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Rhetoric translated by Joe Sachs

Book I

1 - It would be absurd to say that a man should be ashamed to be unable to defend himself with his body yet at the same time not say he should be ashamed of not being able to defend himself with speech and reason.

2 - Rhetoric is a capacity to see what is capable of being persuasive (theorein; contemplative thinking). It is not concerned with any particular subject. The means are those provided by the speaker, and not those available at the outset.

Aristotle makes an interesting point about epistemology here, that systematic knowledge about particular concretes is not possible because they are infinitely various (any concrete is completely individual and unique). Rhetoric, then, should involve types of men, not specific individual men.

3 -

Rhetoric is properly used for these reasons.

type: material, method, time

Advice: warning, blame, future
court: accusation, justice, past
display: praise, beauty, present

4 - Since rhetoric is a practical faculty about general subjects or reasoning, developing it further as a science would destroy its nature. That knowledge is required, but it is not itself part of rhetoric.

Advice is primarily political in this context. Someone giving advice should know about finances, war and peace, regarding territory, exports and imports, and lawmaking.

5 - The way Aristotle describes the constituents of happiness sounds like a Nietzschean sense of the constituents of nobility. In this context, this description explains why Nietzsche saw Greek culture as a culture of strength.

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8 - Understanding the customs of a country and the character of its government is important to understand how to make warnings about it. Emphasis on culture here because Aristotle is mostly referring to how people in that country think or hold different values.

9 - Much of what Aristotle says about desires have to do with common culture of Greece, particularly Athens. He is describing Greek culture, not making prescriptions.

10 - In the context of courts and why people commit injustice, Aristotle says that things like skin color and height have no fixed consequences. This would mean that these features have no legal consequence, although he might also mean that there is no consequence of these for who the person is in relation to justice.

12 - In terms of why people commit injustice, sometimes it is out of weakness, someone who knows what is right for the most part but fails to do the right thing, other times it is out of viciousness, where a person intends to do evil.

13 - Sometimes you can't know all the relevant details, or at least, you would take so long that he would be at a standstill in some cases. That's why at times we need to make a judgment in court in terms of decency rather than strictly justice. Decency sounds vague even in context, but the point is that with rhetoric you would want to consider external circumstances and how that person is generally.

15 - People will pay attention to ancient witnesses - people of posterity such as poets. Witnesses themselves are not the material of rhetoric, though.

The law is functional in a way that it serves a purpose for people using the law, so Aristotle treats arguing in a courtroom as a way to accomplish respect for the law but also serving natural law more importantly. This isn't fundamental to rhetoric though.

Book II

1 - Three things are responsible for a speaker to be believed: judgment, virtue, goodwill.

2 - Make people angry in order to present someone as guilty. In this context Aristotle is showing all the ways that people become angry. In this way, it's a Machiavellian analysis in terms of being forthright about how people actually are about influencing each other psychologically. Same with everything else in Rhetoric. 

3 - Leniency is granted when people are calmed. They won't judge as harshly.

Present people others are angry at as people to be feared, because people are not angry at those they fear - being angry is caused by feeling belittled or as less than, not fearful. It's not clear what this has to do with calming people, except perhaps to say that it's a way to change people from anger to some other kind of emotion.

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9 - Blocking a feeling can be done by promoting its opposite. Pity compared to righteous indignation.

What is long-standing appears to be close to what is natural, so this can promote certain feelings as well for what is deserved.

10 - Small-souled people are desirous of reputation for anything and are envious, since everything is great in comparison to themselves. These sound like people who operate on social metaphysics, second-handers in the extreme case. Psychologically, if everything is better and greater than yourself, having things with simply reputation is a useful illusion.

15 - Good birth results from the virtues of one's family, while nobility results from that virtue not degenerating. Those who are well-born are often second-rate people. They probably take for granted what made their family virtuous. Nobility, then, requires cultivation.

20 - There are 2 types of examples

-Describing things that have happened
-Inventing: fables, analogies

21 - There are 4 types of maxims.

a) the reason is not stated and already known
b) the reason is not stated and self-evident as soon as the maxim is stated
c) the reason is stated fully
d) the reason is incorporated into the maxim

Maxims are good for unsophisticated hearers because they like things stated in universal terms.

Edited by Eiuol
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22 - Enthymemes should not draw conclusions with all the steps, or going far back, because it is confusing for being too long, or it states the obvious. This is why less educated people tend to be more persuasive among crowds. Crowds like general arguments in universal terms. This suggests that enthymemes are meant to be condensed, they cannot be extensive syllogisms otherwise they fail their purpose. 

Effective speeches do not use generic information.

23 - Aristotle has a list of topics (generalizable points to argue from in similar form) for speeches just as he does in Topics for dialectic argument. Many of the topics are the same. 

Consider the time: "You would have done it before, so why not now?"

Turn things back to the one who sent them: "Not even you would do it, so why would I?"

Draw out a contradictory private view.

Refer to things that are supposed to happen and seem incredible. People don't believe what could not be true or likely, so the thing believed must be true. Or at least, Aristotle is pointing out that this is how people tend to think, so that noting the truth of apparently improbable things is important for difficult arguments.

Explain the reasons for false impressions.

24 - There are fallacious ways to make speeches, where the argument doesn't work.

