Online Encyclopedia

RHETORIC (Gr. psroperctj TEXvq, the a...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 235 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
RHETORIC (Gr. psroperctj TEXvq, the art of the orator), the art of using language in such a way as to produce a desired impression upon the hearer or reader. The object is strictly persuasion rather than intellectual approval or conviction; hence the term, with its adjective " rhetorical, is commonly used for a speech or writing in which matter is subservient to form or display. So in grammar, a" rhetorical question " is one which is asked not for the purpose of obtaining an answer, but simply for dramatic effect. The power of eloquent speech is recognized in the earliest extant writings. Homer describes Achilles as a " speaker of words, as well as a doer of deeds ": Nestor, Menelaus and Odysseus are all orators as well as states-men and soldiers. Again the brilliant eloquence of Pericles is the theme of Aristophanes and Eupolis. Naturally the influence wielded by the great orators led to an investigation of the characteristics of successful rhetoric, and especially from the time of Aristotle the technique of the art ranked among the recognized branches of learning. A lost work of Aristotle is quoted by Diogenes Laertius (viii. S7) as saying that Empedocles " invented " (EUpeiv) rhetoric; Zeno, dialectic (i.e. logic, the art of making a logical argument, apart from the style). This is certainly not to be understood as meaning that Empedocles composed the first " art " of rhetoric. It is rather to be explained by Aristotle's own remark, cited by Laertius from another lost treatise, that Empedocles was " a master of expression and skilled in the use of metaphor "—qualities which may have found scope in his political oratory, when, after the fall of Thrasydaeus in 472 B.c:; he opposed the restoration of a tyranny at Agrigentum. The founder of rhetoric as an art was Corax of Syracuse Early (c. 466 B.C.). In 466 a democracy was established Greek in Syracuse. One of the immediate consequences rhetoric was a mass of litigation on claims to property, urged —Gorax. by democratic exiles who had been dispossessed by Thrasybulus, Hiero or Gelo. Such claims, going many years back, would often require that a complicated series of details should be stated and arranged. It would also, in many instances,' lack documentary support, and rely chiefly on inferential reasoning. Hence the need of professional advice. The facts known as to the " art " of Corax perfectly agree with these conditions. He gave rules for arrangement, dividing the speech into five parts,—proem, narrative, arguments (&ywves), subsidiary remarks (irap4avns) and peroration. Next he illustrated the topic of general probability (EIKOS), The showing its two-edged use: e.g., if a puny man is topic accused of assaulting a stronger, he can say, " Is it of€LK6s. likely that I should have attacked him?" If vice versa, the strong man can argue, " Is it likely that I should have committed an assault where the presumption was sure to be against me?" This topic of EIKOS, in its manifold forms, was in fact the great weapon of the earliest Greek rhetoric. It was further developed by Tisias, the pupil of Corax, as we see from Plato's Phaedrus, in an " art " of rhetoric Tisias. which antiquity possessed, but of which we know little else. Aristotle gives the eIKOS a place among the topics of the fallacious enthymeme which he enumerates in Rhet. ii. 24, remarking that it was the very essence of the treatise of Corax; he points out the fallacy of omitting to distinguish between abstract and particular probability, quoting the verses of Agatho,—" Perhaps one might call this very thing a probability, that many improbable things will happen to men." Gorgias (q.v.) Gorgfas. of Leontini captivated the Athenians in 427 B.C. by his oratory (Diod. xii. 53), which, so far as we can judge, was characterized by florid antithesis, expressed in short jerky sentences. But he has no definite place in the development of rhetoric as a system. It is doubtful whether he left a written " art "; and his mode of teaching was based on learning prepared passages by heart,—diction (Xi ts), not invention or arrangement, being his great object. The first extant Greek author who combined the theory with the practice of rhetoric is the Athenian Antiphon (q.v.), the first of the Attic orators, and the earliest representative Aatl- at Athens of a new profession created by the new phon. art of rhetoric—that of the Ao'Y os, the writer of M'Pa~ forensic speeches for other men to speak in court. His