An Attempt to Interpret a Portion of Aristotle’s On Rhetoric

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"An Attempt to Interpret a Portion of Aristotle’s On Rhetoric"

Definition of Happiness

Aristotle lists numerous components of happiness and he claims that happiness is the one goal that everyone has in mind when one makes decisions in his life. People do things that will bring them happiness, or at least provide one of the parts of happiness, or in effect increases happiness or its parts rather than decreases them, and one should also avoid doing things that destroy happiness or cause its opposite. Aristotle defines happiness as a "success combined with virtue or as self-sufficiency in life or as the pleasantest life accompanied with security or as abundance of possessions and live bodies, with the ability to defend and use these things; for all people agree that happiness is pretty much one or more of these" (57). To prove the accuracy of his definition of happiness, Aristotle lists each part of the definition. Since most people would agree that the parts that Aristotle mentions are components of happiness, his definition is upheld by mere human nature.

Aristotle believes that one must first be blessed with "good birth," which can be linked to a person’s mother’s or fathers’ lineage, having a family history of virtue, or wealth, or honor, all of which are separate components of happiness in themselves. If someone comes from a good family, then he will also be considered good. An example would be how George Bush, Jr. was elected president in 2000. A lot of his reputation came from being the son of a former president. Aristotle also believes that a person would derive happiness by having good children, and in order to be considered good, the children must have "excellence of body" and "excellence of mind," which are, on their own accord components of happiness. Basically, for one to have "good" children, the children must be beautiful, strong, and smart. A person would desire this of their children, because it is they who will carry on and represent his family name once he is deceased. Aristotle states that wealth is a component of happiness, and it includes obvious entities such as cash, land, and the possession of desirable things. A person would desire wealth because it would offer him status, power and leverage, and the ability to afford and enjoy luxuries. Aristotle states that, "All in all, wealth consists more in use than in possession; for the actualization of the potentialities of such things and their use is wealth" (59). The next component of happiness (as defined by Aristotle) is for one to have a good reputation. Having a good reputation offers a person more credibility in a situation where credibility is an asset, especially in matters of crime in the courts. Another component of happiness is honor, which is having a reputation of being a doer of good deeds. Even if one has only the potential for doing good, he is still in a position of honor, and the event in which honor is acquired might also bring one the status of honor. Aristotle lists several acts that would be considered components of honor, most of which relate to the act of giving up something of worth.

Aristotle elaborates on the condition of the body, and its effect on one’s happiness. If a person is in excellent health, and does not have to live a life without any indulgence in luxury to achieve a healthy body, then this person has attained a part of happiness.

Aristotle speaks of the different phases of life that one will go through if they are to live a long life, which include youth, prime, and old age. When one is in his youth, he must be beautiful and fit. When one is in his prime, he must be knowledgeable on war and be attractive, yet "fear-inspiring" (60). In old age, one must still be useful in whatever role his body requires of it, and not be too scary to look at. Strength, good stature, which includes good height, good limbs, and a good size torso, and bodily excellence in athletics, are all components of happiness, by Aristotle’s definition. A healthy body creates admiration in others, especially if their body is not healthy. One can not truly be happy, if in his old age, he is in much pain, or ages too quickly, or if he ages slowly but is in great pain. Good luck is an important component of happiness, because it is a way for one to acquire something good that he would not have otherwise had the opportunity to achieve. According to Aristotle, "Chance is also the cause of good things that are unaccountable…" (62). The final component of happiness that Aristotle mentions is that of virtue, which is related to praise, or apart of an account of praise. Virtue is a characteristic that can only be appointed to a person by someone else to really truly exist. For a person to be deemed as virtuous, others beside himself must believe that he is virtuous.

