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15. The first question which confronts us is “What is rhetoric?” Many definitions have been given; but the problem is really twofold. For the dispute turns either on the quality of the thing itself or on the meaning of the words in which it is defined. The first and chief disagreement on the subject is found in the fact that some think that even bad men may be called orators, while others, of whom I am one, restrict the name of orator and the art itself to those who are good. [2] Of those who divorce eloquence from that yet fairer and more desirable title to renown, a virtuous life, some call rhetoric merely a power, some a science, but not a virtue, some a practice, some an art, though they will not allow the art to have anything in common with science or virtue, while some again call it a perversion of art or κακοτεχνία. [3] These persons have as a rule held that the task of oratory lies in persuasion or speaking in a persuasive manner: for this is within the power of a bad man no less than a good. Hence we get the common definition of rhetoric as the power of persuading. What I call a power, many call a capacity, and some a faculty. In order therefore that there may be no misunderstanding I will say that by power I mean δύναμις. [4] This view is derived from Isocrates, if indeed the treatise on [p. 303] rhetoric1 which circulates under his name is really from his hand. He, although far from agreeing with those whose aim is to disparage the duties of an orator, somewhat rashly defined rhetoric as πειθοῦς δημιουργός, the “worker of persuasion”: for I cannot bring myself to use the peculiar derivative which Ennius2 applies to Marcus Cethegus in the phrase suadae medulla, the “marrow of persuasion.” [5] Again Gorgias,3in the dialogue of Plato that takes its title from his name, says practically the same thing, but Plato intends it to be taken as the opinion of Gorgias, not as his own. Cicero4 in more than one passage defined the duty of an orator as “speaking in a persuasive manner.” [6] In his Rhelorica5 too, a work which it is clear gave him no satisfaction, he makes the end to be persuasion. But many other things have the power of persuasion, such as money, influence, the authority and rank of the speaker, or even some sight unsupported by language, when for instance the place of words is supplied by the memory of some individual's great deeds, by his lamentable appearance or the beauty of his person. [7] Thus when Antonius in the course of his defence of Manius Aquilius tore open his client's robe and revealed the honourable scars which he had acquired while facing his country's foes, he relied no longer on the power of his eloquence, but appealed directly to the eyes of the Roman people. And it is believed that they were so profoundly moved by the sight as to acquit the accused. [8] Again there is a speech of Cato, to mention no other records, which informs us that Servius Galba escaped condemnation solely by [p. 305] the pity which he aroused not only by producing his own young children before the assembly, but by carrying round in his arms the son of Sulpicius Gallus. [9] So also according to general opinion Phryne was saved not by the eloquence of Hyperides, admirable as it was, but by the sight of her exquisite body, which she further revealed by drawing aside her tunic. And if all these have power to persuade, the end of oratory, which we are discussing, cannot adequately be defined as persuasion. [10] Consequently those who, although holding the same general view of rhetoric, have regarded it as the power of persuasion by speaking, pride themselves on their greater exactness of language. This definition is given by Gorgias, in the dialogue6 mentioned above, under compulsion from the inexorable logic of Socrates. Theodectes agrees with him, whether the treatise on rhetoric which has come down to us under his name is really by him or, as is generally believed, by Aristotle. In that work the end of rhetoric is defined as the leading of men by the power of speech to the conclusion desired by the orator. [11] But even this definition is not sufficiently comprehensive, since others besides orators persuade by speaking or lead others to the conclusion desired, as for example harlots, flatterers and seducers. On the other hand the orator is not always engaged on persuasion, so that sometimes persuasion is not his special object, while sometimes it is shared by others who are far removed from being orators. [12] And yet Apollodorus is not very far off this definition when he asserts that the first and all-important task of forensic oratory is to persuade the judge and lead his mind to the conclusions desired by the speaker. For [p. 307] even Apollodorus makes the orator the sport of fortune by refusing him leave to retain his title if he fails to persuade. [13] Some on the other hand pay no attention to results, as for example Aristotle,7 who says “rhetoric is the power of discovering all means of persuading by speech.” This definition has not merely the fault already mentioned, but the additional defect of including merely the power of invention, which without style cannot possibly constitute oratory. [14] Hermagoras, who asserts that its end is to speak persuasively, and others who express the same opinion, though in different words, and inform us that the end is to say everything which ought to be said with a view to persuasion, have been sufficiently answered above, when I proved that persuasion was not the privilege of the orator alone. [15] Various additions have been made to these definitions. For some hold that rhetoric is concerned with everything, while some restrict its activity to politics. The question as to which of these views is the nearer to the truth shall be discussed later in its appropriate place. [16] Aristotle seems to have implied that the sphere of the orator was all-inclusive when he defined rhetoric as the power to detect every element in any given subject which might conduce to persuasion; so too does Patrocles who omits the words in any given subject, but since he excludes nothing, shows that his view is identical. For he defines rhetoric as the power to discover whatever is persuasive in speech. These definitions like that quoted above include no more than the power of invention alone. Theodorus avoids this fault and holds that it is the power to discover and to utter forth in elegant language whatever is credible in every subject of oratory. [17] But, while others besides [p. 309] orators may discover what is credible as well as persuasive, by adding the words in every subject he, to a greater extent than the others, concedes the fairest name in all the world to those who use their gifts as an incitement to crime [18] . Plato makes Gorgias8 say that he is a master of persuasion in the law-courts and other assemblies, and that his themes are justice and injustice, while in reply Socrates allows him the power of persuading, but not of teaching. [19] Those who refused to make the sphere of oratory allinclusive, have been obliged to make somewhat forced and long-winded distinctions: among these I may mention Ariston, the pupil of the Peripatetic Critolaus, who produced the following definition, “Rhetoric is the science of seeing and uttering what ought to be said on political questions in language that is likely to prove persuasive to the people.” [20] Being a Peripatetic he regards it as a science, not, like the Stoics, as a virtue, while in adding the words “likely to prove persuasie to the people” he inflicts a positive insult on oratory, in implying that it is not likely to persuade the learned. The same criticism will apply to all those who restrict oratory to political questions, for they exclude thereby a large number of the duties of an orator, as for example panegyric, the third department of oratory, which is entirely ignored. [21] Turning to those who regard rhetoric as an art, but not as a virtue, we find that Theodorus of Gadara is more cautious. For he says (I quote the words of his translators), “rhetoric is the art which discovers and judges and expresses, mith an elegance duly proportioned to the importance of all such elements of persuasion as may exist in any subject in the field of politics.” [22] Similarly Cornelius Celsus defines the end of rhetoric as [p. 311] to speak persuasively on any doubtful subject within the field of politics. Similar definitions are given by others, such for instance as the following:—“rhetoric is the power of judging and holding forth on such political subjects as come before it with a certain persuasiveness, a certain action of the body and delivery of the words.” [23] There are countless other definitions, either identical with this or composed of the same elements, which I shall deal with when I come to the questions concerned with the subject matter of rhetoric. Some regard it as neither a power, a science or an art; Critolaus calls it the practice of speaking (for this is the meaning of τριβή), Athenaeus styles it the art of deceiving, [24] while the majority, content with reading a few passages from the Gorgias of Plato, unskilfully excerpted by earlier writers, refrain from studying that dialogue and the remainder of Plato's writings, and thereby fall into serious error. For they believe that in Plato's view rhetoric was not an art, but a certain adroitness in the production of delight and gratification,9 [25] or with reference to another passage the shadow of a small part of politics10 and the fourth department of flattery. For Plato assigns11 two departments of politics to the body, namely medicine and gymnastic, and two to the soul, namely law and justice, while he styles the art of cookery12 a form of flattery of medicine, the art of the slave-dealer a flattery of gymnastic, for they produce a false complexion by the use of paint and a false robustness by puffing them out with fat: sophistry he calls a dishonest counterfeit of legal science, and rhetoric of justice. [26] All these statements occur in the Gorgias and are uttered by Socrates who appears to be the [p. 313] mouthpiece of the views held by Plato. But some of his dialogues were composed merely to refute his opponents and are styled refutative, while others are for the purpose of teaching and are called doctrinal. [27] Now it is only rhetoric as practised in their own day that is condemned by Plato or Socrates, for he speaks of it as “the manner in which you engage in public affairs”13: rhetoric in itself he regards as a genuine and honourable thing, and consequently the controversy with Gorgias ends with the words, “The rhetorician therefore must be just and the just man desirous to do what is just.”14 [28] To this Gorgias makes no reply, but the argument is taken up by Polus, a hot-headed and headstrong young fellow, and it is to him that Socrates makes his remarks about “shadows” and “forms of flattery.” Then Callicles,15 who is even more hot-headed, intervenes, but is reduced to the conclusion that “he who would truly be a rhetorician ought to be just and possess a knowledge of justice.” It is clear therefore that Plato does not regard rhetoric as an evil, but holds that true rhetoric is impossible for any save a just and good man. In the Phaedrus16 [29] he makes it even clearer that the complete attainment of this art is impossible without the knowledge of justice, an opinion in which I heartily concur. Had this not been his view, would he have ever written the Apology of Socrates or the Funeral Oration17 in praise of those who had died in battle for their country, both of them works falling within the sphere of oratory. [30] It was against the class of men who employed their glibness of speech for evil purposes that he directed his denunciations. Similarly Socrates thought it incompatible with his honour to [p. 315] make use of the speech which Lysias composed for his defence, although it was the usual practice in those days to write speeches for the parties concerned to speak in the courts on their own behalf, a device designed to circumvent the law which forbade the employment of advocates. [31] Further the teachers of rhetoric were regarded by Plato as quite unsuited to their professed task. For they divorced rhetoric from justice and preferred plausibility to truth, as he states in the Phaedrus.18 [32] Cornelius Celsus seems to have agreed with these early rhetoricians, for he writes “The orator only aims at the semblance of truth,” and again a little later “The reward of the party to a suit is not a good conscience, but victory.” If this were true, only the worst of men would place such dangerous weapons at the disposal of criminals or employ the precepts of their art for the assistance of wickedness. However I will leave those who maintain these views to consider what ground they have for so doing.

