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1. Rhetoric is a counterpart1 of Dialectic; for both have to do with matters that are in a manner within the cognizance of all men and not confined2 to any special science. Hence all men in a manner have a share of both; for all, up to a certain point, endeavor to criticize or uphold an argument, to defend themselves or to accuse. [2] Now, the majority of people do this either at random or with a familiarity arising from habit. But since both these ways are possible, it is clear that matters can be reduced to a system, for it is possible to examine the reason why some attain their end by familiarity and others by chance; and such an examination all would at once admit to be the function of an art.3

[3] Now, previous compilers of “Arts”4 of Rhetoric have provided us with only a small portion of this art, for proofs are the only things in it that come within the province of art; everything else is merely an accessory. And yet they say nothing about enthymemes which are the body of proof, but chiefly devote their attention to matters outside the subject; [4] for the arousing of prejudice, compassion, anger, and similar emotions has no connection with the matter in hand, but is directed only to the dicast.5 The result would be that, if all trials were now carried on as they are in some States,
especially those that are well administered, there would be nothing left for the rhetorician to say. [5] For all men either think that all the laws ought so to prescribe,6 or in fact carry out the principle and forbid speaking outside the subject, as in the court of Areopagus, and in this they are right. For it is wrong to warp the dicast's feelings, to arouse him to anger, jealousy or compassion, which would be like making the rule crooked which one intended to use. [6] Further, it is evident that the only business of the litigant is to prove that the fact in question is or is not so, that it has happened or not; whether it is important or unimportant, just or unjust, in all cases in which the legislator has not laid down a ruling, is a matter for the dicast himself to decide; it is not the business of the litigants to instruct him.

[7] First of all, therefore, it is proper that laws, properly enacted, should themselves define the issue of all cases as far as possible, and leave as little as possible to the discretion of the judges; in the first place, because it is easier to find one or a few men of good sense,
capable of framing laws and pronouncing judgements, than a large number; secondly, legislation is the result of long consideration, whereas judgements are delivered on the spur of the moment, so that it is difficult for the judges properly to decide questions of justice or expediency. But what is most important of all is that the judgement of the legislator does not apply to a particular case, but is universal and applies to the future, whereas the member of the public assembly and the dicast have to decide present and definite issues, and in their case love, hate, or personal interest is often involved, so that they are no longer capable of discerning the truth adequately, their judgement being obscured by their own pleasure or pain.

[8] All other cases, as we have just said, should be left to the authority of the judge as seldom as possible, except where it is a question of a thing having happened or not, of its going to happen or not, of being or not being so; this must be left to the discretion of the judges, for it is impossible for the legislator to foresee such questions. [9] If this is so, it is obvious that all those who definitely lay down, for instance, what should be the contents of the exordium or the narrative, or of the other parts of the discourse, are bringing under the rules of art what is outside the subject; for the only thing to which their attention is devoted
is how to put the judge into a certain frame of mind. They give no account of the artificial proofs,7 which make a man a master of rhetorical argument.

[10] Hence, although the method of deliberative and forensic Rhetoric is the same, and although the pursuit of the former is nobler and more worthy of a statesman than that of the latter, which is limited to transactions between private citizens, they say nothing about the former, but without exception endeavor to bring forensic speaking under the rules of art. The reason of this is that in public speaking it is less worth while to talk of what is outside the subject, and that deliberative oratory lends itself to trickery less than forensic, because it is of more general interest.8 For in the assembly the judges decide upon their own affairs, so that the only thing necessary is to prove the truth of the statement of one who recommends a measure, but in the law courts this is not sufficient; there it is useful to win over the hearers, for the decision concerns other interests than those of the judges, who, having only themselves to consider and listening merely for their own pleasure, surrender to the pleaders but do not give a real decision.9
That is why, as I have said before, in many places the law prohibits speaking outside the subject in the law courts, whereas in the assembly the judges themselves take adequate precautions against this.

[11] It is obvious, therefore, that a system arranged according to the rules of art is only concerned with proofs; that proof is a sort of demonstration,10 since we are most strongly convinced when we suppose anything to have been demonstrated; that rhetorical demonstration is an enthymeme, which, generally speaking, is the strongest of rhetorical proofs and lastly, that the enthymeme is a kind of syllogism. Now, as it is the function of Dialectic as a whole, or of one of its parts,11 to consider every kind of syllogism in a similar manner, it is clear that he who is most capable of examining the matter and forms of a syllogism will be in the highest degree a master of rhetorical argument, if to this he adds a knowledge of the subjects with which enthymemes deal and the differences between them and logical syllogisms. For, in fact, the true and that which resembles it come under the purview of the same faculty, and at the same time men have a sufficient natural capacity for the truth and indeed in most cases attain to it; wherefore one who divines well in regard to the truth will also be able to divine well in regard to probabilities.12

