Aristotle, Rhetoric. Book I, Chapter 2

Aristotle, Rhetoric. Book I, Chapter 2

by William C. Michael

Now, therefore, we shall endeavour to speak concerning the method itself, and how, and from what particulars we may be able to obtain the end proposed by this art. Again, therefore, as if defining from the beginning, let us discuss what remains. Let rhetoric then be the power of perceiving in every thing that which is capable of producing persuasion; for this is the employment of no other art; since each of the other arts is doctrinal and persuasive about that which is the subject of its consideration. Thus, for instance, medicine is doctrinal and persuasive about that which is salubrious and morbid ; geometry, about the properties accidental to magnitudes; and arithmetic about number. The like also takes place in the other arts and sciences. But rhetoric, as I may say, appears to be able to survey about any given thing, what is adapted to produce persuasion. Hence, also, we say, that it does not possess an artificial power about any certain peculiar definite genus.

With respect, however, to things which procure credibility, some of them are without art, but others are artificial. And I call those without art, which are not devized by us, but exist prior such as witnesses, questions, writings, and other particulars of the like kind; but those are artificial which are capable of being procured methodically, and by us; so that it is requisite to use the former, and discover the latter.

Of the credibility, however, which is procured by argument there are three species. For one kind indeed consists in the manners of the speaker; another in the disposition of the hearer; and the third in the argument itself, in consequence of demonstrating, or appearing to demonstrate. Credibility, therefore, is procured through manners, when the oration is delivered in such a way, as to render the speaker worthy of belief. For about every thing, in short, we believe the worthy in a greater degree, and more rapidly; but in those particulars in which an accurate knowledge cannot be obtained, and which are ambiguous, we entirely confide in the worthy. It is, however, requisite that this also should happen through oration, and not from any previous opinion respecting the speaker. For we must not admit what some teachers of rhetoric have asserted in their art, that the probity of the speaker contributes nothing to persuasion; since nearly, as I may say, manners possess the most powerful and principal credibility. But credibility is procured through the hearers, when their passions are influenced by the oration; for we do not similarly form a judgment when we grieve or rejoice, love or hate; to which we assert that those who now deliver the art of rhetoric, alone direct their attention. Each of these particulars, however, will be elucidated by us, when we speak concerning the passions. But belief is produced through arguments, when we show what is true, or appears to be true from the probabilities pertaining to the several objects of enquiry. Since, however, credibility is effected through these things, it is evident that to obtain the three species of it is the province of him who is able to syllogize, who can survey what pertains to the passions, what each of them is, what quality it possesses, and from what particulars it is ingenerated and how; so that it happens that rhetoric is as it were something which grows upon dialectic and the discussion concerning manners, and it is just to call it political. Hence, rhetoric assumes the form of the political and those who profess it, do so partly through ignorance, partly from arrogance, and partly from human causes. For it is a certain particle and resemblance of dialectic, as we observed in the beginning of this treatise. For neither of them is the science of any thing definite, and which shows how a thing subsists, but they are certain powers of procuring arguments. And thus we have nearly spoken sufficiently concerning the power which they possess, and how they subsist with respect to each other.

With respect, however, to proof either real or apparent, in the same manner as in dialectic, one kind is induction, another is syllogism, and a third is apparent syllogism; thus, also, similarly in rhetoric; for example, indeed, is induction; but enthymeme is a syllogism. But I call enthymeme, indeed, a rhetorical syllogism; and example a rhetorical induction. All however, who procure belief by the proofs which they adduce, effect it, either by the examples which they bring, or by enthymemes; and in a certain respect, there is nothing else besides these. Hence, if in short it is necessary to point out any person or thing by syllogism or induction, (but this is evident to us from the analytics) it is necessary that each of those should be the same with each of these. But what the difference is between example and enthymeme is evident from the Topics. For there syllogism and induction are previously discussed; because if it is shown in many and similar things that what we assert is true, there indeed it is induction, but here it is example. When, however, certain things existing, something else besides happens from these, because these subsist either universally, or for the most part; — when this is the case, there, indeed, it is called syllogism, but here enthymeme. But it is evident that each form of rhetoric is benefitted . For the like to what we have observed in the Methodical treatises takes place, also, in this treatise. For some orations are of the nature of examples, but others are enthymematic. And in a similar manner with respect to rhetoricians, some are delighted with examples, and others with enthymemes. Arguments, therefore, from examples are no less calculated to persuade but those from enthymemes cause greater perturbation. But the reason of this, and how each of these is to be used, we shall hereafter explain.

