Aristotle's Rhetoric
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Book II - Chapter 23

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1. One line of positive proof is based upon consideration of the opposite of the thing in question. Observe whether that opposite has the opposite quality. If it has not, you refute the original proposition; if it has, you establish it. E.g. "Temperance is beneficial; for licentiousness is hurtful." Or, as in the Messenian speech, "If war is the cause of our present troubles, peace is what we need to put things right again." Or --

For if not even evil-doers should
Anger us if they meant not what they did,
Then can we owe no gratitude to such
As were constrained to do the good they did us.

Or --

Since in this world liars may win belief,
Be sure of the opposite likewise-that this world
Hears many a true word and believes it not.

2. Another line of proof is got by considering some modification of the key-word, and arguing that what can or cannot be said of the one, can or cannot be said of the other: e.g. "just" does not always mean "beneficial," or "justly" would always mean "beneficially," whereas it is not desirable to be justly put to death.

3. Another line of proof is based upon correlative ideas. If it is true that one man gave noble or just treatment to another, you argue that the other must have received noble or just treatment; or that where it is right to command obedience, it must have been right to obey the command. Thus Diomedon, the tax-farmer, said of the taxes: "If it is no disgrace for you to sell them, it is no disgrace for us to buy them." Further, if "well" or "justly" is true of the person to whom a thing is done, you argue that it is true of the doer. But it is possible to draw a false conclusion here. It may be just that A should be treated in a certain way, and yet not just that he should be so treated by B. Hence you must ask yourself two distinct questions: [1397b] (1) Is it right that A should be thus treated? (2) Is it right that B should thus treat him? and apply your results properly, according as your answers are Yes or No. Sometimes in such a case the two answers differ: you may quite easily have a position like that in the Alcmaeon of Theodectes:

And was there none to loathe thy mother's crime?

to which question Alcmaeon in reply says,

Why, there are two things to examine here.

And when Alphesiboea asks what he means, he rejoins:

They judged her fit to die, not me to slay her.

Again there is the lawsuit about Demosthenes and the men who killed Nicanor; as they were judged to have killed him justly, it was thought that he was killed justly. And in the case of the man who was killed at Thebes, the judges were requested to decide whether it was unjust that he should be killed, since if it was not, it was argued that it could not have been unjust to kill him.

4. Another line of proof is the a fortiori. Thus it may be argued that if even the gods are not omniscient, certainly human beings are not. The principle here is that, if a quality does not in fact exist where it is more likely to exist, it clearly does not exist where it is less likely. Again, the argument that a man who strikes his father also strikes his neighbours follows from the principle that, if the less likely thing is true, the more likely thing is true also; for a man is less likely to strike his father than to strike his neighbours. The argument, then, may run thus. Or it may be urged that, if a thing is not true where it is more likely, it is not true where it is less likely; or that, if it is true where it is less likely, it is true where it is more likely: according as we have to show that a thing is or is not true. This argument might also be used in a case of parity, as in the lines:

Thou hast pity for thy sire, who has lost his sons:
Hast none for Oeneus, whose brave son is dead?

And, again, "if Theseus did no wrong, neither did Paris"; or "the sons of Tyndareus did no wrong, neither did Paris"; or "if Hector did well to slay Patroclus, Paris did well to slay Achilles." And "if other followers of an art are not bad men, neither are philosophers." And "if generals are not bad men because it often happens that they are condemned to death, neither are sophists." And the remark that "if each individual among you ought to think of his own city's reputation, you ought all to think of the reputation of Greece as a whole."

5. Another line of argument is based on considerations of time. Thus Iphicrates, in the case against Harmodius, said, "if before doing the deed I had bargained that, if I did it, I should have a statue, you would have given me one. Will you not give me one now that I have done the deed? You must not make promises when you are expecting a thing to be done for you, and refuse to fulfil them when the thing has been done." And, again, to induce the Thebans to let Philip pass through their territory into Attica, [1398a] it was argued that "if he had insisted on this before he helped them against the Phocians, they would have promised to do it. It is monstrous, therefore, that just because he threw away his advantage then, and trusted their honour, they should not let him pass through now."