The Connection: Deliberative Rhetoric and Happiness

In order to understand Aristotle’s connection between happiness and deliberative rhetoric, one must be familiar with what deliberative rhetoric is, and on what occasions it might be used. Aristotle states that, "Rhetoric is an antistrophos to dialectic; for both are concerned with such things as are, to a certain extent, within the knowledge of all people and belong to no separately defined science" (28-29). In rhetoric, one would probably be involved in an attempt to defend himself, and attack another. Rhetoric is made up of three species, which are deliberative, forensic, and epideictic. Each type of speech requires three things, one who speaks on a subject with a particular listener in mind, the objective that the speaker hopes to achieve, and the listener, who must be a spectator or a judge. The type of species being utilized determines the speech’s end. The species of rhetoric that has a connection with happiness is deliberative rhetoric. Deliberative rhetoric deals with the future, and the end that is prescribed to this rhetoric is either advantageous or harmful, but a deliberative speaker would not confess that he is not speaking in hopes to achieve the best interest of the audience (or the state). The three forms of proof used within the species of rhetoric are ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is the character of the speaker that is perceived through his speech, logos is the logical proof that speakers use to support their argument, and pathos refers to the emotions that arise in the listeners from the speaker’s speech. Aristotle breaks the purpose of deliberative rhetoric into five subject matters which include, "finances, war and peace, national defense, imports and exports, and the framing of laws" (53). These are the premises in which deliberative rhetoric can be most beneficial as a tool.

Aristotle believes that in one’s attempt to achieve happiness, he will usually have the desire to acquire "good" things that will help him in his goal to happiness. Happiness plays the role as a motivator that deliberative rhetors use to persuade the audience to agree with their perspective. The speaker uses this motivation in his speech by focusing on that which will benefit the listener. With happiness as a listener’s ultimate goal, the speaker needs to know his audience to determine which parts of happiness they would be most interested in. The speaker must be knowledgeable on the actual subject of deliberation, and he must also know the elements that influence the deliberation, which would be the three proofs: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Aristotle states that, “Both to an individual privately and to all people generally there is one goal (skopos) at which they aim in what they choose to do and in what they avoid. Summarily stated, this is happiness (eudaimonia) and its parts” (57). Deliberative rhetoric allows a speaker to integrate the components of happiness into the goal of their speech to motivate the listener to comply. Within the use of happiness as a motivator, deliberative rhetoric relies greatly on opposites as a tactic, because if one act causes something bad, then the opposite act would produce the opposite result which would be something good. Aristotle argues that, "Things ‘follow upon’ another in two senses: either simultaneously or subsequently" (63). Aristotle uses the example that knowledge comes from learning, but that living occurs simultaneously with health. Aristotle lists what he has determined as good, which includes pleasure, happiness, justice, courage, temperance, magnanimity, magnificence, health and beauty, wealth, friend and friendship, honor, reputation, the ability to speak, to act, natural talent, memory, ease in learning, quickwittedness, all forms of knowledge and art, and life (64). Syllogisms contain two premises and a conclusion, but one premise is omitted because it is already accepted by audience as true. Syllogisms appear from the situations that surround a certain component of "good." In Aristotle’s logic, what is good is directly related to happiness or is a component of happiness. Since everyone’s goal is to achieve happiness, a speaker of deliberative rhetoric makes what is "good" the basis of his argument and creates an advantageous goal, and then he modifies what components his argument emphasizes based on his knowledge of the audience.

Aristotle’s Theory in 2002

Aristotle’s theory on happiness and deliberation, or more specifically, his connection between deliberative rhetoric and happiness, still holds a good deal of truth today. Technology has changed our society tremendously, and it has also changed how people have come to know the world we live in, but it has not had such a great effect on human nature. It does not matter how society changes, people will always have an inherent desire to be happy. The components that make up happiness exist, because they are what people desire. The type of society we live in can change, but people will still desire wealth, good health, virtue, and honor, and they will still believe that these things will make them happy. Since people in today’s society still desire happiness, the components of happiness that Aristotle identifies still stand. The components may seem much more simplified than they might have in Aristotle’s day, but they still exist within the realm of happiness. A man in his prime does not necessarily need to be “fear-inspiring” in modern times to be happy, because he is not as threatened by face-to-face combat. In Aristotle’s day, this characteristic would have scared off scandalous people from trying to mess with him.

Greece was composed of a constitutional government. It was advantageous for the individual in a Greek society to be learned on the species of rhetoric, and more specifically, deliberative rhetoric. Aristotle advises that a speaker can participate in politics provided that he has knowledge of politics and ethics, and that he makes use of this knowledge in his argument (11). Aristotle mentions four forms of constitution, which are democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy and monarchy. Aristotle states that, "the end of democracy is freedom" (77). Deliberative rhetoric, in today’s American society, would mostly be utilized by a speaker who is involved with legislation. Those who might be involved with legislation are Senators and House Representatives, and their arguments would consist of trying to persuade one another on a specific topic that may or may not lead to future legislation.

