention and will become suspicious about the orator and his intentions. Hitting upon the right wording is therefore a matter of being clear, but not too banal; In trying not to be too banal, one must use uncommon, dignified words and phrases, but one must be careful not to use them excessively or inappropriately in relation toprose style and the typical subject matter of prose speeches.
Rhet. III.1–12 introduces the topic of lexis,usually translated as ‘style’. This topic was not announced until the final passage of Rhet. II, so that most scholars have come to think of this section as a more or less self-contained treatise. The insertion of this treatise into the Rhetoric is motivated by the claim that, while Rhet. I & II dealt with thought (dianoia), i.e., about what the orator should say, it remains to inquire into the various ways of saying or formulating one and the same thing. In the course of Rhet. III.1–12 it turns out that Aristotle tackles this task by using some quite heterogeneous approaches. Afteran initial exploration of the field of delivery and style (III.1) Aristotle tries to determine what good prose style consists in; for this purpose he has to go into the differentiation and the selection of various kinds of nouns, one of which is defined as metaphor (III.2). The following chapters III.3–6 feature topics that areat best loosely connected with the theme of good prose style; among these topics is the opposite of good style, namely frigid or deterring style (psuchron) (III.3), the simile, which turns out to be connected with the metaphor (III.4), the issue of correct Greek (III.5), the appropriateness (III.7) and the means by which one's style becomes long-winded and dignified (III.6). Chapters III.8–9 introduce two new approaches to the issue of style, which seem to be unrelated to everything that has been said so far: These are the topics of the rhythmical shaping of prose style and of periodic and non-periodic flow of speech. Chapters III.10–11 are dedicated to how the orator can ‘bring things before one's eyes’, which amounts to something like making the style more vivid. Again metaphors are shown to play a crucial role for that purpose, so that the topic of metaphor is taken up again and deepenedby extended lists of examples. Chapter III.12 seems to make a new start by distinguishing between oral and written style and assessing their suitability for the three genres of speech (see above ). The philosophical core of Aristotle's treatise on style in Rhet. III.1–12 seems to be included in the discussion of the good prose style (see below ), however it is the topic of metaphor (see below ) that has attracted the most attention in the later reception up to the present day.
The word ‘topos’ (place, location) most probablyis derived from an ancient method of memorizing a great number of items on a list by associating them with successive places, say the houses along a street, one is acquainted with. By recalling the houses along the street we can also remember the associated items. Full descriptions of this technique can be found in Cicero, De Oratore II 86–88, 351–360, Auctor ad Herennium III 16–24, 29–40 and in Quintilian, Institutio XI 2, 11–33). In Topics 163b28–32, Aristotle seems to allude to this technique: “For just as in the art of remembering, the mere mention of theplaces instantly makes us recall the things, so these will make us more apt at deductions through looking to these defined premises in order of enumeration.” Aristotle also alludes to this techniquein On the soul 427b18–20, On Memory 452a12–16, and On Dreams 458b20–22.