The Rhetoric
Category: Ideas
Genres: Philosophy
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The Rhetoric is a text on the art of persuasion by Aristotle. It is considered the most important piece ever written on the subject by rhetoricians. The original text was written in the 4th century but luckily was translated in 1818. Aristotle was a philosopher and polymath from ancient Greece, and his work on rhetoric established the basis for its understanding. Read how Aristotle explains a new concept known and used as commonplace in society today.

The Rhetoric


Translated by Thomas Taylor

The Rhetoric


The three treatises of which the present volume consists, have been deservedly considered by the ancients as ranking in the first class of the most exquisite productions of human wit; and even in the present frivolous age they maintain so high a degree of reputation, as to be studied at the University of Oxford. Indeed, so much penetration and profundity of thought are displayed in the composition of each, that the reader by whom they are thoroughly understood, will immediately subscribe to encomium given to the Stagirite by the great Syrianus, that he was the most skilful and the most prolific in his conceptions of all men, (δεινότατος και γονιμωτατος;) and also to the assertion of another of the ancients, which may be considered as the ne plus ultra of eulogy, that he dipped his pen in intellect.

I. With respect to Rhetoric, which forms the first of these treatises, it is very nearly allied to dialectic properly so called, and which is the subject of the Topics of Aristotle; and, therefore, in order to explain the. nature of rhetoric, it will be requisite to compare it with dialectic, and see in what they both agree, and in what they differ.

Dialectic then is denominated from disputing, and is the art of disputing; but rhetoric derives its name from speaking, and is the art of speaking. The art of disputing, however, consists in the ability of arguing on and defending each side of a proposed question. But the art of speaking consists in the ability of persuading the hearer to assent to either side of a question.

From this definition, it may be inferred that the subject of dialectic is every thing, so far as it is disputable with probability on each side; and that the subject of rhetoric is every thing so far as it can be influenced by persuasion.

In the second place, it may be inferred that dialectic and rhetoric agree in this, that each discusses every thing; that each discusses both sides of a question; and that each proceeds not from what is true, but from what is probable. For of the two parts of a problem contradictorily opposed to each other, the one is necessarily false; but dialectic and rhetoric discuss and defend each part of a problem. Hence they not only prove and defend what is true, but also what is false. As what is false, however, cannot be proved and defended from true, but only from probable assertions, rhetoric and dialectic do not proceed from true but from probable arguments. They also agree in this, that each does not proceed from things that are proper or peculiar, but from such as are common. For if it were requisite that they should discuss any proposed problem from peculiarities, they would be confounded with all sciences. To which it may be added, that they ought to use principles adapted to discuss the proposed problem, in each part, and that common principles alone possess this adaptation. Another reason is, that they ought to discuss things from principles known to all men, and known even to those who are ignorant of particular sciences.

Again, dialectic and rhetoric agree in this, that it is the business of each to deliver certain common places, or principles, from which we may be able to dispute on any proposed problem, or speak in a manner adapted to persuade on each side of a question. They likewise agree in this, that they are not sciences, but certain powers and faculties. For sciences neither prove, nor persuade to the assent of, each part of contradiction but that part only which is true, and is, therefore, demonstrable; but the power of effecting this is possessed both by dialectic and rhetoric. Hence, they are not sciences, but powers and faculties; for those things are properly said to be powers, which are equally affected to opposites.

Dialectic and rhetoric, however, differ in this, that it is the business of the former to dispute with probability before those who are partially wise; but of the latter, to speak in a manner adapted to persuade the multitude. And because it is usual to dispute with those who are partially wise, about universal problems, abstracting from particular circumstances of persons, places and times, &c.; but to dispute with the multitude about moral or political subjects and about problems restricted to particular persons, places and times; hence dialectic for the most part discusses universal, and rhetoric restricted problems. They also differ in this, that dialectic employs a strict and contracted form of arguing; rhetoric a more ample and dilated form. And they differ in the third place in this, that dialectic employs arguments alone in proof of what it wishes to establish; but rhetoric for the purpose of persuading not only employs arguments, but likewise manners and passions, as Aristotle copiously evinces in the course of this treatise.

