Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric

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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is a manual for public speakers written by a philosopher. While this might raise some eyebrows today, it was not so surprising at a time when neither philosophy nor rhetoric were clearly established as distinct disciplines. They had a common ancestor in the fifth-century generation of the great sophists Protagoras and Gorgias, which also included Socrates. Though Socrates, of course, always insisted that he had no expert knowledge that he could teach, but was simply a lover of wisdom, even Plato’s dialogues show that he was seen as the Athenian counterpart of the visiting sophists from abroad. By the end of the fifth century, the label “sophist” had obviously acquired a derogatory sense. New words were needed to describe what these public teachers were doing. Isocrates, a slightly older contemporary of Plato, was a student of Gorgias, but also at least for some time among the companions of Socrates. He founded a school in Chios around 390, where he taught the art of speaking well (εὖ λέγειν), not just (albeit primarily) in style, but also in content. He described what his students were learning as philosophy, though not in the sense of the subtleties and scientific exercises practiced in the Academy, but only to the extent that it would be of practical use for good citizens. The

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