[33] For my part, I have undertaken the task of moulding the ideal orator, and as my first desire is that he should be a good man, I will return to those who have sounder opinions on the subject. Some however identify rhetoric with politics, Cicero19 calls it a department of the science of politics (and science of politics and philosophy are identical terms), while others again call it a branch of philosophy, among them Isocrates. [34] The definition which best suits its real character is that which makes rhetoric the science of speaking well. For this definition includes all the virtues of oratory and the character of the orator as well, since no man can speak well who is not good himself. [35] The definition given by Chrysippus, who [p. 317] derived it from Cleanthes, to the effect that it is the science of speaking rightly, amounts to the same thing. The same philosopher also gives other definitions, but they concern problems of a different character from that on which we are now engaged. Another definition defines oratory as the power of persuading men to do what ought to be done, and yields practically the same sense save that it limits the art to the result which it produces. [36] Areus again defines it well as speaking according to the excellence of speech. Those who regard it as the science of political obligations, also exclude men of bad character from the title of orator, if by science they mean virtue, but restrict it overmuch by confining it to political problems. Albutius, a distinguished author and professor of rhetoric, agrees that rhetoric is the science of speaking well, but makes a mistake in imposing restrictions by the addition of the words on political questions and with credibility; with both of these restrictions I have already dealt. [37] Finally those critics who hold that the aim of rhetoric is to think and speak rightly, were on the correct track.

