The Political Irrelevance of Aristotle's Rhetoric

Garver, Eugene
April 1996
Philosophy & Rhetoric;1996, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p179
Academic Journal
The article highlights the political irrelevance of philosopher Aristotle's concept of rhetoric which has been discussed in his book "Philosophy and Rhetoric." Aristotle's picture of the ethics and politics of rhetoric confounds our expectations at every step. Faced with alternatives, he seems at every point to choose the least plausible and attractive. Aristotle's vision of rhetoric and the polis is full of paradoxes, which are signs that his vision is very different from the expectations we bring. The article author stresses upon Aristotle's strangeness because he offers a compelling and challenging alternative to easier understandings of the relation of rhetoric, rationality, and practice. Readers can draw contemporary parallels for themselves, but there are potentially interesting connections among the issues the author discusses in Aristotle and current arguments about the rediscovery of the omnipresence of rhetoric. People today argue about whether or not there are any practical consequences to the discovery of rhetoric in the practices and arguments of science, economics, history, and others. Others claim that this discovery has no consequences at all, that everything will go on as before. That dispute is precisely parallel to the dispute over whether or not possessing an art of rhetoric will improve practice, as well as the more general one over the political significance, or insignificance, of Aristotle's art of rhetoric.


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