Thursday, October 20, 2011

James Herrick, The History and Theory of Rhetoric

James Herrick, The History and Theory of Rhetoric, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1997.

Aristotle… emphasized a type of argument he called the enthymeme. Though scholars differ on exactly how Aristotle defined an enthymeme most will agree that it is an argument built from values, beliefs, or knowledge held in common by a speaker and an audience. In fact, Aristotle went so far as to claim that the art of rhetoric’s central concern was the enthymeme. Perhaps this was because persuasion—for Aristotle, the principle goal of rhetoric—depends on commonality between a rhetor and an audience. (9)

…in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. As historian of rhetoric John Poulakos writes, “when the Sophists appeared on the horizon of the Hellenic city-states, they found themselves in the midst of an enormous cultural change: from aristocracy to democracy.” [32] … With democratic reforms, the political life of the polis came to be managed by oratory and debate. (32-33)

An Athenian trial consisted of two speeches—one of prosecution, the other of defense—and the jury of several hundred members did not deliberate but simply voted. Testimonial evidence had to be filed with the court preceding the trial, and was simply read aloud to a gathered citizen-jury during the trial itself. … The presiding judge’s role was more that of a master of ceremonies and timekeeper than a legal expert. There were no attorneys in the modern sense of the term. … Beginning around 430 B.C. speechwriters, or logographers like the Sophist Antiphon, could be hired to write a courtroom speech… (34)

The Sophists were active in Athens and other Greek city-states from about the middle of the fifth century B.C. until the end of the fourth century. Though there never were many Sophists active at any given time, they exercised influence on the development of rhetoric and even the course of Western culture vastly out of proportion with their numbers. (35)

Plato’s influence on fourth-century Athenian culture was relatively slight, whereas oratory was central to the lives of most Athenian citizens, who regularly attended meetings of the courts or the Assembly in some capacity, even if they did not actively engage in legal or political affairs. (35)

Sophists… were also iconoclasts who questioned assumptions at the very foundation of Greek society. Sophists loved to experiment with arguments… the more shocking the better. (36)

Still, to the average Athenian some of the leading Sophists appeared to be eccentrics wrapped up in more or less irrelevant intellectual pursuits. Thus, in his famous play Clouds Aristophanes mocks the Sophists… Interestingly, the great playwright treats Socrates himself as a Sophist, though the philosopher neither presented speeches nor taught rhetoric. (36)

In the dialectical method, speeches and arguments started from statements termed endoxa, or premises that were widely believed or taken to be highly probable. For example… It is better to possess much virtue than much money… One student would develop an argument based on this claim. Another student would then challenge the argument on the basis of other widely accepted notions… The dialectical method was employed in part because the Sophists accepted the notion of dissoi logoi, or contradictory arguments. That is, Sophists believed that strong arguments could be produced for or against any claim. (37)

…epideixis, a word describing a speech prepared for a formal occasion. (37)

…we should note that Western culture has come closer to following the argumentative model set out by Sophists like Protagoras and Gorgias in the actual conduct of its affairs than that suggested by Plato of seeking truth by means of philosophical inquiry. (38)

Athenians in particular were suspicious of foreigners claiming to possess knowledge or skills that superior to those of the Athenians themselves. / The fact that they were form outside the Hellenic world and their habit of travel created a third concern about Sophists for many Greeks. The Sophists had, as the saying goes, been around, and in their travels they noted that people believe rather different things in different places. Their cultural relativism contributed directly to another reason many in Greece were suspicious of these professional pleaders and teachers of rhetoric. The Sophists, not surprisingly, developed a view of truth as relative to places and cultures. (39)

According to Sophists like Gorgias and Protagoras, truth was not to be found in transcendent sources such as gods or a Platonic realm of universal forms. Rather, Sophists believed that truth emerged form a clash of arguments. Plato repudiated such a view of truth, arguing that it was highly dangerous. In fact, the Sophists’ philosophy was even more radical than their moral relativism would suggest. John Poulakos affirms that the Sophists believed “the world could always be recreated linguistically.” That is, reality itself is a linguistic construction rather than an objective fact. … James Murphy and Richard Katula write that “knowledge was subjective and everything is precisely what the individual believes it to be.” This meant that “each of us, not necessarily human beings in the collective, decides what something means to us.” (40)

Gorgias: famous for: 1. Nothing exists. 2. If anything did exist, we could not know it. 3. If we could knot that something existed, we would not be able to communicate it to anyone else. (41)

