A Journal
For Teachers of Writing
in Webbed Environments

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ISSN: 1521-2300

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Greg Siering

Claudine Keenan

Sandye Thompson

Jason Cranford Teague

Douglas Eyman

James Inman

Nick Carbone

Jennifer Bowie

Jeff White

Noah Bates
Linda DeVore
Traci Kelly
David Mark
Kelly Truitt

The duties--the officia--of the Greek courtroom rhetor were to, within the realm of propriety and decorum ( to prepon ), seize upon the eukairon, the opportune, to dissuade the audience from his opponent's position. The dissociated, contradictory concepts--the dissoi logoi--of the case were both recognized as potential truths; the rhetor, then, needed to sway the audience that to dynaton (the possible) was in this instance actually to doxa (the probable).

In the courtroom, the matter under judgment--the synechon--was generated by the conflict between the charge of the prosecutor (kataphasis ) and the denial of the defendant (apophasis ). The topoi, or various forms of argument available to and utilized by the rhetors, depended largely on the techne (or, usually technai , for the versatile, effective rhetor!)--the specific rhetorical strategy (-ies) employed.

The effective prosecuting rhetor began his argument with nomos--the tradition-based known, accepted factors--and proceeded with practicality and good sense (phronesis). With appeal to arete (good character) among other topoi, the rhetor attempted to convince his audience that--again, in this instance--his argument was based in orthon: a kind of knowledge that approached the (unattainable) universal truth.

Of course, the "defendant" argued toward orthon as well, in presenting the quaestio, the rhetorical question used as a focus for the opposing views. While this focused heavily on peristaseis (surrounding circumstances), the primary tool of the accused was apate--deception. This classical use of what has become a pejorative term calls to mind the fact that in the Greek argument, a deception was not necessarily a falsehood; it was an acceptable techne. Since it was generally accepted by Greek orators that both sides of an argument could be, in various circumstances, "true," it was the kairic element that became decisive.

The presented arguments were eventually judged to be kairos/akairos (what Miller translates as "seasonal/unseasonal"), and the epieikeia (equitable solution) reached was a decision made precisely and only for that single situation. What Kinneavy and Eskin note of modern rhetoric was as true in that Greek courtroom: "rhetoric must focus on what is appropriate to present circumstances" (136). Miller concurs: "The art of rhetoric must be an instrument by which one indeterminacy struggles with another" (313). The rhetorical struggle is resolved with the most accurate firing of the weaver's arrow--the most effective use of the kairos of the situation.

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