Rhetoric of Aristotle

Rhetoric of Aristotle


A great cultural and scientific event was the appearance of Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” (384-322 BC), which greatly developed Plato’s teaching on oratory. Aristotle criticized the Platonic theory of disembodied forms (“ideas”), but could not completely overcome Platonic idealism, although, according to Lenin, “Aristotle comes close to materialism.” Rhetoric Aristotle puts in the general system of his teaching, highlighting in it the theoretical part – the doctrine of being, the practical part – the doctrine of human activity and the poetic part – the doctrine of creativity. According to Aristotle, there is matter, or a passive possibility of becoming; form (essence, essence of being); the beginning of the movement; target. There is a constant transition from “matter” to “form” and back, which is associated with the activity of the form.

There is something common, comprehended through the sensually perceived individual. The condition of knowledge of the general is inductive generalization, which is impossible without sensory perception. Hence the last stage in the verification of opinion is experience that is connected with inferences, with the availability of facts and their analysis. Thus, in order to comprehend the truth, it is necessary to combine induction and deduction on the basis of actual analysis. The composition “Rhetoric” of Aristotle is very clear. The first book describes the place of rhetoric among other sciences and highlights speeches; The second book is devoted to passions, customs and common methods of proof; The third book – the problems of style and speech construction.

Aristotle believes that rhetoric is an art corresponding to dialectic, for both of them relate to such subjects, acquaintance with which can be considered the property of all. This brings together both arts. He defines rhetoric as an art of persuasion, which uses the possible and the probable in those cases when the real reliability – is insufficient. “So it is obvious that rhetoric does not concern any particular class of objects, but, like dialectics, [applies to all areas], and also that it is useful and that its cause is not to convince, but in every given case to find ways of persuasion. “

And one more definition: “So, let’s define rhetoric as the ability to find possible ways of persuasion about each given subject.”



Rhetoric is engaged in the allocation of methods of persuasion, theoretical comprehension of these methods. As Aristotle notes, the action of persuasive speech depends on three aspects: the moral character of the speaker, the quality of the speech itself, the mood of the listeners. Already in the teachings of Aristotle stands out a triad: the sender of speech – speech – the recipient of speech, which finds its development in modern studies. The time of Plato and Aristotle in the history of Greek culture ends the period of classics. From the second half of the 5th century BC.

Bc. e. begins a new period of ancient culture, called Hellenism (Hellene – Greek). Hellenistic rhetoric analyzed a large number of stylistic phenomena. She studied the combination of words, developed the doctrine of the qualities of speech, continued to deal with the problems of tropes, figures, styles of some treatises, however, at first we find attraction with rhetoric, exquisite expressions, complex phrases, “colors of eloquence.” This manner of speech became known as the “Azian style” in the place of its origin and prosperity in Asia Minor.

The Azian style was studied by Hermogen, Theodorus Godarsky (teacher of Tiberius), an anonymous author, called Longinus, who wrote a treatise “On the Sublime.” Representatives of this style preached the pathos, ascent, exaltation. However, not all theoreticians and practitioners were supporters of the Azian style, its opponents stood for classical patterns and rigor of speech.

This style, in contrast to the Azian, began to be called the Attic, and its representatives – attitsistami. They preached the refined imagery and intellectuality of speech, which caused certain associations among listeners, thus influencing them. Attisists were supporters of the purity of speech, which implied its normativeness, which amounted to the right choice of words and morphological form. If the speaker followed these requirements, he could be considered an exemplary speaker, and his speeches were studied as examples.

By the end of the III century. BC. e. supporters of atticism (classicism) won, although the struggle continued further in Rome. In the I c. BC. e. Cicero wrote two treatises: “Brutus” and “Orator”, which, as it were, synthesize the Asian and Attic (classical) directions. Representatives of the Attic direction were, for example, Apollodorus of Pergamon, the tutor of the Roman emperor Octavian Augustus, who adhered to strict and precise rules of rhetoric; The cicellium, mentioned by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, is himself an advocate of the Attic direction, as well as Demetrius. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st c.

