Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Art of Rhetoric

(October 2013)

The purpose, then, of democracy is freedom, that of oligarchy is wealth, that of aristocracy has to do with education and customs, and that of tyranny is security.

Yeah, so I read this.

I’m half way through some modules in discourse analysis over at the other place, and it struck me that a lot of the schemas bore more than a passing resemblance to your more established modes and aspects of rhetoric. Given that this is another book that’s been on the shelf for a while, it seemed like actually reading it might be appropriate.

A good quarter of this edition is made up of the translator’s introduction. This is generally a good thing; sure, he picks up the odd academic spat that’s largely incomprehensible to the lay-reader, but in general it’s a useful overview of the whole work. Given that work in large part comprises long lists of almost but not quite tautological statements of the obvious it’s nice to have a handy guide nearby when you inevitably find yourself rereading the same sentence for the fifth time.

I’m hardly going to use this platform to pick a fight with one of the founding fathers of western thought and civilization, but suffice to say that it did rather confirm my view that there is very little new under the sun.


  1. Don't pick a fight with Aristotle: arguably the foundation of western analytical thought. Do bear in mind he was of his time, so what seems common sensical now may not have then, and was not investigated so thoroughly, in any case.

    1. You are of course entirely correct. As ever my complaints are fairly trite and superficial and even a Luddite like me can tell that there's a lot of pretty profound stuff working away here. Doesn't m ake it any easier to read, mind. The saving grave is that he appears to be gloriously petty when it comes to intellectual vendettas.

    2. Aren't we all. As is said, 'The reason fights in academia are so vicious is because the stakes are so small.'

      And nobody reads Aristotle for pleasure, or reads him at all, really: précis.

    3. I'd forgotten about that quote. It's just exactly right, isn't it? And so widely applicable, too...