Gorgias also adhered to a philosophy of language and knowledge that suggested that the only “reality” we have access to “lies in the human psyche, and its malleability and susceptibility” to linguistic manipulation. (Bruce E. Gronbeck, “Gorgias on Rhetoric and Poetic: A Rehabilitation,” Southern Speech Communication Journal 38 (Fall 1972): 27-38). (41)

Gorgias’s interest in the persuasive power of language drew his attention in particular to the sounds of words. … If words do not represent an external reality, then their importance is as a means of shaping a verbal reality in human thought. … florid rhyming style that strikes most modern readers as overdone. But remember, what he is after is a magical incantation to virtually hypnotize his audience, not a tight, logical proof appealing to reason. (42)

As poetry was considered in Greek lore to be of divine origin, the relationship between beautiful words and supernatural power was a more natural one for Gorgias than it is for modern readers. Gorgias believed that words worked their magic most powerfully by arousing human emotions such as fear, pity, and longing. [as opposed to working most powerfully by appeal to aesthetics of music, architecture, etc.] (42)

Gorgias’s interest in antithesis extended beyond his concern for style. Like some of the other Sophists, he held that two antithetical statements can be made on each subject, and that truth emerged from the clash of fundamentally opposed positions. The ides that truth is a product of the clash of views was, as we have seen closely related to the concept of kairos, the belief that truth is relative to circumstances. This view also reflects the Sophists’ commitment to aporia, the effort to place a claim in doubt. Once clouded in doubt, the orator’s goal was to demonstrate that one resolution of the issue was more likely than another. (43)

As we have noted, Sophists were considered less than upright citizens by many Greeks. Nevertheless, some of them had connections with very powerful people in Athens. Protagoras, for instance, was close to Pericles… (44)

Isocrates… was only ten years older than Plato… Both men studied under Socrates, and both claimed him as their model. (45)

Isocrates’ teaching was not aimed at creating clever and entertaining speakers, but rather at improving the political practices of Athens. … Isocrates also insisted on high moral character in students. This concern for ethos, or the speaker’s character, set Isocrates apart form the Sophists whose orientation was decidedly more practical. (45-6)

Heuristic: Discourse’s capacity for discovery, whether of facts, insights, or even of self-awareness. (51)

Kairos: Rhetoric’s search for relative truth rather than absolute certainty; a consideration of opposite points of view, as well as attention to such factors as time and circumstances. An opportune moment or situation. (51)

Plato… attacked the sophistic practice of rhetoric in his dialogue called Phaedrus. Sophists and their philosophy are also mentioned in Plato’s dialogues Sophist and Protagoras. (54)

The Sophists’ rhetoric, according to Plato, aimed only at persuasion about justice through the manipulation of public opinion (doxa), whereas an adequate view of justice must be grounded in true knowledge (episteme) (55)

In the course of his conversation with Gorgias, Socrates has made the surprising assertion that one who truly understands justice could never choose to do injustice. This is because to understand justice is to love it, and at the same time to recognize just how repulsive injustice is. (57)

Has Plato been fair to rhetoric and the Sophists in Gorgias? Some historians of rhetoric, like Brian Vickers, think not. Vickers notes, for instance, that though Socrates says he rejects the rhetorical way of arguing based on probabilities, witnesses, beliefs, and even ridicule, he engages in these tactic when they serve his ends. Similarly, Richard Leo Enos writes that Plato’s case in Gorgias should be viewed as “rhetorical argument of the kind associated with sophistic rhetoric.” … Enos finds the portrayal of Gorgias himself so exaggerated as to be unrecognizable. “The biased characterization of Gorgias of Leontini in Plato’s famous dialogue,” writes Enos, “was a gross misrepresentation…” (62)

Cicero… “What most surprised me about Plato in that work was that it seemed to me that as he was in the process of ridiculing rhetors he himself appeared to be the foremost rehtor.” (63)

The Sophists in Gorgias hold that rhetoric creates truth that is useful for the moment out of doxa, or the opinions of the people, through the process of argument and counterargument. … In some respects, then, Plato’s argument against rhetoric extends to any aspect of democracy (rule by the demos) (63)

If deliberative oratory dealt with questions of expedience [allocation of resources, gov’t], and forensic oratory with justice, ceremonial or epideictic oratory, then, dealt with virtue and vice. This kind of speaking played a more important role in Athens than might be immediately apparent, for it provided opportunities to reinforce important values having to do with right behavior, or to uphold virtues such as courage, honor, or honesty… Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech can be seen as an example of epideictic oratory in which King upholds the values of justice, harmony, and peace. (81)