II. With respect to the Poetic, the next of the treatises, it is requisite to observe, that poetry is the art of imitating in measured diction so as to produce delight. The proximate genus, therefore, of poetry is, that it is an imitative art; and the difference, through which it differs from other imitative arts, is the mode of imitating. For as the other imitative arts imitate in different modes, poetry imitates by metre, or measured diction alone.

From this definition, explaining the nature of poetry, it may be briefly inferred what the subject of it is, and what its employment and end. The subject of poetry are things, so far as they can be imitated in measured diction and produce delight. The employment of poetry is, the imitation itself. And the end is, the delight produced by the metrical imitation of things. Hence it follows that poetry ought especially to imitate those things, the imitation of which is most delightful. But the imitation of admirable and probable deeds is most delightful, and which, therefore, poetry ought principally to imitate. In order, however, to imitate these, it is requisite, in the first place that it should devise admirable and probable deeds; and in the next place, that it should express them in admirable diction, such as is the metrical. Hence the labour of poetry ought especially to be conversant these two things; first, in the invention of the fable, viz. of admirable and probable deeds; and secondly, in expressing such deeds in a measured diction which is eminently adapted to them, or in other words, which is eminently imitative of the several particulars.

It is much to be regretted that this treatise, which was perhaps originally only the first of three books written by Aristotle on poetry, is all that is left of a work, the whole of which was doubtless as admirable as the part that remains. And the loss of the second and third books is particularly to be regretted, because there can be no doubt of Aristotle having treated in one of these books of the purification of the mind from depraved affections, and of the correction of the manners, as the principal and proper end, according to the antients, of right poetical imitation. I say this loss is particularly to be regretted, not only on account of the importance of the matter, and the very able manner in which it was discussed, but because an elucidation of the mode in which the mind is to be purified from depraved affections, would have fully solved a difficulty which occurs in the present treatise, and which has been insuperable to modern commentators. The difficulty I allude to is the assertion of Aristotle, that the terror and pity excited by tragedy purify the spectator from such-like passions. For, according to the modern commentators on this treatise, the meaning of Aristotle is, that the terror and pity excited by tragedy, purify the spectator from terror and pity. The reader, however, will find in a note on this passsage in the following translation, that this cannot be the meaning of Aristotle; as it contradicts what he asserts in his Ethics; and I also trust that he will subscribe to the opinion of the translator, that Aristotle meant to say, that the terror and pity excited by tragedy purify the spectator from those perturbations which form the catastrophe of the tragedy. Thus in the Ajax of Sophocles, the terror and pity excited by the catastrophe, purify the spectator from anger and impiety towards divinity; and in a similar manner purification is effected in, other tragedies.

Notwithstanding, however; the loss sustained by the want of the 2d and 3d books of the Poetic of Aristotle, I rejoice that there is still extant a most admirable account of the different species of poetry by Proclus, the coryphæus, next to Plato and Aristotle, of all true philosophers, whose honour will grow with increase of time, and whose fame will swim over the vast utent of ages, when those, by whom he has been defamed will be utterly forgotten. This account is extracted from his EXPLANATION OF THE MORE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO, printed at the end of his Commentaries On the Timæus of Plato, which Fabricius, the best of all modern critics, calls OPUS ADMIRABLE; and the translation of it is as follows:

“There are three lives in the soul, of which the best and most perfect is that according to which it is conjoined with the gods, and lives a life most allied, and through the highest similitude united to them; no longer subsisting from itself but from them, running under its own intellect, exciting the ineffable impression of the one which it contains, and connecting like with like, its own light with that of the gods, and that which is most uniform in its own essence and life, with the one which is above all essence and life. That which is second to this in dignity and power, has a middle arrangement in the middle of the soul, according to which, indeed, it is converted to itself, descending from a divinely-inspired life, and placing intellect and science as the principle of its energy, it evolves the multitude of its reasons, surveys the all-various mutations of forms, collects into sameness intellect and that which is the object of intellect, and expresses in images an intellectual and intelligible essence. The third life of the soul is, that which accords with its inferior powers, and energizes together with them, employing phantasies and irrational senses, and being entirely filled with things of a subordinate nature.