Now, however, let us more fully and clearly discuss these very particulars themselves. For that which is persuasive, is persuasive to some one. And one thing, indeed, is immediately of itself persuasive and credible; but another, because it appears to be proved through things that are credible. No art, however, speculates that which is particular. Thus for instance, medicine does not speculate what is salubrious to Socrates or Callias, but what is so to such a one, or to such persons ; for this is artificial. But particulars are infinite, and are not the objects of science. Nor does rhetoric speculate opinable particulars; such as what is the subject of opinion to Socrates or Hippias, but that which is the subject of opinion to such or such persons, in the same manner as dialectic. For dialectic, also, syllogizes, not from such things as are casual; since certain things appear even to those that are delirious; but dialectic syllogizes from such things as require to be developed by a reasoning process, and rhetoric from such things as are accustomed to take place in consultation. The employment, however, of rhetoric consists in such particulars as are the subject of our consultation, and respecting which we have no art, and it is also conversant with such hearers as are incapable of perceiving through many or of syllogizing remotely, But we consult about those things the subsistence of which appears to be possible in both ways, For with respect to such things as cannot either in the past, or future, or present time, have a different subsistence, no one consults about these, conceiving that they thus subsist. For it is not possible for any one to consult otherwise that thus But it is possible to syllogize and collect, some things, indeed, from such particulars as have been previously syllogistically inferred, but others from things not inferred by syllogism, but require syllogism, because they are not probable. And it is necessary, indeed, with respect to these, that the consecution of the one should not be so easy, on account of its length; for the judge is supposed to be simple; and that the other should not be adapted to persuade, because it does not proceed from things acknowledged, nor from such as are probable. Hence, it is necessary that enthymeme and example, should be conversant with such things as for the most part admit of a various subsistence. And example, indeed, requires induction; but enthymeme, syllogism. It is, likewise, necessary that enthymeme and example should consist from a few things, and frequently from fewer than those from which the first syllogism consists. For if any one of these is known, it is not necessary to say any thing since the hearer himself will add this. Thus for instance, for the purpose of concluding that Doricus was victorious in that contest in which the victors were crowned, it is sufficient to say, that he conquered in the Olympic games; but there is no occasion to add that he was crowned because he conquered in the Olympic games; for this is known by all men.

There are, however, a few necessary things from which rhetorical syllogisms consist; for many of the particulars which are the subject of judgment and consideration, may have a serious subsistence, or subsist otherwise than they do; since men make their actions the subjects of their consultation and consideration. All actions, likewise, belong to the genus of things which are contingent, and no one of these, as I may say, is from necessity; but things which are for the most part accidental and contingent, must necessarily be syllogistically collected from other things which are of the like kind; and such as are necessary must be deduced by syllogism from necessary prepositions. But this is evident to us from the Analytics. This then being the case, it is manifest that with respect to those things from which enthymemes are deduced, some, indeed, are necessary, but most of them are such as have a frequency of subsistence. For enthymemes are deduced from probabilities and signs; so that it is necessary each of these should be the same with each. For the probable is that which subsists for the most part; but not simply, according to the definition of some persons. That, however, which is assumed respecting things which may have a various subsistence has the same relation to that to which the probably is directed, as universal to particular. But with respect to signs, one, indeed, has such a subsistence as some one of particulars to that which is universal; but another, as some one of universals to that which is particular. And of these signs, that, indeed, which is necessary, is an argument; but that which is not necessary, is anonymous according to difference. I call, therefore, those things necessary from which syllogism is produced; on which account, also, a sign of this kind is tekmerion, or an argument. For when rhetoricians fancy that what they say cannot be solved, then they think they have adduced an argument, as being something proved and definite. For tekmar, and bound, or limit, are the same, according to the ancient tongue. With respect to signs, however, that indeed which subsists as particular to universal, is just as if some one should say it is a sign that wise are just men; for Socrates was wise and just. This, therefore, is a sign; but what has been asserted though true may be solved; for it is unsyllogistic. The following, however, as, for instance, if some one should say, it is a sign that a certain person is diseased, for he has a fever; or that some female has been delivered, because she has milk, are necessary signs; and which are they only signs that are tekmeria. For these alone if true cannot be solved. But that which subsists as universal to particular, is as if some one should say, it is a sign that a certain person has a fever; for he breathes short and frequently. This, however, may be solved though it is true. For it is possible that one who has not a fever may labour under a difficulty of breathing. We have, therefore, now shown what the probable, a sign, and an argument, are, and in what they differ from each other. These, however, are more clearly unfolded in the Analytics, where, also, it is shown from what cause some of them are unsyllogistic, but others are syllogistically deduced. And with respect to example, that it is indeed induction, and what the subjects are about which it is an induction, we have already shown. It is, however, neither as a part to the whole, nor as the whole to a part, nor as a whole to whole; but that which is a part to a part, and as the similar to the similar, when both are under the same genus, but the one is more known than the other, is example. Thus for instance, that Dionysius endeavoured to establish a tyrannical government, when he required a guard, is an example; for Pisistratus who prior to him attempted the same thing, demanded a guard, and having obtained it, tyrannized and Theagenes over the Megarensians. All such others, likewise, as are known become an example of Dionysius, with respect to whom it is not yet known whether he requires a guard with a view to a tyrannical government. All these, however, are under the same universal, viz. that he aspires after a tyranny who requires a guard. And thus we have shown what the particulars are from which the credibility that appears to be demonstrative is derived.

Translated by Thomas Taylor (1818); prepared by Guilherme Soares (2021)


Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the <a href=”">Classical Liberal Arts Academy</a>. He graduated from Rutge

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William C. Michael

Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the <a href=”">Classical Liberal Arts Academy</a>. He graduated from Rutge