These are practically all the most celebrated and most discussed definitions of rhetoric. It would be both irrelevant and beyond my power to deal with all. For I strongly disapprove of the custom which has come to prevail among writers of text-books of refusing to define anything in the same terms as have been employed by some previous writer. I will have nothing to do with such ostentation. [38] What I say will not necessarily be my own invention, but it will be what I believe to be the right view, as for instance that oratory is the science of speaking well. For when the most satisfactory definition has been [p. 319] found, he who seeks another, is merely looking for a worse one.

Thus much being admitted we are now in a position to see clearly what is the end, the highest aim, the ultimate goal of rhetoric, that τέλος in fact which every art must possess. For if rhetoric is the science of speaking well, its end and highest aim is to speak well.

1 This treatise is lost. It may have been the work of the younger Isocrates.

2 Ann. ix. 309 (Vahlen). The derivative to which he objects is the rare word suada.

3 Gorg. 453 A.

4 de Inv. I. v. 6, de Or. I. xxxi. 138

5 cp. III. i. 20 and Cic. de Or. I. ii. 5. The work in question is better known as the de Inventione.

6 Gorg. p. 452 E.

7 Rhet. i. 2.

8 Gorg. 454 B.

9 Gorg. 462 c.

10 ib. 463 p.

11 ib. 464 B.

12 ib. 464 B-465 E.

13 500 c.

14 460 c.

15 508 c.

16 261 A-273 E.

17 Menexenus.

18 267 A, with special reference to Tisias and Gorgias.

19 de Inv. I. v. 6.

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