speeches show the art of rhetoric in its transition from the technical to the practical stage, from the school to the law court and the assembly. The organic lines of the rhetorical pleader's thought stand out in bold relief, and we are enabled to form a clear notion of the logographer's method. We find a striking illustration of the fact that the topic of " probability " is the staple of this early forensic rhetoric. Viewed generally, the works of Antiphon are of great interest for the history of Attic prose, as marking how far it had then been influenced by a theory of style. The movement of Antiphon's prose has a certain grave dignity, " impressing by its weight and grandeur," as a Greek critic in the Augustan age says, " not charming by its life and flow." Verbal antithesis is used, not in a diffuse or florid way, but with a certain sledge-hammer force, as sometimes in the speeches of Thucydides. The imagery, too, though bold, is not florid. The structure of the periods is still crude; and the general effect of the whole, though often powerful and impressive, is somewhat rigid. Antiphon represents what was afterwards named the " austere " or " rugged " style (auorripa apuovia), Lysias was the model of an artistic and versatile simplicity. But while Antiphon has a place in the history of rhetoric as an art, Lysias, with his more attractive gifts, belongs only to the history of oratory. Ancient writers quote an " art " of rhetoric by Isocrates, but its authenticity was questioned. It is certain, however, that Isocrates taught the art as such. He is said to have Isocrates. defined rhetoric " as the science of persuasion " (Sext. Empir. Adv. Mathem.ii. § 62, p. 301 seq.). Many of his particular precepts, both on arrangement and on diction, are cited, but they do not give a complete view of his method. The 4xXo ro¢fa (" theory of culture ") which Isocrates expounds in his discourses Against the Sophists and on the Antidosis, was in fact rhetoric applied to politics. First came technical expositions : the pupil was introduced to all the artificial resources which prose composition employs (sets i5Eas as-6(ms air o X6yos TuyXavei Xpwµevos, Antid. § 183). The same term (i5Eat) is also used by Isocrates in a narrower sense, with reference to the " figures " of rhetoric, properly called crxilµaTa (Panath. § 2); sometimes, again, in a sense still more general, to the several branches or styles of literary composition (Antid. § R1). When the technical elements of the subject had been learned, the pupil was required to apply abstract rules in actual composition, and his essay was revised by the master. Isocrates was unquestionably successful in forming speakers and writers. His school was famous during a period of some fifty years (390 to 340 B.C.). Among the statesmen whom it trained were Timotheus, Leodamas of Acharnae, Lycurgus and Hyperides; among the philosophers or rhetoricians were Speusippus, Plato's successor in the Academy, and Isaeus; among the historians, Ephorus and Theopompus. Cicero and through him all subsequent oratory owed much to the ample prose of the Isocratean school. In the person of Isocrates the art of rhetoric is thus thoroughly established, not merely as a technical method, but also as a practical discipline of life. If Plato's mildly ironical reference in the Euthydemus to a critic "on the borderland between philosophy and statesmanship " was meant, as is probable, for Isocrates, at least there was a wide difference between the measure of acceptance accorded to the earlier Sophists, such as Protagoras, and the influence which the school of Isocrates exerted through the men whom it had trained. Rhetoric had won its place ineducation. It kept that place through varying fortunes to the fall of the Roman empire, and resumed it, for a while, at the revival of learning. Plato in the Gorgias and the Phaedrus satirized the ordinary textbooks of rhetoric, and himself gave directions for a higher standard of work; but the detailed study of the art Arts- begins with Aristotle. Aristotle's Rhetoric belongs to toile's the generation after Isocrates, having been composed "Rhe. (but see ARISTOTLE) between 330 and 322 B.C. As ton ~~ controversial allusions sometimes hint it holds Isocrates for one of the foremost exponents of the subject. From a purely literary point of view Aristotle's Rhetoric (with the partial exception of book iii.) is one of the driest works in the world. From the historical or scientific point of view it is one of the most interesting. If we would seize the true significance of the treatise it is better to compare rhetoric with grammar than