Online Encyclopedia

ARISTOTLE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 236 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ARISTOTLE. During the three centuries from the age of Alexander to that of Augustus the fortunes of rhetoric were governed by the new conditions of Hellenism. Aristotle's scientific The method lived on in the Peripatetic school. Meanwhile period the fashion of florid declamation or strained conceits Alex fro"' - prevailed in the rhetorical schools of Asia, where, amid ender to mixed populations, the pure traditions of the best Augus-Greek taste had been dissociated from the use of the tus. Greek language. The " Asianism " of style which thus came to be constrasted with " Atticism " found imitators at Rome, among whom must be reckoned the orator Hortensius (c. 95 B.C.). Hermagoras of Temnos in Aeolis (c. to Herma- B.c.) claims mention as having done much to revive goras. a higher conception. Using both the practical rhetoric of the time before Aristotle and Aristotle's philosophical rhetoric, he worked up the results of both in a new system, following the philosophers so far as to give the chief prominence to " invention." He thus became the founder of a rhetoric which may be distinguished as the scholastic. Through the influence of his school, Hermagoras did for Roman eloquence very much what Isocrates had done for Athens. Above all, he counter-acted the view of " Asianism," that oratory is a mere knack founded on practice, and recalled attention to the study of it as an art' Cicero's rhetorical works are to some extent based on the technical system to which he had been introduced by Molon at Rhodes. But Cicero further made an independent use of the best among the earlier Greek writers, Isocrates, Aristotle and Theophrastus. Lastly, he could draw, at least in the later of his treatises, on a vast fund of reflection and experience. Indeed, the distinctive interest of his contributions to the theory of rhetoric consists in the fact that his theory can be compared with his practice. The result of such a comparison is certainly to suggest how much less he owed to his art than to his genius. Some consciousness of this is perhaps implied in the idea which pervades much of his writing on oratory, that the perfect orator is the perfect man. The same thought is present to Quintilian, in whose great work, Quin- De Institutione Oratoria, the scholastic rhetoric re- than. ceives its most complete expression (c. A.D. 90). Quintilian treats oratory as the end to which the entire mental and moral development of the student is to be directed. Thus he devotes his first book to an early discipline which should precede the orator's first studies, and his last book to a discipline of the whole man which lies beyond them. Some notion of his comprehensive method may be derived from the circumstance that he introduces a succinct estimate of the chief Greek and Roman authors, of every kind, from Homer to Seneca (bk. x. §§ 46-131). After Quintilian, the next important name is that of Hermogenes of Tarsus, who under Marcus Aurelius Hrmo• made a complete digest of the scholastic rhetoric from genes. the time of Hermagoras of Temnos (Ito B.c.). It is contained in five extant treatises, which are remarkable for clearness and acuteness, and still more remarkable as having been completed before the age of twenty-five. Hermogenes continued for nearly a century and a half to be one of the chief authorities in the schools. Longinus (c. A.D. 26o) published an Art of Rhetoric which is still extant; and the more other celebrated treatise On Sublimity (irepi ii>/iovs), if not writers. his work, is at least of the same period. In the later half of the 4th century Aphthonius (q.v.) composed the " exercises " (irpoyvµvavµara) which superseded the work of 3 See Jebb's Attic Orators, ii. 445. Rhetoric"to Alexander.' Cicero. Hermogenes. At the revival of letters the treatise ofAphthonius 1 tawdry or vapid, these writings occasionally present passages once more became a standard text-book. Much popularity was of true literary beauty, while they constantly offer matter of the highest interest to the student. In the medieval system of academic studies, grammar, logic and rhetoric were the subjects of the trivium, or course followed during the four years of undergraduateship. Medieval Music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy con- study of stituted the quadrivium, or course for the three years Rhetoric from the B.A. to the M.A. degree. These were the seven liberal arts. In the middle ages the chief authorities on rhetoric were the latest Latin epitomists, such as Martianus Capella (5th cent.), Cassiodorus (5th cent.) or Isidorus (7th cent.). After the revival of learning the better Roman and Greek writers gradually returned into use. Some new treatises were also produced. Leonard Cox (d. 1549) wrote The Art or Craft of Rhetoryke, partly compiled, partly original, which was reprinted in Latin at Cracow. The Art of Rhetorique, by Thomas Wilson (1553), afterwards secretary of state, embodied rules chiefly from Aristotle, with help from Cicero and Quintilian. About the same time treatises on rhetoric were published in France by Tonquelin (1555) and Courcelles(1557). The general aim at this. period was to revive and popularize the best teaching of the ancients on rhetoric. The subject was regularly taught at the universities, and was indeed important. At Cambridge in 1570 the study of rhetoric was based on Quintilian, Hermogenes and the speeches of Cicero viewed as works of art. An Oxford statute of 1588 shows that the same books were used there. In 162o George Herbert was delivering lectures on rhetoric at Cambridge, where he held the office of public orator. The decay of rhetoric as a formal study at the universities set in during the 18th century. The function of the rhetoric lecturer passed over into that of correcting written themes; but his title remained long after his office had lost its primary meaning. If the theory of rhetoric fell into neglect,. the practice, however, was encouraged by the public exercises (" acts " and " opponencies ") in the schools. The college prizes for " declamations " served the same purpose. The fortunes of rhetoric in the modern world, as briefly sketched above, may suffice to suggest why few modern writers , of ability have given their attention to the subject. Modern Perhaps one of the most notable modern contributions writers on to the art is the collection of commonplaces framed (in Rhetoric. Latin) by Bacon, " to be so many spools from which the threads can be drawn out as occasion serves," a truly curious work of that acute and fertile mind. He called them " Antitheta." A specimen is subjoined:
End of Article: ARISTOTLE
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