Food for Thought July 2013 - Page 12

School of Thought: Aristotelian


Aristotle (384-324 BC) was a pupil of the great philosopher king Plato. Although he studied under Plato, he had a few separate views from him. In the year 358 BC, he begins teaching rhetoric at the Academy. This is such a shock due to the fact that Plato believed that philosophy was greater than rhetoric and he believed rhetoric had the ability to pull your soul away from the noumenal world. Aristotle believed that rhetoric could be used to build on the beliefs the audience already had. This is contrary to the belief of the Sophists who said that rhetoric created knowledge.

Not only was Aristotle a philosopher, but he dabbled in the arts of biology, psychology, philosophy, etc. While Plato believed truth lied in the noumenal world, Aristotle was more focused on observations and human behaviors. He believed that we could find absolute truth through science. He also believed that dialectic was essential to get to the truth, but rhetoric was needed to share your truths.

The appeals that we have all grown accustomed to, ethos (credibility), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion), were believed by Aristotle to all work together to create a persuausive argument. He also states that there are two types of reasoning when we’re making an argument: inductive (examples) and deductive (starts with a general premise and works to a specific point).

Aristotle is known for breaking things down into categories. He broke down speeches into different types of genres. There is a forensic speech that uses legal rhetoric and examines past actions. Then there's epideictic speech that praises or blames something in the present moment and there's deliberative speech that is concerned with fututre actions.

When it comes to the style of speeches, Aristotle advised that you had to use the appropriate vernacular for your audience, you had to bring life to your speech through word choice and gesticulation, but you had to be careful not to fall into the habit of the Sophists when writing speeches. He believed that they relied to heavily on poetics, emotions, and excessive delivery.

This great philosopher reached the end of his philosophy career when he was charged with "corrupting the youth" , just as Socrates was. He was forced to flee to Chalicis where he died a year later.