Synopsis of Aristotle's Rhetoric


Definition: Rhetoric is the faculty of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion.


Essence of rhetoric: Argument (all else is accessory).


Types of arguments:

1. External (witnesses, dispositions under torture, contracts laws, oaths). The external arguments (sometimes called non‑artistic proofs) are not part of the art of rhetoric. They are persuasive in and of themselves.

2. Internal arguments that must be found or discovered. Internal arguments (sometimes called artistic proofs) require an art by which they may be found.


Kinds of internal arguments:

1. Ethos              concerned with the character of the rhetor.

2. Pathos            concerned with the emotions of the listener.

3. Logos             concerned with the reasonableness of the arguments in the speech.


Methods of internal argument:

1. Enthymeme rhetorical syllogism.

2. Paradigm rhetorical induction.


Types of speeches:

                                    Time                        Ends                                     Means

1. Forensic                   past                justice & injustice                  accusation & defense

2. Epideictic                 present           honor & dishonor                  praise & blame

3. Deliberative              future              expedient & inexpedient        exhortation & dehortation


Since Aristotle places emphasis upon rhetoric as an art of discovering the available means of persuasion, and not the effect of persuasion, his theory stresses the methodological aspects of rhetoric. He is the first theorist to specify what rhetoric's method is. The rest of books I and II work out this method of discovery through Aristotle's discussion of topoi (topics or commonplaces). This idea will be developed in Unit B.