Aristotle's Rhetoric

Index to Book I

Chapter 1 (1354a, 1354b, 1355a, 1355b )

Rhetoric is the counterpart of Dialectic. It is a subject that can be treated systematically. The argumentative modes of persuasion are the essence of the art of rhetoric: appeals to the emotions warp the judgement. The writers of current text- books on rhetoric give too much attention to the forensic branch (in which chicanery is easier) and too little to the political (where the issues are larger). Argumentative persuasion is a sort of demonstration, and the rhetorical form of demonstration is the enthymeme. Four uses of rhetoric. Its possible abuse is no argument against its proper use on the side of truth and justice. The honest rhetorician has no separate name to distinguish him from the dishonest.

Chapter 2 (1356a, 1356b, 1357a, 1357b, 1358a)

Definition of rhetoric as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Of the modes of persuasion some belong strictly to the art of rhetoric and some do not. The rhetorician finds the latter kind (viz. witnesses, contracts, and the like) ready to his hand. The former kind he must provide himself; and it has three divisions -- (1) the speaker's power of evincing a personal character which will make his speech credible (ethos ); (2) his power of stirring the emotions of his hearers (pathos ); (3) his power of proving a truth, or an apparent truth, by means of persuasive arguments (logos ). Hence rhetoric may be regarded as an offshoot of dialectic, and also of ethical (or political) studies. The persuasive arguments are (a) the example, corresponding to induction in dialectic; (b) the enthymeme, corresponding to the syllogism; (c) the apparent enthymeme, corresponding to the apparent syllogism. The enthymeme is a rhetorical syllogism, and the example a rhetorical induction. Rhetoric has regard to classes of men, not to individual men; its subjects, and the premisses from which it argues, are in the main such as present alternative possibilities in the sphere of human action; and it must adapt itself to an audience of untrained thinkers who cannot follow a long train of reasoning. The premisses from which enthymemes are formed are "probabilities" and "signs"; and signs are either fallible or infallible.... The lines of argument, or topics, which enthymemes follow may be distinguished as common (or, general) and special (i.e. special to a single study, such as natural science or ethics). The special lines should be used discreetly, if the rhetorician is not to find himself deserting his own field for another.

Chapter 3 (1358b, 1359a)

There are three kinds of rhetoric: A. political (deliberative), B. forensic (legal), and C. epideictic (the ceremonial oratory of display). Their (1) divisions, (2) times, and (3) ends are as follows: A. Political (1) exhortation and dehortation, (2) future, (3) expediency and inexpediency; B. Forensic (1) accusation and defence, (2) past, (3) justice and injustice; C. Epideictic (1) praise and censure, (2) present, (3) honour and dishonour.

Chapter 4 (1359b, 1360a, 1360b)

The subjects of Political Oratory fall under five main heads: (1) ways and means, (2) war and peace, (3) national defence, (4) imports and exports, (5) legislation. The scope of each of these divisions.

Chapter 5 (1361a, 1361b, 1362a)

In urging his hearers to take or to avoid a course of action, the political orator must show that he has an eye to their happiness. Four definitions (of a popular kind: as usual in the Rhetoric, and some fourteen constituents, of happiness.

Chapter 6 (1362b, 1363a, 1363b)

The political speaker will also appeal to the interest of his hearers, and this involves a knowledge of what is good. Definition and analysis of things "good."

Chapter 7 (1364a, 1364b, 1365a, 1365b)

Comparison of "good" things. Of two "good" things, which is the better? This entails a consideration of degree -- the lore of "less or more."

Chapter 8 (1366a)

The political speaker will find his powers of persuasion most of all enhanced by a knowledge of the four sorts of government -- democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, and their characteristic customs, institutions, and interests. Definition of the four sorts severally. Ends of each.

Chapter 9 (1366b, 1367a, 1367b, 1368a)

The Epideictic speaker is concerned with virtue and vice, praising the one and censuring the other. The forms of virtue. Which are the greatest virtues? Some rhetoric devices used by the epideictic speaker: "amplification," especially. Amplification is particularly appropriate to epideictic oratory; examples, to political; enthymemes, to forensic.

Chapter 10 (1368b, 1369a, 1369b)

The Forensic speaker should have studied wrongdoing -- its motives, its perpetrators, and its victims. Definitions of wrongdoing as injury voluntary inflicted contrary to law. Law is either (a) special, viz. that written law which regulates the life of a particular community, or (b) general, viz. all those unwritten principles which are supposed to be acknowledged everywhere. Enumeration and elucidation of the seven causes of human action, viz. three involuntary, (1) chance, (2) nature, (3) compulsion; and four voluntary, viz. (4) habit, (5) reasoning, (6) anger, (7) appetite. All voluntary actions are good or apparently good, pleasant or apparently pleasant. The good (or expedient) has been discussed under political oratory. The pleasant has yet to be considered.

Chapter 11 (1370a, 1370b, 1371a, 1371b, 1372a)

Definition of pleasure, and analysis of things pleasant. -- The motives for wrongdoing, viz. advantage and pleasure, have thus been discussed in chapters 6, 7, 11.

Chapter 12 (1372b, 1373a)

The characters and circumstances which lead men to commit wrong, or make them the victions of wrong.

Chapter 13 (1373b, 1374a, 1374b)

Actions just and unjust may be classified in relation to (1) the law, (2) the persons affected. The law may be (a) special, i.e. the law of a particular State, or (b) universal, i.e. the law of Nature. The persons affected may be (a) the entire community, (b) individual members of it. A wrongdoer must either understand and intend the action, or not understand and intend it. In the former case, he must be acting either from deliberate choice or from passion. It is deliberate purpose that constitutes wickedness and criminal guilt. Unwritten law (1) includes in its purview the conduct that springs from exceptional goodness or badness, e.g. our behavior towards benefactors and friends; (2) makes up for the defects in a community's written code or law. This second kind is equity. Its existence partly is, and partly is not, intended by legislators; not intended, where they have noticed no defect in the law; intended, where they find themselves unable to define things exactly, and are obliged to legislate as if that held good always which in fact only holds good usually. -- Further remarks on the nature and scope of equity.

Chapter 14 (1375a)

The worse of two acts of wrong done to others is that which is prompted by the worse disposition. Other ways of computing the comparative badness of actions.

Chapter 15 (1375b, 1376a, 1376b, 1377a, 1377b)

The "non-technical" (extrinsic) means of persuasion -- those which do not strictly belong to the art of rhetoric. They are five in number, and pertain especially to forensic oratory: (1) laws, (2) witnesses, (3) contracts (4) tortures, (5) oaths. How laws may be discredited or upheld, according as it suits the litigant. Witnesses may be either ancient (viz. poets and other notable persons; soothsayers; proverbs); or recent (viz. well-known contemporaries who have expressed their opinions about some disputed matter, and witnesses who give their evidence in court). Ancient witnesses are more trustworthy than contemporary. How contracts, and evidence given under torture, may be belittled or represented as important. In regard to oaths, a fourfold division exists: a man may either both offer and accept an oath, or neither, or one without the other -- that is, he may offer an oath but not accept one, or accept an oath but not offer one.

Lee Honeycutt ( Last modified:3/16/04