Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (sophists, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle)

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Cindy Jones

Dr. Lamb

Eng 2150

07 December 2006

Final Essay Test 3
Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (sophists, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle)
It is thought that rhetoric or oratory originated in Syracuse, Sicily. After a tyrant named Hieron died, several families that felt they had rights to the lands that Hieron seized feuded in court over the spoils. A rhetorician named Corax, began teaching the family members how to be effective in court to win their cases through wit. Although Corax was not then considered a practitioner of rhetoric it was picked up by Gorgias and others that later were named the Sophists. The sophists used this methods and opportunity to teach and sell the ideas and methods of rhetoric to the flourishing Athenian city. The ancient Greek philosophers were the first to come up with the term “rhetoric.” According to Plato, Gorgias officially created the “art” of rhetoric. According to Plato, he and his followers were also somewhat slow-witted. Socrates, whom Plato uses as the voice of his argument, claims that rhetoric is a false art and bad for people in general.


Another important rhetorician in this era was Isocrates. Isocrates like Plato was against rhetoric as somewhat of a sham art. But unlike Plato, Isocrates used rhetoric to his advantage and accepted its good qualities. Rhetoric became recognized as a possible techne. Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies of persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator's arguments. Aristotle later defined rhetoric as a techne with purpose and methods. He introduced several arenas and scenarios for rhetoric such as the enthymeme, and the settings of the forensic, deliberative, and epidictic oratories.

Roman Rhetoric (Cicero, Quintilian, Longinus)
Roman Rhetoric expanded Aristotle’s rhetoric and was connected to ethos. The Romans appropriated Greek rhetoric and began developing a technical rhetorical vocabulary of their own. The Romans pointed in particular, to the Roman emphasis on the speaker’s solemnity and authority and to the main rhetorical contexts of public forums, courts, and funerals. Cicero developed the five canons of rhetoric, which can be considered on of the most remembered contributions to the history of rhetoric. These canons are invention, deliver, memory, expression, and arrangement. Quintilian further expanded Cicero's rhetoric and emphasized the idea that a good speaker must be a good man.  Quintilian is best known as defining rhetoric as the art of the good citizen speaking well.

This period also emphasized the teaching of rhetoric or argument in Roman educational arenas. Cicero’s five canons, the stasis system from De Inventione, Hermagoras’s issues, the topical systems, Quintilian’s definite and indefinite questions, the bases, the sources of proof and the loci of the act.

Longinus issued the basic principles of good writing. On the Sublime is important to literary criticism a guideline to great writing. With this he introduces the five sources of great writing, the importation of examples and figures of speech. These elements of good writing enhanced and introduced by Longinus stuck with the modern figures of not only writing but speech as well.

Also, in this period, the second sophistic rose. This reinvention of the sophist seemed to be more so for entertainment and profitable purposes. But, more “reputable” instances were being engaged through the use of this inventive rhetoric.

Rhetoric in Christian Europe/Middle Ages (Augustine)
Since rhetoric had always been prominent in both legislative and judicial function, The Church began to take in rhetoric as beneficial. Because of rhetoric’ “pagan” history, the use of it was somewhat reluctant. From the ancient rhetoricians the educators of the middle ages introduced a method of teaching called scholasticism. Scholasticism also branched into the church in the means of using an authoritative source or sources to prove a point.

St Augustine was an important factor in both Christian and medieval rhetoric. Augustine began teaching from Cicero and was also influenced by the practices of the Second Sophistic. Augustine looked at rhetoric much like a typical sophist. He saw rhetoric as a path to wealth and fame and this was before his conversion to Christianity.

In this period, three rhetorical arts were introduced; the art of letter writing, the art of preaching, and the art of poetry writing.
Renaissance Rhetoric (humanism, de Pisan, British rhetoric)
Renaissance rhetoric was more so the look back at the classics, Italian Humanism. Classic texts were recovered in this period: Aristotle's Rhetoric, Quintilian's Institutio, Cicero's De Oratore, Brutus, Orator, translations of Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus. Also, there was an introduction to the universal man. also known as the renaissance man. Lorenzo Valla was a humanistic writer who was very influential during this time. In this period, an important movement was the Italian Humanism.

Enlightenment Rhetoric (Blair, Campbell, Whateley)
The Enlightenment period in European history occurred from the seventeenth through the eighteenth century that was marked by scientific, political as philosophical revolutions. Some of the important contributors of this period were Thomas Sheridan, Lord Kames, Hugh Blair, George Campbell, and Richard Whately.

