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description: Rhetoric has its origins in Mesopotamia. Some of the earliest examples of rhetoric can be found in the Akkadian writings of the princess and priestess Enheduanna (ca. 2285–2250 BC), while later examp ...
Rhetoric has its origins in Mesopotamia.[36] Some of the earliest examples of rhetoric can be found in the Akkadian writings of the princess and priestess Enheduanna (ca. 2285–2250 BC),[37] while later examples can be found in the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the time of Sennacherib (704–681 BC).[38] In ancient Egypt, rhetoric had existed since at least the Middle Kingdom period (ca. 2080–1640 BC). The Egyptians held eloquent speaking in high esteem, and it was a skill that had a very high value in their society. The "Egyptian rules of rhetoric" also clearly specified that "knowing when not to speak is essential, and very respected, rhetorical knowledge." Their "approach to rhetoric" was thus a "balance between eloquence and wise silence." Their rules of speech also strongly emphasized "adherence to social behaviors that support a conservative status quo" and they held that "skilled speech should support, not question, society."[39] In ancient China, rhetoric dates back to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551-479 BC), and continued with later followers. The tradition of Confucianism emphasized the use of eloquence in speaking.[40] The use of rhetoric can also be found in the ancient Biblical tradition.[41]

In ancient Greece, the earliest mention of oratorical skill occurs in Homer's Iliad, where heroes like Achilles, Hektor, and Odysseus were honored for their ability to advise and exhort their peers and followers (the Laos or army) in wise and appropriate action. With the rise of the democratic polis, speaking skill was adapted to the needs of the public and political life of cities in ancient Greece, much of which revolved around the use of oratory as the medium through which political and judicial decisions were made, and through which philosophical ideas were developed and disseminated. For modern students today, it can be difficult to remember that the wide use and availability of written texts is a phenomenon that was just coming into vogue in Classical Greece. In Classical times, many of the great thinkers and political leaders performed their works before an audience, usually in the context of a competition or contest for fame, political influence, and cultural capital; in fact, many of them are known only through the texts that their students, followers, or detractors wrote down. As has already been noted, rhetor was the Greek term for orator: A rhetor was a citizen who regularly addressed juries and political assemblies and who was thus understood to have gained some knowledge about public speaking in the process, though in general facility with language was often referred to as logôn techne, "skill with arguments" or "verbal artistry."[42]

Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies for persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator's arguments. Today the term rhetoric can be used at times to refer only to the form of argumentation, often with the pejorative connotation that rhetoric is a means of obscuring the truth. Classical philosophers believed quite the contrary: the skilled use of rhetoric was essential to the discovery of truths, because it provided the means of ordering and clarifying arguments.

Main article: Sophists
In Europe, organized thought about public speaking began in ancient Greece.[43] Possibly, the first study about the power of language may be attributed to the philosopher Empedocles (d. ca. 444 BC), whose theories on human knowledge would provide a basis for many future rhetoricians. The first written manual is attributed to Corax and his pupil Tisias. Their work, as well as that of many of the early rhetoricians, grew out of the courts of law; Tisias, for example, is believed to have written judicial speeches that others delivered in the courts. Teaching in oratory was popularized in the 5th century BC by itinerant teachers known as sophists, the best known of whom were Protagoras (c.481-420 BC), Gorgias (c.483-376 BC), and Isocrates (436-338 BC). The Sophists were a disparate group who travelled from city to city, teaching in public places to attract students and offer them an education. Their central focus was on logos or what we might broadly refer to as discourse, its functions and powers. They defined parts of speech, analyzed poetry, parsed close synonyms, invented argumentation strategies, and debated the nature of reality. They claimed to make their students "better," or, in other words, to teach virtue. They thus claimed that human "excellence" was not an accident of fate or a prerogative of noble birth, but an art or "techne" that could be taught and learned. They were thus among the first humanists. Several sophists also questioned received wisdom about the gods and the Greek culture, which they believed was taken for granted by Greeks of their time, making them among the first agnostics. For example, they argued that cultural practices were a function of convention or nomos rather than blood or birth or phusis. They argued even further that morality or immorality of any action could not be judged outside of the cultural context within which it occurred. The well-known phrase, "Man is the measure of all things" arises from this belief. One of their most famous, and infamous, doctrines has to do with probability and counter arguments. They taught that every argument could be countered with an opposing argument, that an argument's effectiveness derived from how "likely" it appeared to the audience (its probability of seeming true), and that any probability argument could be countered with an inverted probability argument. Thus, if it seemed likely that a strong, poor man were guilty of robbing a rich, weak man, the strong poor man could argue, on the contrary, that this very likelihood (that he would be a suspect) makes it unlikely that he committed the crime, since he would most likely be apprehended for the crime. They also taught and were known for their ability to make the weaker (or worse) argument the stronger (or better). Aristophanes famously parodies the clever inversions that sophists were known for in his play The Clouds.

The word "sophistry" developed strong negative connotations in ancient Greece that continue today, but in ancient Greece sophists were nevertheless popular and well-paid professionals, widely respected for their abilities but also widely criticized for their excesses.