…when a lawyer makes a case in court, the focus is not on the future, but rather on questions of past fact such as “what was done?” and “who did it?” … Forensic oratory reconstructs the past, rather than arguing about the future good of the city-state. (82)

Emotions, as Aristotle views them, are not irrational impediments to decision making. Rather, they are rational responses to certain kinds of circumstances and arguments. … “it was Aristotle’s contribution to offer a very different view of emotion, so that emotional appeal would no longer be viewed as an extra-rational enchantment.” (84)

He also notes casual fallacies such as the post hoc fallacy. This fallacy suggests that because one event followed another, the former caused the latter. (87)

Above all, a speaker must be clear. “Clearness is secured,” writes Aristotle, “by using words (nouns and verbs alike) that are current and ordinary” (1404b). Thus, a speaker must have a good ear for everyday spoken language. The effective orator should not use so many artistic devices in speaking that the speech takes on an artificial feeling, for “naturalness is persuasive.” It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Aristotle’s advice on style is in many ways a reaction against the highly stylized speaking of the Sophists. (87)

Dialectic: A method of reasoning form common opinions, directed by established principles of reasoning to probable conclusions. A logical method of debating issues of general interest, starting from widely accepted propositions. (90)

Accounts of Roman orators slapping their thighs, stamping their feet, and even ripping open their togas to reveal war wounds suggests that delivery in Rome was quite a different matter form the stolid “talking-head” approach to speaking characteristic of contemporary politicians. (98)

Judicial arguments were often arranged under two headings discussed in Cicero’s De Inventione. The first of these is called “attributes of the person,” while the second is termed “attributes of the act. … in a culture in which personal character was elevated, questions surrounding the accused person’s reputation had to be addressed. Such questions, for the Roman courtroom pleader, included “such straightforward matters as the person’s name, nature, manner of life, and the like.” Cicero writes, “we hold the following to be the attributes of the person: name, nature, manner of life, fortune, habit, feeling, interests, purposes, achievements, accidents, speeches made.” Under these divisions a judicial pleader might consider some issues that modern readers would likely find irrelevant to courtroom pleading. For example, the accused’s place of birth and nationality (nature), or even manner in which he or she was reared (manner of life) might be developed into an argument for accusation of defense. (100)

An individual’s moral character does not emerge from the words of a speech, as Aristotle suggested in making ethos a technical proof in rhetoric. This earlier Greek view suggested that moral character could be studied and used persuasively by the orator. Rather, in keeping with Roman thinking on the subject, character was a natural trait of an individual that gradually revealed itself through the course of a life. James May writes, “The Roman view is succinctly… expressed by Cicero in De Oratore: “Feelings are won over by a man’s dignity (dignitas), achievements (res gestae), and reputation (existimatio).’ Aristotle’s conception of personal character portrayed through the medium of a speech was, for the Roman orator, neither acceptable nor adequate.” (102)

In De Oratore, Cicero blames Plato for separating wisdom and eloquence in the philosopher’s famous attack on the Sophists in Gorgias. “Socrates,” writes Moroever, “this is the source form which has sprung the undoubtedly absurd and unprofitable and reprehensible severance between the tongue and the brain, leading us to have one set of professors to teach us to think and another to teach us to speak.” Cicero sought to reunite “the tongue and the brain,” and in the process to produce great speakers who also were great thinkers. [un-American] (103)

Restricting access to rhetorical training to the select few who possessed particular traits of character and a particular moral perspective (and, we might add, certain political views), Quintillian… (108)

Quintilian taught his students to think of judicial speeches—the type with which he was most concerned—as divided into five parts, … The first part, the exordium, was an introduction designed to dispose the audience to listen to the speech. The second part, the narratio, was a statement of the facts essential to understanding the case, and intended to reveal the essential nature of the subject about which they were to render a decision. / The third part of the judicial speech was the proof or confirmatio, which was a section designed to offer evidences in support of claims advanced during the narratio. Fourth came the confutatio, or the refutation, in which couterarguments were answered. Finally the peroratio or conclusion was presented, a section in which the orator demonstrated again the full strength of the case presented. (110)

Not surprisingly, as the power of the emperors increased over against that of the Senate, the importance of rhetoric as a means of shaping policy declined. (114)

Delectare: To delight; one of Cicero’s three functions or goals of rhetoric. (117)