“As there are, therefore, these three forms of life in souls, the poetic division, also, supernally proceeds together with the multiform lives of the soul, and is diversified into first, middle, and last genera of energy. For of poetry, also, one kind has the highest subsistence, is full of divine goods, and establishes the soul in the causes themselves of things, according to a certain ineffable union, leading that which is filled into sameness with its replenishing source; the former immaterially subjecting itself to illumination, but the latter being incited to a communication of light; thus, according to the Oracle, ‘perfecting works, by mingling the rivers of incorruptible fire.’ It also produces one divine bond, and a unifying mixture of that which is participated and the participant, establishing the whole of that which is subordinate in that which is more excellent, and preparing that which is more divine alone to energize, the inferior nature being withdrawn, and concealing its own peculiarity in that which is superior. This then in short is a mania better than temperance, and is distinguished by a divine characteristic. And as every different kind of poetry subsists according to a different hyparxis, or summit of divine essence, so this fills the soul energizing from divine inspiration, with symmetry; and hence it adorns its last energies with measures and rhythms. As, therefore, we say that prophetic fury subsists according to truth, and the amatory according to beauty, in like manner we say that the poetic mania is defined according to divine symmetry.

“The second kind of poetry, which is subordinate to this first and divinely-inspired species and which has a middle subsistence in the soul, is allotted its essence according to a scientific and intellectual habit. Hence, it knows the essence of things, and loves to contemplate beautiful works and reasonings, and leads forth every thing into a measured and rhythmical interpretation. For you will find many progeny of good poets to be of this kind, emulous of those that are truly wise, full of admonition, the best counsels, and intellectual symmetry. It likewise extends the communication of prudence and every other virtue, to those of a naturally good disposition, and affords a reminiscence of the periods of the soul, of its eternal reasons and various powers.

“The third species of poetry subsequent to these, is mingled with opinions and phantasies, receives its completion through imitation, and is said to be and is nothing else than imitative poetry. At one time, it alone uses assimilation, and at another time defends apparent and not real assimilation. It considerably raises very moderate passions, and astonishes the hearers; together with appropriate appellations and words, mutations of harmonies and varieties of rhythms, changes the dispositions of souls; and indicates the nature of things not such as they are, but such as they appear to the many; being a certain adumbration and not an accurate knowledge of things. It also establishes as its end, the delight of the hearers; and particularly looks to the passive part of the soul, which is naturally adapted to rejoice and be afflicted. But of this species of poetry, as we have said, one division is assimilative, which is extended to rectitude of imitation, but the other is phantastic, and affords apparent imitation alone.

“Such then, in short, are the genera of poetry. It now remains to show that these are also mentioned by Plato, and to relate such particulars as are conformable to his dogmas respecting each. And, in the first place, we shall discuss those wonderful conceptions respecting divine poetry which may be collected by him who does not negligently peruse his writings. For these things being previously determined, it will I think be easy to assign apt reasons respecting the subsequent species. In the Phædrus then, he denominates this divine poetry, ‘a possession from the Muses, and a mania, and says, that it is supernally imparted to a tender and solitary soul; but that its employment is to excite and inspire with Bacchic fury, according to odes, and the rest of poetry, and its end to instruct posterity in celebrating the infinite transactions of the ancients.’

From these words, it is perfectly evident that he calls the original and first-operating cause of poetry, the gift of the Muses. For as they fill all the other fabrications of the Father of the universe, both the apparent and unapparent with harmony and rhythmical motion, in like manner in the souls which are possessed by them, they produce a vestige of divine symmetry which illuminating divinely-inspired poetry. But since the whole energy of the illuminating power is in divine advents, and that which is illuminated gives itself up to the motions proceeding from thence, and abandoning its own habits, spreads itself under the energies of that which is divine and uniform, on this account I think he denominates such an illumination a possession and mania. He calls it a possession, because the whole illuminated soul gives itself up to the present effect of illuminating deity; and a mania, because such a soul abandons its own proper energies for the peculiarities of the illuminating powers.