It is clear, then, that all other rhetoricians bring under the rules of art what is outside the subject,
and13 have rather inclined to the forensic branch of oratory. [12] Nevertheless, Rhetoric is useful, because the true and the just are naturally superior to their opposites, so that, if decisions are improperly made, they must owe their defeat to their own advocates; which is reprehensible. Further, in dealing with certain persons, even if we possessed the most accurate scientific knowledge, we should not find it easy to persuade them by the employment of such knowledge. For scientific discourse is concerned with instruction,14 but in the case of such persons instruction is impossible; our proofs and arguments must rest on generally accepted principles, as we said in the Topics,15 when speaking of converse with the multitude. Further, the orator should be able to prove opposites, as in logical arguments; not that we should do both (for one ought not to persuade people to do what is wrong), but that the real state of the case may not escape us, and that we ourselves may be able to counteract false arguments, if another makes an unfair use of them. Rhetoric and Dialectic alone of all the arts prove opposites; for both are equally concerned with them. However, it is not the same with the subject matter, but, generally speaking, that which is true and better is naturally always easier to prove and more likely to persuade. Besides, it would be absurd if it were considered disgraceful not to be able to defend oneself with the help of the body,
but not disgraceful as far as speech is concerned, whose use is more characteristic of man than that of the body. [13] If it is argued that one who makes an unfair use of such faculty of speech may do a great deal of harm, this objection applies equally to all good things except virtue, and above all to those things which are most useful, such as strength, health, wealth, generalship; for as these, rightly used, may be of the greatest benefit, so, wrongly used, they may do an equal amount of harm.

[14] It is thus evident that Rhetoric does not deal with any one definite class of subjects, but, like Dialectic, [is of general application]; also, that it is useful; and further, that its function is not so much to persuade, as to find out in each case the existing means of persuasion.16 The same holds good in respect to all the other arts. For instance, it is not the function of medicine to restore a patient to health, but only to promote this end as far as possible; for even those whose recovery is impossible may be properly treated. It is further evident that it belongs to Rhetoric to discover the real and apparent means of persuasion, just as it belongs to Dialectic to discover the real and apparent syllogism. For what makes the sophist is not the faculty but the moral purpose. But there is a difference: in Rhetoric, one who acts in accordance with sound argument, and one who acts in accordance with moral purpose,
are both called rhetoricians; but in Dialectic it is the moral purpose that makes the sophist, the dialectician being one whose arguments rest, not on moral purpose but on the faculty.17

Let us now endeavor to treat of the method itself, to see how and by what means we shall be able to attain our objects. And so let us as it were start again, and having defined Rhetoric anew, pass on to the remainder of the subject.

1 Not an exact copy, but making a kind of pair with it, and corresponding to it as the antistrophe to the strophe in a choral ode.

2 Or “and they (Rhetoric and Dialectic) are not confined.”

3 The special characteristic of an art is the discovery of a system or method, as distinguished from mere knack ( ἐμπειρία).

4 Manuals or handbooks treating of the rules of any art or science.

5 His functions were a combination of those of the modern judge and juryman.

6 That is, forbid speaking of matters that have nothing to do with the case.

7 Systematic logical proofs (enthymeme, for example), including testimony as to character and appeals to the emotions (2.3), which the rhetorician has to invent ( εὑρεῖν, inventio) for use in particular cases. They are contrasted with “inartificial” proofs, which have nothing to do with the rules of the art, but are already in existence, and only need to be made use of. The former are dealt with in chs. 4-14, the latter in ch. 15 of this book.

8 κοινότερον: or, “more intelligible to the ordinary man.”

9 The case as a rule being a matter of personal indifference, the judges are likely to be led away by the arguments which seem most plausible.

10 Exact scientific proof ( ἀπόδειξις), which probable proof ( πίστις) only to a certain extent resembles.

11 Dialectic here apparently includes logic generally, the “part” being either the Analytica Priori, which deals with the syllogism, or the Sophistici Elenchi, on Fallacies.

12 ἔνδοξα, “resting on opinion”; defined in the Topics (1.1) as “things generally admitted by all, or by most men, or by the wise, and by all or most of these, or by the most notable and esteemed.”

13 διότι either = ὅτι, “that”; or, (it is clear) “why.”

14 Almost equivalent to demonstration or strictly logical proof.

15 1.2. The Topics is a treatise in eight books on Dialectic and drawing conclusions from probabilities.

16 The early sophistical definition was “the art of persuasion.”

17 The essence of sophistry consists in the moral purpose, the deliberate use of fallacious arguments. In Dialectic, the dialectician has the power or faculty of making use of them when he pleases; when he does so deliberately, he is called a sophist. In Rhetoric, this distinction does not exist; he who uses sound arguments as well as he who uses false ones are both known as rhetoricians.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 863-910
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