6. Another line is to apply to the other speaker what he has said against yourself. It is an excellent turn to give to a debate, as may be seen in the Teucer. It was employed by Iphicrates in his reply to Aristophon. "Would you," he asked, "take a bribe to betray the fleet?" "No," said Aristophon; and Iphicrates replied, "Very good: if you, who are Aristophon, would not betray the fleet, would I, who am Iphicrates?" Only, it must be recognized beforehand that the other man is more likely than you are to commit the crime in question. Otherwise you will make yourself ridiculous; it is Aristeides who is prosecuting, you cannot say that sort of thing to him. The purpose is to discredit the prosecutor, who as a rule would have it appear that his character is better than that of the defendant, a pretension which it is desirable to upset. But the use of such an argument is in all cases ridiculous if you are attacking others for what you do or would do yourself, or are urging others to do what you neither do nor would do yourself.

7. Another line of proof is secured by defining your terms. Thus, "What is the supernatural? Surely it is either a god or the work of a god. Well, any one who believes that the work of a god exists, cannot help also believing that gods exist." Or take the argument of Iphicrates, "Goodness is true nobility; neither Harmodius nor Aristogeiton had any nobility before they did a noble deed." He also argued that he himself was more akin to Harmodius and Aristogeiton than his opponent was. "At any rate, my deeds are more akin to those of Harmodius and Aristogeiton than yours are." Another example may be found in the Alexander. "Every one will agree that by incontinent people we mean those who are not satisfied with the enjoyment of one love." A further example is to be found in the reason given by Socrates for not going to the court of Archelaus. He said that "one is insulted by being unable to requite benefits, as well as by being unable to requite injuries." All the persons mentioned define their term and get at its essential meaning, and then use the result when reasoning on the point at issue.

8. Another line of argument is founded upon the various senses of a word. Such a word is "rightly," as has been explained in the Topics.

9. Another line is based upon logical division. Thus, "All men do wrong from one of three motives, A, B, or C: in my case A and B are out of the question, and even the accusers do not allege C."

10. Another line is based upon induction. Thus from the case of the woman of Peparethus it might be argued that women everywhere can settle correctly the facts about their children. [1398b] Another example of this occurred at Athens in the case between the orator Mantias and his son, when the boy's mother revealed the true facts: and yet another at Thebes, in the case between Ismenias and Stilbon, when Dodonis proved that it was Ismenias who was the father of her son Thettaliscus, and he was in consequence always regarded as being so. A further instance of induction may be taken from the Law of Theodectes: "If we do not hand over our horses to the care of men who have mishandled other people's horses, nor ships to those who have wrecked other people's ships, and if this is true of everything else alike, then men who have failed to secure other people's safety are not to be employed to secure our own." Another instance is the argument of Alcidamas: "Every one honours the wise." Thus the Parians have honoured Archilochus, in spite of his bitter tongue; the Chians Homer, though he was not their countryman; the Mytilenaeans Sappho, though she was a woman; the Lacedaemonians actually made Chilon a member of their senate, though they are the least literary of men; the Italian Greeks honoured Pythagoras; the inhabitants of Lampsacus gave public burial to Anaxagoras, though he was an alien, and honour him even to this day. (It may be argued that peoples for whom philosophers legislate are always prosperous) on the ground that the Athenians became prosperous under Solon's laws and the Lacedaemonians under those of Lycurgus, while at Thebes no sooner did the leading men become philosophers than the country began to prosper.

11. Another line of argument is founded upon some decision already pronounced, whether on the same subject or on one like it or contrary to it. Such a proof is most effective if every one has always decided thus; but if not every one, then at any rate most people; or if all, or most, wise or good men have thus decided, or the actual judges of the present question, or those whose authority they accept, or any one whose decision they cannot gainsay because he has complete control over them, or those whom it is not seemly to gainsay, as the gods, or one's father, or one's teachers. Thus Autocles said, when attacking Mixidemides, that it was a strange thing that the Dread Goddesses could without loss of dignity submit to the judgement of the Areopagus, and yet Mixidemides could not. Or as Sappho said, "Death is an evil thing; the gods have so judged it, or they would die." Or again as Aristippus said in reply to Plato when he spoke somewhat too dogmatically, as Aristippus thought: "Well, anyhow, our friend," meaning Socrates, "never spoke like that." And Hegesippus, having previously consulted Zeus at Olympia, asked Apollo at Delphi "whether his opinion was the same as his father's," [1399a] implying that it would be shameful for him to contradict his father. Thus too Isocrates argued that Helen must have been a good woman, because Theseus decided that she was; and Paris a good man, because the goddesses chose him before all others; and Evagoras also, says Isocrates, was good, since when Conon met with his misfortune he betook himself to Evagoras without trying any one else on the way.