Each person contributed mainly by reiterating the classical ideals. Blair intended to craft an approach to rhetoric that would preserve classical goals amid changing social conditions and new developments in knowledge as his rhetoric aimed to produce good men who would speak out and write well in the service of the community whether for the pulpit, the bar, or the halls of legislature as he did not stress eloquence and style. Campbell juxtaposed the classics with the philosophical sciences of that present focus.

Contemporary Rhetoric I (Perelman and Olbrects-Tyteca and Toulmin)
The contemporary rhetoric of the early twentieth century was riding off of the motivations and attempts of thee enlightenment rhetorics through exploring scientific approaches to rhetorical concepts. In this period, a new rhetoric was introduced by Chaim Perelman and Madame L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The reinvented focus on audience and rhetorics effects and purpose are more so guided to speeches and professional rhetoric. The rationality that makes an ideal universal marked what made and audience one. The argument was considered the main tool for problem solving through rhetoric and there are appropriate means of achieving these goals.

Toulmin’s models is another scientific approach to analyzing and formulating rhetorical situations. Several have argued against scientific approaches to rhetoric as to it bring against the classical definition as a practical art of civil discourse. Unfortunately, today, the discourse of rhetoric has become very formulaic and scientific to fit into an “appropriate” box. But, these formulas are necessary, especially from Cicero’s five canons.

Contemporary Rhetoric II (Burke and Bitzer)
This period in the mid-twentieth century was sort of a mending maneuver. Bringing humans and meaning together through the use of rhetoric was the main purpose of such rhetoricians as Kenneth Burke. Burke employed the term “symbolic inducement” to define his take on the three fundamental elements of human social and private existence. Another important element of rhetoric that Burke contributed was his pentad. The act, the scene, the agent, the agency, and the purpose are the five elements of the pentad. These dramatic rhetorical situations were the means to understanding human motives.

Lloyd Bitzer marked a turning point with “The Rhetorical Situation.” Defined as the problems that prompted rhetorical situations, exigencies are one of the elements of the rhetorical situation. The next is the audience who is capable of being influenced appropriately, and the constraints that must be considered when inventing and appropriate approach to an audience. The rhetorical abilities of novels was an important movement at the time as well. Those such as Bakhtin, Booth, and Habermas presented several proofs to this idea.

Contemporary Rhetoric III (Postmodernism, Foucault, Weaver, Feminist Rhetoric)
In reaction to the Enlightenment period of rhetoric, Postmodernism reason and rationality was elevated. Michel Foucault was a very important figure not only to rhetoric but to knowledge, feminism, sexuality and civilization as a whole. According to Foucault, power is one of the few truly defining marks which makes each of us individual, unique, and valuable. Jacques Derrida focused on deconstructing the meaning of language in text and the rhetorical power behind the motives of the authors.

Richard Weaver pointed to rhetoric as a presentation of values. As far as the feministic movement within rhetoric there has never really been a woman’s voice other than Aphasia, there was a great need for such at this time.

American Composition (1890s-1940)
At this point, composition learning was becoming very important. The Harvard model of freshmen composition became very critical in higher education. Because of the growing number of secondary and post-secondary school, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) was formed.

The progressives were more successful in introducing a more productive method for the students to grasp composition through writing on more social sciences. At this point, writing solely on literature and fixing that writing was not very effective. Therefore, having course just for comprehension itself and not literary comprehension proved more successful.

American Composition (1950-60)
Since a great recognition for a new type of writing course was realized, the NCTE mandated the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). The need to make college writing courses apart of a department, preferably the English department, was quite eminent. They also wanted to make the composition courses much more rigorous and challenging.

In the 1960s the classical text referring to English departments were reviewed. The classical five-stage process of invention, arrangement, style memory, and delivery proved to work and was incorporated. The writing “process” also became an issue in pre-writing and the actual composition inside the writer.

American Composition (1970-80)
The need to discover the actual writing process and what the writer goes through prompted the study of cognitive psychology. The look inside what the writers think and what they do the end up with a successful finished product. Composing became not the actual process of writing, but the entire process from pre-writing to the finished process; what the writing is thinking throughout the process. In the 1980s, the cognitive process was still important. Social concerns became more important to the writer’s environment and means of writing.
American Composition (1990-present)
Cultural studies remained important in the 1990s as it was in the 1980s. Diversity in the classroom has begun to be noticed especially among the ethnically diverse classrooms. The idea of new technologies of electronic writing was also discussed in this decade. In the twenty-first century, as cultural and diversity are still prevalent more issues such as sexual identity, disability studies, and whiteness issues arose.

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