In the next place, he describes the habit of the soul possessed by the Muses, and says it ought to be tender and solitary. For a soul hard and resisting, and inobedient to divine illumination, is disposed contrary to the energy of divinely-inspired possession; since it thus rather subsists from itself than from that which illuminates, and is incapable of being properly impressed with its gifts. But a soul which is possessed by other all-various opinions, and is filled with reasonings foreign from a divine nature, obscures divine inspiration, mingling with the motions thence derived its own lives and energies. It is requisite, therefore, that the soul which is to be possessed by the Muses, should be tender and solitary, that it may be properly passive to, and perfectly sympathize with divinity, and that it may be impassive, unreceptive, and unmingled with respect to other things.

“In the third place, therefore, he adds the common employment of such an aptitude, and of possession and mania from the Muses. For to excite and inspire with Bacchic fury, is the province both of that which illuminates and that which is illuminated, and which gives completion to the same thing; the former moving supernally, and the latter spreading itself under the moving cause. Excitation is indeed a resurrection and unperverted energy of the soul and a conversion to divinity from a lapse into generation. But Bacchic fury is a divinely-inspired motion, and an unwearied dance, as it were, towards a divine nature, giving perfection to the possessed. But again, both these are requisite, that the possessed may not incline to that which is worse, but may be easily moved to a more excellent nature.

“In the fourth place he adds, that the end of this divine poetry is to instruct posterity in celebrating the infinite deeds of the ancients. Hence, he evidently testifies that human affairs become more perfect and splendid when they are delivered from a divine mouth, and that true erudition is produced in the auditors of such poetry. Not that it is adapted to juvenile tuition, but pertains to those that are already perfect in politic discipline, and require a more mystic tradition respecting divine concerns. Such poetry, therefore, instructs the hearers more than any other, when it is divine, and when its divine nature becomes manifest to its auditors. Hence, Plato very properly prefers this poetry which subsists from the Muses in tender and solitary souls, to every other human art. ‘For the poet,’ says he, ‘who approaches to the poetic gates without such a mania, will be imperfect; and his poetry, so far as it is dictated by prudence, will vanish before that which is the progeny of fury.’ In this manner, therefore, does Socrates in the Phædrus instruct us in the peculiarities of divine prophecy, and the telestic art, and refer its first unfolding into light, to the gods.

“With these things, also, what he says in the Io accords, when he is discoursing with the rhapsodist about this species of poetry: for here he most clearly evinces that the poetry of Homer is divine, and, to others that are conversant with it, is the cause of enthusiastic energy. For when the rhapsodist says, that he can speak copiously on the poems of Homer, but by no means on the writings of other poets, Socrates assigning the reason of this says, ‘It is not from art that you speak well concerning Homer, but because you are moved by a divine power.’ And that this is true is indeed perfectly evident. For those who do any thing by art, are able to produce the same effect in all similars; but those that operate by a certain divine power about any thing which subsists with symmetry, can no longer thus operate with respect to other things, which necessarily have the same power. Whence, also, a power of this kind is derived to the rhapsodist, which particularly connects him with Homer, but no longer with other poets. Socrates afterwards teaches us, using the stone which is vulgarly called Herculæan, as a most perspicuous example of the most perfect possession from the Muses: — ‘This stone then,’ says he, ‘not only draws to itself iron rings, but inserts in them a power attractive of things similar, so as to enable them to draw other rings, and form a chain of rings or pieces of iron, depending one from another.’