12. Another line of argument consists in taking separately the parts of a subject. Such is that given in the Topics: "What sort of motion is the soul? for it must be this or that." The Socrates of Theodectes provides an example: "What temple has he profaned? What gods recognized by the state has he not honoured?"

13. Since it happens that any given thing usually has both good and bad consequences, another line of argument consists in using those consequences as a reason for urging that a thing should or should not be done, for prosecuting or defending any one, for eulogy or censure. E.g. education leads both to unpopularity, which is bad, and to wisdom, which is good. Hence you either argue, "It is therefore not well to be educated, since it is not well to be unpopular": or you answer, "No, it is well to be educated, since it is well to be wise." The Art of Rhetoric of Callippus is made up of this line of argument, with the addition of those of Possibility and the others of that kind already described.

14. Another line of argument is used when we have to urge or discourage a course of action that may be done in either of two opposite ways, and have to apply the method just mentioned to both. The difference between this one and the last is that, whereas in the last any two things are contrasted, here the things contrasted are opposites. For instance, the priestess enjoined upon her son not to take to public speaking: "For," she said, "if you say what is right, men will hate you; if you say what is wrong, the gods will hate you." The reply might be, "On the contrary, you ought to take to public speaking: for if you say what is right the gods will love you; if you say what is wrong, men will love you." This amounts to the proverbial "buying the marsh with the salt." It is just this situation, viz. when each of two opposites has both a good and a bad consequence opposite respectively to each other, that has been termed divarication.

15. Another line of argument is this: The things people approve of openly are not those which they approve of secretly: openly, their chief praise is given to justice and nobleness; but in their hearts they prefer their own advantage. Try, in face of this, to establish the point of view which your opponent has not adopted. This is the most effective of the forms of argument that contradict common opinion.

16. Another line is that of rational correspondence. E.g. Iphicrates, when they were trying to compel his son, a youth under the prescribed age, to perform one of the state duties because he was tall, said "If you count tall boys men, you will next be voting short men boys." [1399b] And Theodectes in his Law said, "You make citizens of such mercenaries as Strabax and Charidemus, as a reward of their merits; will you not make exiles of such citizens as those who have done irreparable harm among the mercenaries?"

17. Another line is the argument that if two results are the same their antecedents are also the same. For instance, it was a saying of Xenophanes that to assert that the gods had birth is as impious as to say that they die; the consequence of both statements is that there is a time when the gods do not exist. This line of proof assumes generally that the result of any given thing is always the same: e.g. "you are going to decide not about Isocrates, but about the value of the whole profession of philosophy." Or, "to give earth and water" means slavery; or, "to share in the Common Peace" means obeying orders. We are to make either such assumptions or their opposite, as suits us best.

18. Another line of argument is based on the fact that men do not always make the same choice on a later as on an earlier occasion, but reverse their previous choice. E.g. the following enthymeme: "When we were exiles, we fought in order to return; now we have returned, it would be strange to choose exile in order not to have to fight." one occasion, that is, they chose to be true to their homes at the cost of fighting, and on the other to avoid fighting at the cost of deserting their homes.

19. Another line of argument is the assertion that some possible motive for an event or state of things is the real one: e.g. that a gift was given in order to cause pain by its withdrawal. This notion underlies the lines:

God gives to many great prosperity,
Not of good God towards them, but to make
The ruin of them more conspicuous.

Or take the passage from the Meleager of Antiphon:

To slay no boar, but to be witnesses
Of Meleager's prowess unto Greece.

Or the argument in the Ajax of Theodectes, that Diomede chose out Odysseus not to do him honour, but in order that his companion might be a lesser man than himself -- such a motive for doing so is quite possible.

20. Another line of argument is common to forensic and deliberative oratory, namely, to consider inducements and deterrents, and the motives people have for doing or avoiding the actions in question. These are the conditions which make us bound to act if they are for us, and to refrain from action if they are against us: that is, we are bound to act if the action is possible, easy, and useful to ourselves or our friends or hurtful to our enemies; this is true even if the action entails loss, provided the loss is outweighed by the solid advantage. A speaker will urge action by pointing to such conditions, and discourage it by pointing to the opposite. [1400a] These same arguments also form the materials for accusation or defence -- the deterrents being pointed out by the defence, and the inducements by the prosecution. As for the defence,...This topic forms the whole Art of Rhetoric both of Pamphilus and of Callippus.