with its obvious analogue, logic. A method of grammar was the conception of the Alexandrian age, which had lying before it the standard masterpieces of Greek literature, and deduced the " rules " of grammar from the actual practice of the best writers. Aristotle in the latter years of the 4th century B.C. held the same position relatively to the monuments of Greek oratory which the Alexandrian methodizers of grammar held relatively to Greek literature at large. Abundant material lay before him, illustrating how speakers had been able to persuade the reason or to move the feelings. He therefore sought thence to deduce rules and so construct a true art. Aristotle's practical purpose was undoubtedly real. If we are to make persuasive speakers, he believed, this is the only sound way to set about it. But the enduring interest of his Rhetoric is mainly retrospective. It attracts us as a feat in analysis by an acute mind—a feat highly characteristic of that mind itself, and at the same time strikingly illustrative of the field over which the materials have been gathered. The Rhetoric is divided into three books. It deals in great detail with the minutiae of the rhetorical craft. Book i. discusses the nature and object of rhetoric. The means of persuasion (rriorets) are classified into " inartificial " (tirexvoc), i.e. the facts of the case external to the art, documents, laws, depositions,—and " artificial " (4vrexvoi), the latter subdivided into logical (the popular syllogism or " enthymeme," the " example," &c.), ethical, and emotional. Aristotle next deals with the " topics " (TOrroc), i.e. the commonplaces of rhetoric, general or particular arguments which the rhetorician must have ready for immediate use. Rhetoric is then broadly divided into •—(1) deliberative (uv ovXevrLKi), concerned with exhortation or dissuasion, and with future time, its end (r Xos) being the advantage or detriment of the persons addressed; (2) forensic (&Kavuoi), concerned with accusation and defence, and with time past, its standard being justice; (3) epideictic, the ornamental rhetoric of display, concerned with praise and blame, usually with the present time, its standard being honour and shame. Each of these kinds is discussed, and the book ends with a brief analysis of the " inartificial proofs." In book ii. Aristotle returns to the " artificial " proofs—those which rhetoric itself provides. The " logical" proof having been discussed in book i., he turns to the " ethical." He shows how the speaker may so indicate his own character and the goodness of his motive as to prepossess the audience in his favour, and proceeds to furnish materials to this end. The " emotional " proof is then discussed, and an analysis is given of the emotions on which the speaker may play. A consideration follows of the " universal commonplaces (Kou'oi Term) which are suitable to all subjects. The book ends with an appendix dealing with the " example " (rrap6Sevypa), the general moral sentiments (7k-Spat) and the enthymeme. In book iii. Aristotle considers expression (MMErs), including the art of delivery (urrbKpeots), and arrangement (rat&s). Composition, the use of prose rhythm, the periodic style (the "periodic style, Kasarspa(iji vrt, being contrasted with the " running (apostles)) are all analysed, and the types of style literary (ypadiuo) and oral (&ywwrc,o) are differentiated. Under " arrangement " he concludes with the parts of a speech, proem, narrative, proofs and epilogue. It is necessary briefly to consider Aristotle's general view of rhetoric as set forth in book i. Rhetoric is properly an art. This is the proposition from which Aristotle sets out. It is so because when a speaker persuades, it is possible to find out why he succeeds in doing so. Rhetoric is, in fact, the popular branch of logic. Hitherto, Aristotle says, the essence of rhetoric has been neglected for the accidents. Writers on rhetoric have hitherto concerned themselves mainly with " the exciting of prejudice, of pity, of anger, and such-like emotions of the soul." All this is very well, but " it has nothing to do with the matter in hand; it has regard to the judge." The true aim should be to prove your point, or seem to prove it. Here we may interpolate a comment which has a general bearing on Aristotle's Rhetoric. It is quite true that, if we start from the conception of rhetoric as a branch of logic, the phantom of logic in rhetoric claims precedence over appeals to passion. But Aristotle does not sufficiently regard the question—What, as a matter of experience, is most persuasive? Logic may be more persuasive with the more select hearers