Aristotle, Rhetoric. Book I, Chapter 4

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In the next place, a distinction must be precisely made respecting each of these, as for instance, what the subjects of consultation are; with what demonstrative citations are conversant; and in the third place what the subjects are about which judgements are employed. In the first place, therefore, it must be assumed what the kind of good or evil is about which he who advises counsels; since he does not give counsel about all things, but about such as may happen to be or not. But with respect to such things as are necessarily either are or will be, or which cannot possibly exist, about these there is no consultation. Hence, neither is there consultation about all contingent events. For there are some goods from nature, and some from fortune, which notwithstanding they are contingent, and may or may not be, yet consultation contributes nothing to them. But it is evident that consultation is respecting such things as are naturally adapted to be referred to us, and the principle of the generation of which is in our power. For our attention is exerted thus far, till we find whether it is possible or impossible for us to perform such things.

Accurately, therefore, to enumerate the several particulars, and to distribute into species the subject of popular discussion; and besides this, to determine according to truth as much as is possible concerning them, it is not necessary at present to investigate, because it is not the province of the rhetorical art, but of an art more allied to wisdom, and more true; for even now much more is attributed to rhetoric than pertains to is proper theorems. For that which we have before observed is true, that rhetoric is composed indeed from the analytic science, and from that political science which is conversant with morals; and it is partly similar to dialectic, and partly to sophisticated arguments. In proportion, however, as any one endeavors to discuss either dialectic or rhetoric, not as powers, but as sciences, so far he ignorantly destroys the nature of them, by migrating through this attempt into the sciences of certain subject things, instead of alone making a transition into the powers or faculties of words. At the same time, we shall now speak of whatever it is indeed requisite to distinguish, and which leaves matter of consideration to the political science. For nearly the subjects which are discussed by all those who give counsel are especially five in number; and these are, concerning wealth, war, and peace; and besides these, the defense of the country, exports and imports; and legislation.

Hence, it is requisite that he who is to give counsel about wealth, should know the revenues of the country, what they are, and how, if they are deficient, an addition may be made to them; and how, if they are too small, they may be augmented. It is likewise necessary that he should be acquainted with all the expenses of the city, and know how any unnecessary expense may be removed, and that which is greater [than is fit] may become less. For men not only become richer by an accumulation of property, but also by a decrease of expense. And these things may not only be surveyed from the experience of private affairs; but in order to give counsel about these, it is necessary to be skilled in what has been discovered by others.

With respect however to war and peace, it is necessary to know the power of the city, what the forces of it are at present, how great they may be, what the nature of the strength is which is possessed, and what addition may be made to it; and farther still, what wars the city has had, and how they have been conducted. And it is not only necessary that he who gives counsel should understand these concerns of his own country, but also those of the neighboring countries. He should likewise be particularly acquainted with those cities against whom it is thought fit to wage war, in order that peace may be made with the more powerful, and war undertaken against the less powerful, if requisite. He must also know the forces of these cities, whether they are similar or dissimilar. For in these, it is possible to be superior or inferior. It is likewise necessary for this purpose that he should not only have surveyed the wars of his own country, but likewise the event of the wars of other countries. For similars are naturally adapted to be known from similars.

Further still, with respect to the defense of the country, it is requisite not to be ignorant how it may be defended, but to know the multitude of its defenders, and the form of the defense, and the places proper for garrisons. This knowledge, however, cannot be possessed by him who is unacquainted with the country. For such knowledge is necessary, in order that if the defense is less [than it ought to be] it may be increased; that if superfluous it may be taken away; and that garrisons may be formed in more appropriate places.

Again, it is requisite to know what expense is necessary to supply the city with provision, what the country will afford, and what must be supplied from abroad. What commodities are fit to be imported, and what exported, in order that conventions and compacts may be considered accordingly. For there are two descriptions of men with whom it is necessary the citizens should preserve themselves blameless, viz., with those that are more powerful, and with those that are beneficial to them [in a commercial point of view].

And it is necessary, indeed, to be able to survey all these particulars for the sake of security; and in no small degree for the purpose of understanding the business of legislation. For the safety of the city is in the laws. Hence it is necessary to know how many forms of government there are, what kind of things are advantageous to each, and by what they are naturally adapted to be corrupted, both among things appropriate and contrary to the polity. But I say, governments are corrupted by things appropriate, because all other polities except that which is the best, are corrupted by remission and intention. Thus, for instance, a democracy, not only becomes more imbecile by remission, so as at length to arrive at an oligarchy, but it is also weakened by vehement intention; just as an aquiline and a flat nose, not only arrive at mediocrity by remission, but likewise when they become very aquiline or flat, cause the nose to be so disposed, that it no longer appears to be a nostril. It is moreover useful for the purpose of legislation, not only to understand what is advantageous to a polity, by a survey of past events, but also to know the condition of other polities, and what is adapted to each. Hence it is evident that traveling is useful for the purposes of legislation; since from hence the laws of nations may be obtained. But the knowledge of history is requisite to political counsels. All these particulars, however, are the business of politics, and not of rhetoric. Such, therefore, are the principal things which he who intends to give counsel ought to possess.

Translation by Thomas Taylor; prepared by Mrs. Grace Peletier.

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