The nature and classification of rhetoric according to Aristotle



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The purpose of this study was to discover, by examining selected portions of the Greek and English texts of Aristotle"s Metaphysics and Rhetoric and pertinent scholarly articles, Aristotle"s thoughts as to the nature of rhetoric in light of its classification within his philosophical system. The original point of departure for the study was an article by Lawrence J. Flynn stating that rhetoric is a subjective art and a faculty, Flynn"s definition of faculty being akin to inherent psychological capacity. The proposed method of investigation was begun by examining Aristotle"s metaphysical system for his definition of certain important classifications. In the second section of the paper, science and art and their three subclasses, practical, productive, and theoretical, were defined and distinguished. On the basis of direct statements by Aristotle and of characteristics attributed to rhetoric in the Rhetoric, public speaking was defined as a practical art. The third section dealt with the concept of rhetoric as potency. The concepts of potentiality and actuality were explained, and a three-fold view of the rhetorical dynamis as potentiality, power, and rule of thumb procedure was set forth. The final section attempted to reconcile the divergent, but not contradictory, concepts of rhetoric as art and potency, Aristotle’s use of the terms was illustrated, and the theories of several scholars were considered in developing a final statement on the nature and classification of rhetoric.