Aristotle’s Rhetoric

Definition of rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Of the modes of persuasion some belong strictly to the art of rhetoric and some do not. The rhetorician finds the latter kind (viz. witnesses, contracts, and the like) ready to his hand. The former kind he must provide himself; and it has three divisions—(1) the speaker’s power of evincing a personal character which will make his speech credible (ethos ); (2) his power of stirring the emotions of his hearers (pathos ); (3) his power of proving a truth, or an apparent truth, by means of persuasive arguments (logos ). Hence rhetoric may be regarded as an offshoot of dialectic, and also of ethical (or political) studies. The persuasive arguments are (a) the example, corresponding to induction in dialectic; (b) the enthymeme, corresponding to the syllogism; (c) the apparent enthymeme, corresponding to the apparent syllogism. The enthymeme is a rhetorical syllogism, and the example a rhetorical induction. Rhetoric has regard to classes of men, not to individual men; its subjects, and the premisses from which it argues, are in the main such as present alternative possibilities in the sphere of human action; and it must adapt itself to an audience of untrained thinkers who cannot follow a long train of reasoning. The premisses from which enthymemes are formed are “probabilities” and “signs”; and signs are either fallible or infallible…. The lines of argument, or topics, which enthymemes follow may be distinguished as common (or, general) and special (i.e. special to a single study, such as natural science or ethics). The special lines should be used discreetly, if the rhetorician is not to find himself deserting his own field for another.     —Aristotle, On Rhetoric, Chapter 2


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