“Let us in the next place hear what Socrates adds similar to these things, respecting divine poetry: — ‘Thus then,’ says he, ‘the Muse makes men divine; and from these men thus inspired, others catching the sacred power, form a chain of divine enthusiasts.’ Here, in the first place, he speaks of the divine cause in the singular number, calling it the Muse, and not in the Phædrus, a possession from the Muses, and a mania pertaining to their whole multitude, that he may refer all the number of those that are moved enthusiastically to one monad as it were, the primary principle of poetry. For poetry subsists uniformly and occultly in the first mover, but secondarily, and in a revolved manner, in poets moved by that monad, and lastly, in a ministrant degree in the rhapsodists who are led back to this cause through poets as the media. In the next place, by extending divine inspiration supernally, as far as to the last mixtures, he evidently at the same time celebrates the fecundity of the first moving principle, and most clearly evinces the participation of the first participants. For that poets should be able to excite others by their poems to a divinely-inspired energy, indicates that there is a most conspicuous presence in them of a divine nature. Consequent to these things, therefore, he also adds what· follows respecting the possession of poets. ‘The best epic poets,’ says he, ‘and all such as excel in composing any kind of verses to be recited, frame not these their admirable poems from the rules of art; but possessed by the Muse, they write from divine inspiration. Nor is it otherwise with the best Lyric poets, and all other fine writers of verses to be sung.’ And again afterwards he says: ‘For a poet is a thing light, and volatile, and sacred; nor is he able to write poetry till he becomes divine, and has no longer the command of his intellect.’ And lastly, he adds: ‘Hence it is that the poets, indeed, say many fine things whatever their subject be, just as you do concerning Homer; but not doing it through any rules of art, each of them is able to succeed, from a divine destiny, in that species of poetry only to which he is impelled by the Muse.’

“In all these citations, therefore, Plato evidently establishes divine poetry in a divine cause, which he calls a Muse; in this emulating Homer, who at one time looks to the multitude, and at another to the union of the series of the Muses; as when he says, ‘O Muses sing,’ and ‘Sing me the man, O Muse.’ In the middle of this principle of enthusiastic motions, and of the last echoes of inspiration beheld in rhapsodists according to sympathy, Plato establishes poetic mania, moving and being moved, supernally filled, and transferring to others the illumination which originates from thence, and which imparts one conjunction to the last participants with the participated monad.

“With these things, also, we may co-harmonize what is said by the Athenian guest in the third book of the Laws, concerning poetry, and what Timæus says respecting poets. For the former says, ‘that the poetic genus is divinely-inspired; that it composes sacred hymns, and, with certain Graces and Muses, relates many things that have been truly transacted;’ and the latter exhorts us ‘to follow poets inspired by Phœbus, as being the sons of gods, and knowing the concerns of their progenitors, though their assertions are not probable, and are unaccompanied with demonstrations.’ From all which it is easy to understand what the opinion of Plato was concerning divine poetry, and the poets characterized according to it; and that these are especially messengers of divine names, and are in an eminent manner acquainted with the affairs of their fathers. When, therefore, he takes notice of mythical fictions, and corrects the more serious part of the writings of poets, such as those respecting bonds, castrations, loves, venereal connexions, tears and laughter, we must say that he also especially testifies that these things are properly introduced, according to the theory which is concealed ill these symbols, as under veils. For he who thinks that poets are particularly worthy of belief in affairs respecting the gods, though they speak without demonstration from divine inspiration, must certainly admire divine fables; through which they deliver the truth concerning divine natures. And he who calls the poetic genus divine, cannot also ascribe to it an impious and gigantic opinion respecting divine concerns. He likewise who evinces that the assertions of poets are attended with certain Graces and Muses, must entirely consider an inelegant, unharmonious and ungraceful phantasy, as very remote from the theory of divine poets. When, therefore, in his Republic he establishes by law that poetry, and the indication through fables, are not adapted to the ears of youth, he is very far from despising poetry itself, but removes the juvenile habit, as unexercised in the hearing of such things from fiction of this kind. For, as he says in the second Alcibiades, ‘the whole of poetry is naturally enigmatical, and is not obvious to the understanding of every one.’ And hence in the Republic, he clearly says, ‘that a youth is not able to distinguish what is allegory, and what is not.’ We must say, therefore, that he entirely admits inspired poetry, which he calls divine, and thinks it proper that those by whom it is possessed should be venerated in silence. And thus much concerning the first kind of poetry, which subsists from a divine origin in tender and solitary souls.