of rhetoric; but rhetoric is for the many, and with the many appeals to passion will sometimes, perhaps usually, be more effective than syllogism. No formulation of rhetoric can correspond with fact which does not leave it absolutely to the genius of the speaker whether reasoning (or its phantom) is to be what Aristotle calls it, the " body of proof " (ewµa 7rlQTEWS), or whether the stress of persuading effort should not be rather addressed to the emotions of the hearers. But we can entirely agree with Aristotle in his next remark, which is historical in its nature. The deliberative branch of rhetoric had hitherto been postponed, he observes, to the forensic. We have, in fact, already seen that the very origin of rhetoric in Hellas was forensic. The relative subordination of deliberative rhetoric, however unscientific, had thus been human. Aristotle's next statement, that the master of logic will be the master of rhetoric, is a truism if we concede the essential primacy of the logical element in rhetoric. Otherwise it is a paradox; and it is not in accord with experience, which teaches that speakers incapable of showing even the ghost of an argument have sometimes been the most completely successful in carrying great audiences along with them. Aristotle never assumes that the hearers of his rhetorician are as of xaptevres, the cultivated few; on the other hand, he is apt to assume tacitly—and here his individual bent comes out—that these hearers are not the great surging crowd, the 6XXos, but a body of persons with a decided, though imperfectly developed, preference for sound logic. What is the use of an art of rhetoric? It is fourfold, Aristotle replies. Rhetoric is useful, first of all, because truth and justice uses of are naturally stronger than their opposites. When rhetoric. awards are not duly given, truth and justice must have been worsted by their own fault. This is worth correcting. Rhetoric is then (I) corrective. Next, it is (2) instructive, as a popular vehicle of persuasion for persons who could not be reached by the severer methods of strict logic. Then it is (3) suggestive. Logic and rhetoric are the two impartial arts; that is to say, it is a matter of indifference to them, as arts, whether the conclusion which they draw in any given case is affirmative or negative. Suppose that I am going to plead a cause, and have a sincere conviction that I am on the right side. The art of rhetoric will suggest to me what might be urged on the other side; and this will give me a stronger grasp of the whole situation. Lastly, rhetoric is (4) defensive. Mental effort is more distinctive of man than bodily effort; and " it would be absurd that, while incapacity for physical self-defence is a reproach, incapacity for mental defence should be no reproach." Rhetoric, then, is corrective, instructive, suggestive, defensive. But what if it be urged that this art may be abused? The objection, Aristotle answers, applies to all good things, except virtue, and especially to the most useful things. Men may abuse strength, health, wealth, generalship. The function of the medical art is not necessarily to cure, but to make such progress towards a cure as each case may admit. Similarly it would be inaccurate to say that Rhetoric the function of rhetoric was to persuade. Rather defined. must rhetoric be defined as " the faculty of discerning in every case the available means of persuasion." Suppose that among these means of persuasion is some process of reasoning which the rhetorician himself knows to be unsound. That belongs to the province of rhetoric all the same. In relation to logic, a man is called a " sophist " with regard to his moral purpose (wpoaipecns), i.e. if he knowingly used a fallacious syllogism. But rhetoric takes no account of the moral purpose. It takes account simply of the faculty (abeaµts)—the faculty of discovering any means of persuasion.235 Aristotle's Rhetoric is incomparably the most scientific work which exists on the subject. It may also be regarded as having determined the main lines on which the subject was The treated by nearly all subsequent writers. The extant treatise on rhetoric (also by Aristotle?) entitled 'I'nropuu) ,rpos 'AAEtavbpee, formerly ascribed to Anaximenes of Lampsacus, was written at latest by 340 B.C. The introductory letter prefixed to it is probably a late forgery. Its relation towards Aristotle's Rhetoric is discussed in the article on
End of Article: RHETORIC (Gr. psroperctj TEXvq, the art of the orator)
RHETICUS, or RRAETICUS (1514-1576)
RHEUMATISM (from Gr. /56µa, flux)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.