Docere: To teach; one of Cicero’s three functions or goals of rhetoric. (117)

Movere: To persuade or move an audience’s emotions; one of Cicero’s three functions or goals of rhetoric. (118)

Kathleen Welch writes that “it is interesting to note that On Invention was the only text of Cicero available to most of the medieval period and therefore was frequently cited during this period.” Thus, two works—De Inventione and Rhetorica ad Herennium—were “the major works of Latin antiquity for Middle Ages.” (123)

As educational practices developed over the long course of the Middle Ages, an intellectual movements known as Scholasticism became dominant in parts of Europe. Scholasticism was a closed and authoritarian approach to education centered on a disputation over a fixed body of premises derived largely from the teachings of Aristotle. Scholasticism developed around the medieval tendency to treat ancient sources—both the Bible and certain texts of classical antiquity—as authoritative. So strong was this tendency that individual sentences from a respected source, even when taken our of context, could be employed to secure a point in debate. These isolated statements form ancient sources were called sententiae. Some authors collected large numbers of sententiae into anthologies for educational and disputational purposes. Disputes centered on debatable points suggested by one or more sententiae, these debatable notions being called quaestiones. (124)

…the writer who initially translated classical rhetoric into the language of the Church, Augustine of Hippo … was sent to the great Roman port of Carthage to study rhetoric as a teenage, but fell victim to the temptations of the city. He fathered a child by his mistress before he was eighteen. … The rhetoric Augustine taught was based on works by Cicero [125] … Augustine lived, believed, and taught much like a Sophist of the fifth century B.C. in Athens. Moreover, when he attacks rhetoric, as he does at points in his Confessions, it is a sophistical model of rhetoric he has in mind. “Augustine never abandons rhetoric qua rhetoric in practice,” writes Troup, “but rejects only the abuses of the Second Sophistic.” As we shall see, Augustine thought much in the rhetorical tradition was useful in the Christian church … (126)

Thus, rhetoric posed Augustine a second dilemma: It was useful, even vital to confuting the heretics and teaching his own congregation, but it was also suspect and potential dangerous art. Augustine resolved his dilemma by reasoning that rhetoric should not be at the disposal only of the unbelieving. Moreover, the Bible itself was a model of eloquence for the Christian. He treats these problems in his most important work on rhetoric, De Doctrina Christiana. (127-8)

Christians needed training in reading the Bible, and even in defending it, if the Christian gospel was to be preserved and propagated. “The De Doctrina was written for clergy and highly educated members of the laity,” writes Johnson, “to help them in their efforts to read the Bible and to give them advice about how to go about sharing what they had learned with fellow Christans who were less educated than themselves.” (128)

*** In De Doctrina Augustine sets out a sophisticated theory of the relationship between words or “signs,” and the things they represent. In Book II Augustine divides the world into the broad categories: things, and signs pointing to things. Words are one set of signs, but Augustine also held that the world itself could be understood as a system of signs pointing people to God. Human beings themselves, in fact, are a kind of symbol in that they are created in the image of God. The whole world of physical things, the, is to be used to return us to God, not to be enjoyed for its own sake. /
This distinction between the sign and the thing signified helps the Christian preacher discern two different kinds of meanings in objects encountered in scripture. For example, a rock or a tree in a biblical story are physical objects, signified by the words rock and tree. However, the rock or the tree may also themselves be signs with their own spiritual meaning. The rock may refer to Christ, as St. Paul suggested that a rock in one Mosaic story did. The tree may represent everlasting life. (129)

Martianus Capella… A lawyer with a strong interest in mysticism and little regard for Christianity, Capella lived in Carthage … best known for a single work, broken into several books, that presented in prose and poetry the seven liberal arts. It is difficult to overestimate the influence of his work, The Marriage of Philology and Mercury (A.D. 429), which included his Book of Rhetoric. One scholar has called The Marriage of Philology and Mercury “the most successful textbook ever written,” and it certainly was one of the most widely used books in medieval schools. In his strange, massive, and thoroughly pagan book, Capella imagines a wedding in which the god Mercury gives his bride a gift of the seven liberal arts constituting the core of the medieval curriculum. These seven are grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and harmonics. … Capella represented rhetoric as a heavily armed woman, a tradition that continued throughout the Middle Ages. (130)