“In the next place, let us contemplate that species of poetry, which has a scientific knowledge of things, and which energizes according to intellect and prudence; which unfolds to men many names concerning an incorporeal nature, and leads forth into light many probable dogmas respecting a corporeal subsistence; investigates the most beautiful symmetry in manners, and the disposition contrary to this; and adorns all these with proper measures and rhythms. The Athenian guest says, that the poetry of Theognis is of this kind, which he praises beyond that of Tyrtæus, because Theognis is a teacher of the whole of virtue, and which extends to the whole political life. For the one admits a fidelity which receives its completion from all the virtues, expels from polities that most true vice, sedition, and leads into consent the lives of those that are persuaded. But the other praises the habit of fortitude by itself alone, and exhorts to this those that neglect the other virtues. It will, however, be better to hear the words themselves of Plato: ‘We have too the poet Theognis a witness in our favour, who was a citizen of the Megarensians in Sicily, for he says,

Who faithful in insane sedition keeps,
With silver and with ruddy gold may vie.

We say, therefore, that such a one will conduct himself in the most difficult war, in a manner nearly as much superior to the other, as justice, temperance, and prudence, when conjoined with fortitude, are superior to fortitude alone. For no one can be found faithful and sound in seditions without the whole of virtue.’ Here, therefore, he admits Theognis, as partaking of political science, and all the virtues.

“But in the second Alcibiades, defining the most right and safe mode of prayer, he refers it to a certain wise poet: — ‘To me, says he, Alcibiades, it seems probable that some wise man or other, happening to be connected with certain persons void of understanding, and observing them to pursue and pray for things, which it were better for them still to be without, but which appeared to them good, composed for their use a common prayer, the words of which are nearly these: King Jupiter, grant us what is good, be it or not the subject of our prayers, and avert from us what is evil though we should pray for it.’ For the scientific man alone knows how to distinguish the separation of good and evil, and a converse with a divine nature adapted to the middle habits of men. And on this account Socrates calls the poet that composed this prayer a wise man, as forming a judgment of the natures of those that prayed, neither through divine inspiration, nor right opinion, but through science alone, as regarding their habits and preserving that which becomes the beneficent powers of the gods. For to convert all of them through prayer to the one royal providence of Jupiter; to suspend the subsistence of good from the power of divinity; to obliterate the generation of true evils through the benevolence of a more excellent nature, and in short to assert that these things are unknown to those that pray, but are separated by divinity according to proper boundaries is the work of wisdom and science, and not of any thing casual. Very properly, therefore, do we say that such poetry is wise and scientific. For the poetry which is able to assign right opinions to middle habits, must itself subsist according to perfect science.

“In the third place, therefore, let us speak concerning imitative poetry, which, we have already said, at one time assimilates things, and at another expresses them according to appearance. The Athenian guest clearly delivers to us the assimilative part of this poetry; but Socrates in the Republic describes its phantastic part; and how these differ from each other, I mean the assimilative and phantastic species of imitation, the Eleatean guest sufficiently informs us: — ‘For I appear, says he, to perceive two species of imitation, one, the conjectural or assimilative art, which then especially takes place when some one gives birth to imitation by imparting to every particular such things as are fit in length, breadth, and depth, according to the symmetries of its exemplar, and besides these things, colours also. Theæ. Do not all imitator endeavour to effect this? Guest. Not those who perform or paint any great works. For if they were to impart to them the true symmetry of things beautiful, you know that the parts above would appear smaller, and those below larger than is fit; through the one bing seen by us afar off and the other near. Theæ. Entirely so. Artists, therefore, bidding farewell to truth, do not produce in images truly beautiful symmetries, but those which appear to be so.’ Very properly therefore, I think, does the Eleatean guest, at the end of the dialogue, wishing to bind the sophist by the definitive method, establish one part of the art effective of images to be assimilative, and the other phantastic; the one fabricating the image such as is the exemplar, the other preparing that which it produces to appear like that which it imitates. However, of assimilative poetry, the Athenian guest speaks separately in the second book of the Laws, where he treats of music which does not make pleasure its end, but a true and similar imitation of its exemplar; to which place we refer the reader.