Bc. E.) spent most of his life in Rome. His most significant work is “On the union of words”, in which he expounds his aesthetic-rhetorical positions. Here is one of his judgments: “Many poets and prose writers, both philosophers and speakers, carefully select very beautiful and appropriate expressions, but unintelligently and tastelessly unite them, and nothing good comes from such work, and vice versa, others taking simple, simple words, but having combined them into pleasant and skilful combinations, they clothe the speech with the greatest charm. “

The philosopher aesthetically interprets the combination of words to express thoughts. This is a slightly different approach compared to previous studies of this type. 3 As examples, he quotes excerpts from Homer and Herodotus.

With the destruction of the right combination of words, the strength and beauty of speech is destroyed, Dionysius believes. He convincingly illustrates this idea with fragments from Homer, changing the poetic size, thereby disconnecting the words in the line. This was probably the first stylistic experiment, which was reduced, to put it in modern terms, to the method of transformation. Dionysius, with great conviction, also affirms the famous doctrine of the three types of compounding of words, or, we might say, three styles.

This teaching is one of the basic in the Hellenistic-Roman aesthetic consciousness. He distinguishes a strict style, elegant style and middle style, or three kinds of word combinations: a strict connection, a colorful connection, a common compound of words.

In the strict style – not theatrical, glossy beauty, but ancient and strict. To understand this style can a person who has a developed sense of the word. This style is formed on the basis of “calculation” and “art”. For the elegant style is characterized by “flowering freshness”, “flowering diversity”, “smoothness”, “softness”, “euphony.” The average style, strictly speaking, is literally “public”, “native” for everyone, “simple”.

It is intended for everyone and for the “common good”. These ideas were adopted in the era of classicism. As we see, in the theory of Dionysius, the combination of words is the basis for creating an oratorical speech, since the whole thing is not only and not so much in the choice of words, but also in a certain alternation and combination of verbal components.

Dionysius highlights a certain formal moment, which is closely related to the content. A good idea, according to Dionysius, should be dressed in a beautiful form. Thus, the content plan and the expression plan are one, in harmony. In “Letter to Pompey” Dionysius expresses his point of view on the style of speeches of some speakers.

In particular, when analyzing Plato’s speeches, Dionysius believes that when Plato uses simple, ingenuous and artless expressions, this sounds extraordinarily pleasant; he uses well-known words, striving for clarity and neglecting all sorts of intricate ornaments. “His tongue keeps a touch of antiquity and quietly spreads around him something joyful, like a blossom, full of freshness, a flower that emanates from the aroma, as if blown from the fragrant meadow by the wind, and there is no empty-headedness in his sweetness, but in his elegance – theatricality.” But when Plato falls into verbosity and seeks to express himself beautifully, his tongue becomes worse, loses its strength and charm, Hellenic purity and seems more difficult. All this obscures the thought, which is developing too slowly. Therefore, speech is especially harmful, containing numerous epithets, inappropriate metonymy, not observing the analogy of metaphors, solid allegories without a sense of proportion. Here, Dionysius’s aesthetic views on the style of public speaking were manifested. Developing these views, he analyzes the works of Thucydides, Herodotus, Xenophon, the Philist.

And here his aesthetic position is quite clear: he considers positive in the style of conciseness, clarity, liveliness, strength, tension, conformity to content. As we see, in these two works Dionysius gives a system of styles and a description of the stylistic features of public speech. Demetrius (about 1 century BC.

E.) attributed to the composition “On the style.” In this work, Demetrius develops two problems: the period, its structure and styles, their characteristics. The most important thing in this work is the doctrine of styles. He distinguishes four basic styles: simple (or meager), majestic (or solemn), elegant (or smooth), powerful (or strong), and also their possible combinations that contain the characteristic features of a number of styles. So, the elegant style, according to Demetrius, can be combined with simple and sublime, a powerful one combines with both.

Only the sublime does not join with the simple (or meager), since both exclude each other. Demetrius is interested in the form of expression in a broad sense – not as a form in itself, but with content. Highlighting the four styles, Demetrius continues the late-antique tradition, which is not conceived without a clear classification of forms. He introduces four styles instead of the traditional three, appearing in his treatise as a typical Hellenistic author who aspires to classification, detail, analyzing rhetorical technique.



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Rhetoric of Aristotle