In an American Democratic society, the Senators and House Representatives are supposed to represent the wants and desires of the public, and they are supposed to act in the best interest of the public. Most of these representatives are considered authority figures, so their ethos (character) is considered to be good. The arguments of these representatives consist of logos (logical proof) that will either persuade or dissuade the other representatives, of which their ultimate intention is to achieve happiness for the people they represent, and inadvertently for themselves. Depending on who the audience is individually representing, pathos (emotions) arise either for or against the argument, either intensifying the division between the opposing views, or creating agreement among the listeners. In effect, the representatives will produce legislation in hopes to make the people they represent happy.

A Deliberative Argument on Computers in Education

The use of computers in education is a concept that many people feel comfortable with. A common slogan is that, "computers make learning fun." As an education major who is currently studying the most recent teaching techniques that have shown to be effective, I do not see a place for computers in the classroom. A teacher’s job is to enrich a child’s mind with knowledge and help them learn to think critically so that they may become an asset to society as an adult. Parents want their children to go to school to become educated. Computers completely negate the concept of learning through experience. Computers in education actually encourage attention deficit syndrome. The only thing computers have to offer to students is that they can learn how to use a computer. In actuality, computers act as a setback that teachers have to overcome in order to offer their students a quality education.

Since computers are being made apart of the classroom setting, the Internet is promoted along with it. Many people believe that with the Internet’s ability to constantly obtain updated information, that it will negate the cost of buying textbooks that go quickly out of date. In 1998, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke to the Supercomm trade show and stated, “We’ll replace textbooks with computers. I hope within five years they will have no more textbooks” (Stoll 36). Even with a filtered Internet connection to attempt to keep out unwanted material in the classroom, the possibility of it occurring still exists. Among the likely instances to occur is that students will be accessing inaccurate and unregulated information from websites that have not been approved, or checked for accuracy. Not only that, but the Internet contains inappropriate material for children, including but not limited to, pornography, violence, violent language, and sexually explicit language. We are supposed to protect our children from these type of things, not throw them in their faces. With children’s exposure to this type of material, their morals and perspectives will deteriorate, leaving us with bad children, who will in effect, grow up to be bad adults.

With all of this other information from the Internet interfering with a child’s ability to learn, he will receive a lower quality education than if he had not had computers in his classroom. Parents attempt to regulate the time their child spends in front of the television, so it seems absurd that they would encourage their child to sit in front of a computer. Clifford Stoll states in his book, High-Tech Heretic, “Turning learning into fun denigrates the most important things we can do in life: to learn and to teach” (Stoll 14). Computers are supposed to make learning fun, but learning is not supposed to be all fun and games. To achieve anything in life, one must work at it. The harder one works, the greater the achievement. Computers do not encourage children to work, but instead, encourages them to sit and stare at a computer screen while aimlessly clicking on the mouse. Without work, children do not learn, and will not receive a good education. With lack of a good education, the once child, now adult, will be unable to get a good job. Computers actually become the cause of a child’s future lack of wealth.

Certain concepts are acquired from a quality education. Someone who receives a good education will understand that smoking is bad for his body. One will also acknowledge that exercise is beneficial to the quality of one’s physical body. If an educated person gets sick, then he knows that he must finish his medical prescription entirely in order to not have a relapse of the sickness. He will also eat foods that provide him with nutrition, and have proper medical care. He will do these things because he is knowledgeable on how to take care of his body. Computers deny children a quality education because they take up classroom time with animated cartoons that kids supposedly learn from, but they are really just a way for kids to get out of doing class-work, key word being "work," that they might actually learn from. With computers robbing children out of a proper education, a child will not know how to properly take care of his body so that he will be unable to live a long healthy life, free from avoidable illnesses and pain.

As one of society’s soon to be teachers, I want to be able to offer my students an enriching education. Computers will only take away valuable time from teachers that they need to offer students a quality education. Since the children of today are the future of tomorrow, everyone will benefit from keeping computers out of the classroom. We need good children today. Computer free classrooms will educate children properly, and produce educated adults. The quality of our future needs to be determined by adults who have the opportunity to accumulate wealth and to enjoy good health so that they are happy. With their happiness they will, in effect, create a happier future for us all.

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