21. Another line of argument refers to things which are supposed to happen and yet seem incredible. We may argue that people could not have believed them, if they had not been true or nearly true: even that they are the more likely to be true because they are incredible. For the things which men believe are either facts or probabilities: if, therefore, a thing that is believed is improbable and even incredible, it must be true, since it is certainly not believed because it is at all probable or credible. An example is what Androcles of the deme Pitthus said in his well-known arraignment of the law. The audience tried to shout him down when he observed that the laws required a law to set them right. "Why," he went on, "fish need salt, improbable and incredible as this might seem for creatures reared in salt water; and olive-cakes need oil, incredible as it is that what produces oil should need it."

22. Another line of argument is to refute our opponent's case by noting any contrasts or contradictions of dates, acts, or words that it anywhere displays; and this in any of the three following connexions. (1) Referring to our opponent's conduct, e.g. "He says he is devoted to you, yet he conspired with the Thirty." (2) Referring to our own conduct, e.g. "He says I am litigious, and yet he cannot prove that I have been engaged in a single lawsuit." (3) Referring to both of us together, e.g. "He has never even lent any one a penny, but I have ransomed quite a number of you."

23. Another line that is useful for men and causes that have been really or seemingly slandered, is to show why the facts are not as supposed; pointing out that there is a reason for the false impression given. Thus a woman, who had palmed off her son on another woman, was thought to be the lad's mistress because she embraced him; but when her action was explained the charge was shown to be groundless. Another example is from the Ajax of Theodectes, where Odysseus tells Ajax the reason why, though he is really braver than Ajax, he is not thought so.

24. Another line of argument is to show that if the cause is present, the effect is present, and if absent, absent. For by proving the cause you at once prove the effect, and conversely nothing can exist without its cause. Thus Thrasybulus accused Leodamas of having had his name recorded as a criminal on the slab in the Acropolis, and of erasing the record in the time of the Thirty Tyrants: to which Leodamas replied, "Impossible: for the Thirty would have trusted me all the more if my quarrel with the commons had been inscribed on the slab."

25. Another line is to consider whether the accused person can take or could have taken a better course than that which he is recommending or taking, or has taken. [1400b] If he has not taken this better course, it is clear that he is not guilty, since no one deliberately and consciously chooses what is bad. This argument is, however, fallacious, for it often becomes clear after the event how the action could have been done better, though before the event this was far from clear.

26. Another line is, when a contemplated action is inconsistent with any past action, to examine them both together. Thus, when the people of Elea asked Xenophanes if they should or should not sacrificeto Leucothea and mourn for her, he advised them not to mourn for her if they thought her a goddess, and not to sacrifice to her if they thought her a mortal woman.

27. Another line is to make previous mistakes the grounds of accusation or defence. Thus, in the Medea of Carcinus the accusers allege that Medea has slain her children; "at all events," they say,"they are not to be seen" -- Medea having made the mistake of sending her children away. In defence she argues that it is not her children, but Jason, whom she would have slain; for it would have been a mistake on her part not to do this if she had done the other. This special line of argument for enthymeme forms the whole of the Art of Rhetoric in use before Theodorus. Another line is to draw meanings from names. Sophocles, forinstance, says,

O steel in heart as thou art steel in name.

This line of argument is common in praises of the gods. Thus, too, Conon called Thrasybulus rash in counsel. And Herodicus said of Thrasymachus, "You are always bold in battle"; of Polus, "you are always a colt"; and of the legislator Draco that his laws were those not of a human being but of a dragon, so savage were they. And, in Euripides, Hecuba says of Aphrodite,

Her name and Folly's (aphrosuns) lightly begin alike,

and Chaeremon writes

Pentheus -- aname foreshadowing grief (penthos) to come.

The Refutative Enthymeme has a greater reputation than the Demonstrative, because within a small space it works out two opposing arguments, and arguments put side by side are clearer to the audience. But of all syllogisms, whether refutative or demonstrative, those are most applauded of which we foresee the conclusions from the beginning, so long as they are not obvious at first sight -- for part of the pleasure we feel is at our own intelligent anticipation; or those which we follow well enough to see the point ofthem as soon as the last word has been uttered.

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