“But Socrates, speaking in this book of phantastic poetry, and having shown that a poet of this kind is the third from truth and imitative, compares such poetry to a picture, which represents not the works of nature but of artificers, and these not such as they are, but such as they appear. Hence, he clearly evinces that the phantasic species of poetry regards pleasure alone, and the delight of those that hear it. For of imitative poetry, the phantastic falls short of the assimilative, so far as the latter regards rectitude of imitation, but the former the pleasure produced in the multitude from the energies of the phantasy. Such then are the genera of poetry, which are thought worthy of distinction by Plato; one, as better than science, another as scientific, a third as conversant with, and a fourth as falling off from right opinion.

“These things then being determined, let us return to the poetry of Homer, and contemplate resplendent in it every poetic habit, and particularly those which regard rectitude and beauty. For when he energizes enthusiastically, is possessed by the Muses, and narrates mystic conceptions about the gods themselves; then he energizes according to the first and divinely-inspired species of poetry. But when he relates the life of the soul, the diversities in its nature, and such political concerns as pertain to it, then he especially speaks scientifically. Again, when he presents us with forms of imitation adapted to things and persons themselves, then he employs assimilative imitation. But when he directs his attention to that which appears to the multitude, and not to the truth of things, and thus seduces the souls of his hearers, then he is a poet according to the phantastic species. To illustrate what I mean, that I may begin from the last imitation of the poet, he sometimes describes the rising and setting of the sun, not as each of these is, nor as each is effected, nor imitating this in his verses, but as it appears to us through distance. This, then, and every thing of this kind, may be called the phantastic part of his poetry. But when he imitates heroes warring, or consulting, or speaking according to the forms of life, some as prudent, others as brave, and others as ambitious, then I should say that this is the work of assimilative poetry. Again, when in consequence of knowing either the diversity of subsistence in the parts of the soul, he unfolds and teaches it, or the difference between the image, and the soul by which it is used, or the order of the elements in the universe, viz. of earth, water, æther, heaven, or any thing else of this kind, then I should confidently assert that this originated from the scientific power of poetry. And after all these, when he teaches us concerning the demiurgic monad, and the triple distribution of wholes, or concerning the bonds of Vulcan, or the connexion of the paternal intellection of Jupiter with the prolific divinity of Juno, then I should say that he is clearly enthusiastic, and that such-like fables are devised by him, in consequence of his being possessed by the Muses. But Homer himself also manifests, in the bard Demodocus, an energy originating from the gods, when Ulysses says of his song, that he began it impelled by a god, that he was divinely-inspired, and that the Muse loved him, or the god that is the leader of the Muses:

The Muse, Jove’s daughter, or Apollo taught
Thee aptly thus the fate of Greece to sing,
And all the Grecians’ hardy deeds and toils.

And that Homer by Demodocus intended after a manner to represent himself, and introduced him as a pattern of his own calamities, is an opinion sufficiently celebrated. And the verses,

With clouds of darkness quench’d his visual ray,
But gave him skill to raise the lofty lay,

appear directly to refer to the fabled blindness of Homer. He, therefore, clearly contends that Demodocus says what he does say from divine inspiration. But it is well that we have mentioned Demodocus, and his divinely-inspired song. For it appears to me that the musicians who are thought worthy of being mentioned by Homer, unfold the above-mentioned genera of poetry. For Demodocus, as we have said, was divinely inspired, both in narrating divine and human concerns, and is said to have suspended his music from divinity. But Phemius, the Ithacensian bard, is principally characterized according to a mere knowledge of divine and human affairs. For Penelope says to him:

Alluring arts thou know’st, and what of old
Of gods and heroes sacred bards have told.

