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Aristotle and the Techne of Rhetoric

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Aristotle and the Techne of Rhetoric

Between the third and fifth centuries B.C. there existed a “golden and classical age” of thought in the ancient world, with the majority of this activity centered in the polis of Athens, Greece. Although the city is historically recognized for its legendary

conflict with rival polis Sparta, Athens is perhaps best known for the creation of democracy—that noble political experiment that laid the preliminary structure for most of the rights we Americans enjoy today. First among these rights was the freedom of speech. Each Athenian citizen (meaning male land owners numbering around five thousand) met regularly in public forums (in an open-air auditorium called the Pnyx) to discuss laws and issues. Each man had a voice in the matter, and his success in dissuading or persuading his audience meant the action Athens would potentially take. So outstanding rhetoric, and the study, teaching, and delivery of it, became the center of attention among the Athenians; democracy meant individual empowerment, and good rhetoric meant the power to make change.

The first notable scholars to take on the challenge of analyzing and teaching the art of rhetoric were Isocrates, Socrates, and later, Plato. Plato soon created an academy in Athens, appropriately called the Plato Academy that attracted men who were interested in the art. One of the first students was Aristotle, who like Plato, had a lasting effect not only on the study of rhetoric, but the discipline itself.

Aristotle was born in 384 BC at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. His father, Nichomachus, was a respected physician to the King Amyntas of Macedonia. This connection with the royal family served Aristotle we...

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...tain an audience in an effort to create change. So no, technology is not always simply a machine spitting out rivets or a computer humming away in some lab somewhere. It can be, as Aristotle argues, found in the logic of the human mind; for the mind is, and will always be, humankind’s greatest techne.

Works Cited

Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Ed. G. A. Kennedy. Oxford: New York, 1991.

“Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE.) Overview” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available Online: www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/aristotl.htm. Accessed: 12 Feb. 2003.

Foss, S.K. Rhetorical Criticism; Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland, 1996.

Newbold, Dr. Webster. “Review of ‘Understanding technology’ Unit: Writing and Technology.” Available online: www.bsu.edu/web/00wwnewbold /213/213unit1review.htm. Accessed: 11 Feb. 2003.
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