Main article: Isocrates
Isocrates (436-338 BC), like the sophists, taught public speaking as a means of human improvement, but he worked to distinguish himself from the Sophists, whom he saw as claiming far more than they could deliver. He suggested that while an art of virtue or excellence did exist, it was only one piece, and the least, in a process of self-improvement that relied much more heavily on native talent and desire, constant practice, and the imitation of good models. Isocrates believed that practice in speaking publicly about noble themes and important questions would function to improve the character of both speaker and audience while also offering the best service to a city. In fact, Isocrates was an outspoken champion of rhetoric as a mode of civic engagement.[44] He thus wrote his speeches as "models" for his students to imitate in the same way that poets might imitate Homer or Hesiod, seeking to inspire in them a desire to attain fame through civic leadership. His was the first permanent school in Athens and it is likely that Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum were founded in part as a response to Isocrates. Though he left no handbooks, his speeches ("Antidosis" and "Against the Sophists" are most relevant to students of rhetoric) became models of oratory (he was one of the canonical "Ten Attic Orators") and keys to his entire educational program. He had a marked influence on Cicero and Quintilian, and through them, on the entire educational system of the west.

Main articles: Plato and Platonism
Plato (427-347 BC) famously outlined the differences between true and false rhetoric in a number of dialogues; particularly the Gorgias and Phaedrus dialogues wherein Plato disputes the sophistic notion that the art of persuasion (the sophists' art, which he calls "rhetoric"), can exist independent of the art of dialectic. Plato claims that since sophists appeal only to what seems probable, they are not advancing their students and audiences, but simply flattering them with what they want to hear. While Plato's condemnation of rhetoric is clear in the Gorgias, in the Phaedrus he suggests the possibility of a true art wherein rhetoric is based upon the knowledge produced by dialectic, and relies on a dialectically informed rhetoric to appeal to the main character, Phaedrus, to take up philosophy. Thus Plato's rhetoric is actually dialectic (or philosophy) "turned" toward those who are not yet philosophers and are thus unready to pursue dialectic directly. Plato's animosity against rhetoric, and against the sophists, derives not only from their inflated claims to teach virtue and their reliance on appearances, but from the fact that his teacher, Socrates, was sentenced to death after sophists' efforts.


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Main article: Rhetoric (Aristotle)

A marble bust of Aristotle
Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a student of Plato who famously set forth an extended treatise on rhetoric that still repays careful study today. In the first sentence of The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle says that "rhetoric is the counterpart [literally, the antistrophe] of dialectic." As the "antistrophe" of a Greek ode responds to and is patterned after the structure of the "strophe" (they form two sections of the whole and are sung by two parts of the chorus), so the art of rhetoric follows and is structurally patterned after the art of dialectic because both are arts of discourse production. Thus, while dialectical methods are necessary to find truth in theoretical matters, rhetorical methods are required in practical matters such as adjudicating somebody's guilt or innocence when charged in a court of law, or adjudicating a prudent course of action to be taken in a deliberative assembly. The core features dialectic include the absence of determined subject matter, its elaboration on earlier empirical practice, the explication of its aims, the type of utility and the definition of the proper function.

For Plato and Aristotle, dialectic involves persuasion, so when Aristotle says that rhetoric is the antistrophe of dialectic, he means that rhetoric as he uses the term has a domain or scope of application that is parallel to, but different from, the domain or scope of application of dialectic. In Nietzsche Humanist (1998: 129), Claude Pavur explains that "[t]he Greek prefix 'anti' does not merely designate opposition, but it can also mean 'in place of.'" When Aristotle characterizes rhetoric as the antistrophe of dialectic, he no doubt means that rhetoric is used in place of dialectic when we are discussing civic issues in a court of law or in a legislative assembly. The domain of rhetoric is civic affairs and practical decision making in civic affairs, not theoretical considerations of operational definitions of terms and clarification of thought. These, for him, are in the domain of dialectic.

Aristotle's treatise on rhetoric is an attempt to systematically describe civic rhetoric as a human art or skill (techne). It is more of an objective theory than it is an interpretive theory with a rhetorical tradition. Aristotle's "art" of rhetoric emphasizes on persuasion to be the purpose of rhetoric. His definition of rhetoric as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion," essentially a mode of discovery, seems to limit the art to the inventional process, and Aristotle heavily emphasizes the logical aspect of this process. In his world, rhetoric is the art of discovering all available means of persuasion. A speaker supports the probability of a message by logical, ethical, and emotional proofs. Some form of logos, ethos, and pathos is present in every possible public presentation that exists. But the treatise in fact also discusses not only elements of style and (briefly) delivery, but also emotional appeals (pathos) and characterological appeals (ethos).

Aristotle identifies three steps or "offices" of rhetoric—invention, arrangement, and style—and three different types of rhetorical proof: ethos (Aristotle's theory of character and how the character and credibility of a speaker can influence an audience to consider him/her to be believable—there being three qualities that contribute to a credible ethos: perceived intelligence, virtuous character, and goodwill);[45] pathos (the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgment through metaphor, amplification, storytelling, or presenting the topic in a way that evokes strong emotions in the audience.); and, logos (the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument).

Aristotle emphasized enthymematic reasoning as central to the process of rhetorical invention, though later rhetorical theorists placed much less emphasis on it. An "enthymeme" would follow today's form of a syllogism; however it would exclude either the major or minor premise. An enthymeme is persuasive because the audience is providing the missing premise. Because the audience is able to provide the missing premise, they are more likely to be persuaded by the message.

Aristotle identified three different types or genres of civic rhetoric. Forensic (also known as judicial, was concerned with determining the truth or falseness of events that took place in the past and issues of guilt. An example of forensic rhetoric would be in a courtroom. Deliberative (also known as political), was concerned with determining whether or not particular actions should or should not be taken in the future. Making laws would be an example of deliberative rhetoric. Epideictic (also known as ceremonial), was concerned with praise and blame, values, right and wrong, demonstrating beauty and skill in the present. Examples of epideictic rhetoric would include a eulogy or a wedding toast.

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