Typical of the preaching manuals of the late Middle Ages is Robert of Basevorn’s Forma Praedicandi (The Form of Preaching). … Robert turns to a discussion of the method of preaching by developing themes. Interestingly, themes ought to “contain not more than three statements or convertible to three.” He is insistent on this point, devoting an entire chapter, Chapter XIX, to the discussion of divisibility by three. “No matter how many statements there may be, as long as I can divide them into three, I have a sufficient proposition.” This notion that sermons ought to be divisible into three sections persists in preaching to this day. (133)

According to the treatises on letter writing, a letter should be divided into five parts. George Kennedy explains that the “standard five-part epistolary structure” is reminiscent of typical Roman divisions of a speech: “The salutatio, or greeting; the captatio benevoluntatiae, or exordium, which secured the goodwill of the recipient; the narratio (the body of the letter setting out the details of the problem to be addressed); the petitio, or specific request, demand, or announcement; and a relatively simple conclusio.” Of these parts, the salutio received a disproportionate amount of attention, probably because establishing the correct relationship between yourself and… (135)

Praedicandi (Ars) The art of preaching; one of three medieval rhetorical arts. (143)

Great French scholar Peter Ramus (1515-1572)… Ramus vehemently opposed scholasticism, proposing an alternative approach to learning that did not make reference to authorities such as Aristotle or Cicero at all. As Peter Mack writes, the iconoclastic Ramus “built his academic career on scandalous attacks on the academics gods of his time: Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian.” He was skeptical about the value of Aristotle’s and Cicero’s treatment of rhetoric, calling the former “the man chiefly responsible for confusing the arts of rhetoric and dialectic,” and the latter “verbose” and “unable to restrain and check himself” when making a speech. /
Though he owed much to Quintilian, the great Roman teacher also became Ramus’ target in an angry attack entitled, Arguments in Rhetoric against Quintiliam (1549). Ramus rejected Quintilian’s famous conception of the perfect orator as a virtuous as well as an eloquent person, summed up in the Latin phrase Vir bonus beni dicendi (“The good man speaking well”). Such a view, which ignored the brute fact that an eloquent speaker could also be an evil person, was for Ramus simply “useless and stupid.” … Ong writes that “in a very real sense Italian humanism stood for a rhetorically centered opposed to the dialectically or logically centered culture of North Europe.” Ramus preferred the latter, less rhetorical, model of liberal education. … Because of Ramus’ enormous intellectual influence, rhetoric suffered considerable loss of prestige as a study… Ramus “separated thought from language” by advancing a model of education in which “reason breaks free of speech.” (167)

Whereas rhetoric was suffering under the criticism of Agricola and Ramus on the European continent in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, England was developing into a particularly fertile filed for the growth of interest in the art of rhetoric between 1500 and 1600. (167)

It has been noted by some scholars that the eighteenth century marks a period in which rhetorical theory turned away from its traditional concern for the invention of arguments, and toward aesthetic matters of style and good delivery. One leading expert on the period, Barbara Warnick, suggests that this shift in emphasis reflects the influence of Ramus in the sixteenth century and Descartes in the seventeenth. Both writers moved argument and proof out of the domain of rhetoric and into the domains of logic, dialectic, and mathematics. … At the same time, we might also note in this period a shift form an earlier concern for rhetoric’s public role as the techne of civil discourse as a window on the human mind or a means of personal refinement. (175)

Vico wrote passionately in response to the great philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes, who despised rhetoric and wished to relegate it to an obscured place in the academy. (176)

Other changes taking in place in eighteenth-century England assisted rhetoric’s rise to prominence in education. English was displacing Latin as the language of scholarship, … urbanization was bringing people from the English countryside, from Scotland, and form Ireland to urban centers such as London. Many of these new city dwellers recognized that their rustic accents limited the possibility for personal advancement in the bigger cities. The rhetorical education. Thus, education in rhetoric was sought out by an increasingly broad cross-section of the British public during the century. … For a variety of reasons, then, rhetoric occupied a central place in British education in the eighteenth century. Winifred Horner notes that the potential for upward mobility in English society, a mobility dependent on a command of “good English,” meant that there was a strong demand for language instruction, particularly instruction in writing. (180)

Whatley’s Elements of Rhetoric … an ecclesiastical rhetoric… a treatise on the art of rhetoric that would assist both the preacher and the apologist or defender of Christianity. … Whatley’s theory, then, represents a break with one important emphasis of the classical tradition of Aristotle and Cicero: the tendency to see rhetoric as pursuing probable truths on debatable issues. If truth is absolute, rhetoric does not determine truth, though it may help to discover it. (190)


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