Aristotle, Rhetoric. Book I, Chapter 3

Translated by Thomas Taylor; adapted for study by William C. Michael

With respect to enthymemes, however, there is a great difference, of which nearly all the professors of rhetoric are particularly ignorant, and which is conversant with the dialectic method of syllogisms. For some enthymemes pertain to rhetoric, just as some syllogisms subsist according to the dialectic method; but others pertain to other arts and faculties some of which are in existence, and others are not yet discovered. Hence, they are not understood by those that hear them, and if rhetoricians employ them more than is fit, they relinquish their own art, and exchange it for some other. But what we have said will become more evident by a more copious discussion. For I say that dialectic and rhetorical syllogisms are those which are formed from propositions derived from certain places. And these are such as are conversant in common about things that are just and natural, and about political concerns, and many things which are specifically different; such for instance as the place respecting the more and the less. For we cannot in any greater degree syllogize from this place, or produce an enthymeme from it respecting what is just or natural, than respecting anything else; though these things are specifically different. But peculiar proper syllogisms are those which consist from propositions pertaining to each species and genus. Thus, for instance, the propositions respecting natural things are those from which neither an enthymeme nor a syllogism respecting ethics can be formed. And ethical enthymemes are those which are formed from propositions peculiar to ethical subjects, and from which physical enthymemes cannot be produced. The like, also, takes place in every subject. And those dialectic and rhetorical syllogisms, indeed, do not render a wise man in any kind of discussion, because they are not conversant with any definite subject; but with respect to these that are peculiar and appropriate, in proportion as the selection of them is better, in such proportion will he who makes the selection latently produce a science different from dialectic and rhetoric. For if he should happen to meet with the principals of any science the peculiar syllogisms will no longer pertain either to dialectic or rhetoric, but to that science of which he possesses the principles.

Most enthymemes, however, are derived from those forms which are particular and proper; and a few of them are derived from common places. As in the Topics*, therefore, so here the species and the places of enthymemes, from whence they are to be assumed, must be distinguished. But I call species, indeed the peculiar propositions according to each genus; and places, those propositions which are similarly common to all genera. We shall, therefore, speak first concerning the species.

* Note that the book Topics is named from the Greek word topoi, which means “places”.

And in the first place we shall assume the genera of rhetoric, in order that we may ascertain how many there are, and with respect to these we shall separately assume the elements and the propositions. But the genera of rhetoric are three in number; for so many, also, are the auditors of orations. For an oration is composed from three things, from the speaker, from the thing about which he speaks, and from the person to whom he speaks. The end, also, of the speaker is directed to this last, I mean to the hearer. But it is necessary that the auditor should either be a spectator or a judge; and that the judge should be a judge either of things past or future. He, however, who judges of future events, is as it were one who speaks in an assembly; but he who judges of past events, is as it were one who determines causes; and he who judges of the power of the oration, is as it were a spectator. Hence, there will necessarily be three genera of rhetorical orations, the deliberative, or that which pertains to counsel, the judicial, and the demonstrative. But of counsel, one part is exhortation, and another dehortation. For always, both those who privately give counsel, and those who publicly harangued, do one of these, that is, either exhort, or dissuade. Of judgment, however, one part is accusation, but another defense. For those that are engaged in controversy must necessarily do one or other of these. But of the demonstrative, one part is praise, and another blame. There are, also, times appropriated to each of these, to him who gives counsel, indeed, the future; for he consults about future events, and concerning these either exhorts, or dissuades. But the time which is adapted to him who judges, is the past; for always concerning things which have been done, one accuses, and another apologizes. And to him who demonstrates, the most appropriate time is the present; for all those who demonstrate praise or blame according to existing circumstances. Frequently, however, they employ past time for the purpose of recollecting, and they form a conjecture of future events.

But the end to each of these is different; and as there are three persons there are three ends; to him who gives counsel, indeed, the end is that which is advantageous and detrimental. For the advice of him who exhorts is directed to that which is better; but he who dissuades, dissuades from that which is worse; and at the same time they assume other things with a view to this, namely, either the just or the unjust, either the beautiful in conduct, or the base. But to those who judge in courts of judicature, the end is the just and the unjust; and they also assume other things with a view to these. And to those that praise and blame, the end is the beautiful and the base in conduct; and they likewise refer other things to these. An indication, however, that the end to each of these, is what we have said it is, is this, that sometimes there is no controversy about other things. Thus for instance, he who is tried will assert that the thing was not done, or that he has committed no injury; but he will never acknowledge that he has acted unjustly; for if he did, the trial would be unnecessary. In like manner, those who give counsel frequently admit other things, but will not acknowledge that they have advised what is disadvantageous, or that they have dissuaded from what is beneficial. Frequently, however, they are not at all concerned whether it is not unjust to enslave the neighboring people, and those who have done them no injury. In like manner, also, those who praise, and those who blame, do not consider whether the subject of their praise or blame has acted advantageously or perniciously, but frequently applaud him because, disregarding his own interest, he performed some worthy action. Thus for instance, they praise Achilles, because he gave assistance to his friend patroclus, though he knew it was necessary that he should die himself by giving this assistance, and that it was in his power to live. But to Achilles, indeed, a death of this kind was more honorable; and to live, more advantageous.

From what has been said, however, it is evident that it is necessary to possess in the first place propositions about these things. For arguments (tekmeria) probabilities, and signs, are rhetorical propositions. For in short, syllogism is from propositions; but enthymeme is a syllogism consisting from the above mentioned propositions.

Since, however, impossibilities cannot be performed either at present or in the future, but this can only be asserted of possibilities; and since, likewise, it is not possible that things which are neither done, nor will be done, should be performed at present, or in future, it is necessary that he who counsels, he who judges, and he who demonstrates, should possess propositions concerning the possible and impossible, and whether a thing has been done or not, and whether it will be or not. Further still, since all those who praise and blame, who exhort and dissuade, who accuse and defend, not only endeavor to show the particulars we have mentioned, but also something which is great or small, good or evil, beautiful or base, just or unjust, whether they speak of these things by themselves, or compare them with each other, this being the case, it is evident that it is requisite to have propositions concerning magnitude and parvitude, the greater and the less, the universal and the particular; such for instance as what is a greater or less good, and unjust or a just action; and in a similar manner in other things. And thus we have shown what the things are concerning which it is necessary to assume propositions.

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