The Political Irrelevance of Aristotle's Rhetoric

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Ancient Philosophy | Arts and Humanities | Classics | Philosophy | Rhetoric | Rhetoric and Composition


“I want to explore two sets of reasons that the art of rhetoric has no political or philosophic significance and so requires little consideration in works other than the Rhetoric itself. One set, discussed in section 1, has to do with Aristotle's moral psychology, in which good action takes intellect and the intellect necessary for good action is itself grounded in good habits. The other has to do with his understanding of art and his treatment of rhetoric as an art; that is the subject of section 2. It is only under these particular conceptions of ethical virtue and technê that the political irrelevance of artful rhetoric can be maintained. Section 3 turns to a further feature of the Rhetoric, the fact that Aristotle's identification of the artful aspects of rhetoric with the argumentative is as quick as his "proof " that there is an art of rhetoric in the first place. It will turn out that the fact that an art of rhetoric does not require special attention in politics shows not only the political irrelevance of artful rhetoric, but also its centrality. The last section, then, will explore the political implications of this particular configuration of the relation of rhetoric, argument, and politics.”