Exaggerating a charge so that it seems worse is a way for them to make themselves look innocent by suggesting that of course they wouldn't do something so extreme. 

Leaving out the when and how. This is what happens when it is relevant to ask "who punched first" but no one asks. This is context dropping. 

Mixing up what is so simply, with a particular case. It's what happens when somebody says that something is not likely even though it did happen. The fact that it did happen basically means that it is likely. It is likely given the particular case with its context. Things are not simply likely or not, but in reference to circumstances. Necrovore does this in one post I've responded to.

Book III

1 - Rhetoric is relative to the listener. It should make something more clear. There is no special point here other than focusing on communication. Say what you mean, don't make it fancy. Being like a poet is not appropriate for speeches or everyday talking.

3 - Cold or ineffective wording happens in 4 ways:

Compounded words
Eccentric words
Frequent, long, or unseasonable epithets (most posts by dream_weaver)
Metaphors that are a big stretch

Edited by Eiuol
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6 - To make things weighty: use description instead of a word. Use metaphors.

9 - Periods are easier to understand because they are definite and easy to remember. They are definite because the ending can be anticipated. They are easy to remember because they are exact in number.

Long stretches leave people behind, in the sense of catching up with the reasoning.

Short stretches cause in the audience a sudden stop, a lurch, in the sense of getting ahead of the reasoning.

10 - Things should be put before the eyes of the audience; metaphors should be vivid, with powerful but appropriate words (not poetic) for speech. This is well-regarded. Words that bring learning easily are also well-regarded. Aristotle thinks that an audience wants the feeling of learning and that they find it pleasurable.

11 - Putting things before the eyes of the audience involves the following: signifying activity, active presence, not obvious, misdirection. These bring about the most learning according to Aristotle, thus they are especially pleasurable for the audience. Incidentally, these are features of making ideas memorable in visual terms with imagination. So pleasurable actually might be better thought of as memorable in this context.

12 - Don't use precise details for crowds.

When you want to emphasize importance, try not to use use conjunctions. Lack of conjunctions make something look like many rather than single, which then emphasizes importance because of the apparent volume of facts.

14 - Defendants should refute prejudice first before moving onto their argument for their own position. Accusers should attack at the end so that people remember the content better, and therefore more likely to take their position. 

Attention slackens everywhere except the beginning, where people are already choosing to listen. Explicit indication to pay attention at specific points is useful. 

15 - When confronting allegations, you can use the following topics, suggesting that something:

is not the case
was not harmful
was not done to that person
is not an injustice
is no big deal

16 - Narrative is only needed to remind people of well-known actions in the case of speeches of display. They do not need to give every detail, unless the detail really emphasizes the person's character.

Don't narrate everything at once. You can alternate between narrative and virtue for example, such as narrating an admirable action from battle, explaining how the action is courageous, then going on to narrate more of the battle, and then explaining another virtual.

17 - Combat what is well received first, then present your case.

If the other position has more to it, or is more well-regarded, refutation should come first. The point of all this is to give oneself high regard from the audience. Refutation will accomplish inspiring confidence in what you set yourself.

19 - "I've spoken; you've listened; you have it; you judge."

Aristotle usually ends his works with a summary, often saying that he has stated things and that you need to judge the worth of what he said. Clearly he wanted to convey this with the tools of rhetoric.

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Poetics translated by Joe Sachs

This book is about tragedy for the most part, and explains what produces various emotional effects through different means of the poetic arts. I see this book as a counterpart to Rhetoric, because it involves bringing out particular thoughts and feelings in a viewer.

3 - Imitation involves: in which (the medium), what (what is portrayed), how (the technique)

4 - Imitation is natural as a first act of understanding. It is a way to understand what is true, in the sense of imitating reality or imitating the nature of how reality operates.

5 - Comedy is imitation of lower people with respect to ridiculousness as part of the ugly. The ridiculous is painless and not destructive, but it is deformed. 

6 - Tragedy is imitation of serious actions accomplished through pity and fear, and the cleansing of those feelings (catharsis).

It is the imitation of life and action.

7 - The entire tragedy should be able to be seen as a whole and easily held in memory. 

11 - There are 2 aspects that make for a complex tragedy:
Reversal of expectation
Discovery - through recognition, through random things, or through action

Discovery through a reversal is best and brings the most pleasure.

13 - The character should go from good to bad fortune through missing the mark. They should mean to do well and be thought to have done the best they could have, but also be responsible for the outcome.

16 - Discovery is brought about by: signs, fabrications, memory, or reason. Fabrications are elements created by the poet, and tend to be arbitrary constructions just for effect. Memory is recollection by the character. Reason is a figuring out by the character.

19 - The art in tragedy is in the action, not the words.

23 - Narrative should not be made like histories, which are displays of time. Histories also involve many events that happen at the same time, and that happen for many different reasons and many different ends. A narrative should be able to be portrayed as a complete whole.

24 - Saying what is false is sometimes necessary. Saying what doesn't necessarily follow as if it necessarily follows is sometimes necessary. These are necessary sometimes for pleasurable effects or for producing wonder.

Likely but impossible is preferable to unbelievable but possible. This produces a sense of wonder, a paradoxical feeling, that is pleasurable.

25 - A poet can fail by either failing to reach the end of their art, or by choosing actions incorrectly (like a sci-fi movie getting physics wrong).

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