The third is the lyrist of Clytemnestra, who was as it seems an imitative poet, employed right opinion, and extended the melodies of temperance to that female. Hence as long as he remained with her, she perpetrated no unholy deed, in consequence of her irrational life being, charmed to temperance by disciplinative song. The fourth musician, may be placed as analogous to the phantastic species of poetry; and this is that Thamyris, with whose song the Muses being indignant, are said to have caused it to cease. For he was conversant with a music much more diversified and sensible, and calculated to please the vulgar. Hence he is said to have contended with the Muses, as preferring a more various music to that which is more simple and more adapted to those divinities, and as falling from the benevolence of the goddesses. For the anger of the Muses does not refer any passion to them; but indicates the inaptitude of Thamyris to their participation. This then is the song which is most remote from truth; which calls forth the passions of the soul, and is phantastic, and neither possesses, with respect to imitation, right opinion, nor science. We may, therefore, behold all the kinds of poetry in Homer, but particularly the enthusiastic, according to which we have said he is principally characterized. Nor are we singular in this opinion, but as we have before observed, Plato himself in many places calls him a divine poet, the most divine of poets, and in the highest degree worthy of imitation. But the imitative and at the same time phantastic poetry, has a most obscure subsistence in Homer; since he never uses it, but for the purpose of procuring credibility from the vulgar, and when it is perfectly unavoidable. As, therefore, if a man entering into a well-regulated city, and beholding intoxication there employed for a certain useful purpose, should neither imitate the prudence in the city, nor its whole order, but intoxication itself alone, as in this case the city is not to be blamed as the cause of his conduct, but the peculiar imbecility of his judgment; in like manner I think tragic poets being emulous of the last species of Homeric poetry, should refer the principle of their error not to Homer, but to their own impotency. Homer, therefore, may be called the leader of tragedy, so far as tragic poets emulate him in other respects, and distribute the different parts of his poetry; imitating phantastically what he asserts assimilatively, and adapting to the ears of the vulgar what he composes scientifically. Homer, however, is not only the teacher of tragedy (for he is this according to the last species of his poetry,) but likewise of the whole of that which is imitative in Plato, and of the whole theory of that philosopher.”

Proclus concludes his apology for Homer with observing as follows: “The reason,” says he, “as it appears to me, that impelled Plato to write with such severity against Homer and the imitative species of poetry, was the corruption of the times in which he lived; for philosophy was then despised, being accused by some as useless, and by others entirely condemned. On the contrary, poetry was then held in immoderate admiration; its imitative power was the subject of emulation; it was considered as adequate alone to disciplinative purposes; and poets, because they imitated every thing, persuaded themselves that they knew all things, as is evident from what Socrates says in this dialogue [the Republic]. Hence Plato, indignant at the prevalence of such an opinion, shows that the poetic and imitative genus wanders far from the truth, which philosophy, the saviour of souls, imparts. For from the same benevolent wish through which he accuses the sophists, and popular orators, as unable to contribute any thing to virtue, he also blames the poets, and particularly the composers of tragedy, and such imitators as devise that which may charm their hearers, and not that which may promote virtue, and who inchant but do not instruct the multitude. But he considers Homer as deserving a similar reprehension because he is the leader of this species of poetry, and affords to tragedians the seeds of imitation. For thus it was requisite to recal the men of his age from astonishment respecting poetry, through an immoderate attachment to which they neglected true discipline. With a view, therefore, to the instruction of the multitude, to correct an absurd phantasy, and exhort to a philosophic life, he reprobates the tragedians, who were then called public preceptors, as directing their attention to nothing sane, and at the same time remits his reverence for Homer, and, ranking him in the same class with tragic poets, blames him as an imitator.

“Nor is it wonderful that the same poet should be called by him, both divine and the third from the truth. For so far as he is possessed by the Muses, he is divine, but so far as he is an imitator, he is the third from the truth.”

III. With respect to the third of these treatises, the Nicomachean Ethics, it is necessary to observe, that the subject of ethics, or moral philosophy, is moral entity, (viz. things which have a relation to moral actions) and moral actions themselves, and that it teaches the mode of living worthily. But moral actions are those through which a man becomes good or bad, that is, through which he becomes adapted or unadapted to obtain beatitude, which is the ultimate end of man. And to live worthily, is to live in a manner adapted to the attainment of the ultimate end, or beatitude.

In the first place, therefore, moral philosophy considers man with reference to himself, not physically but ethically, that is, so far as he is capable of being worthy or depraved, and can be well or ill disposed with relation to beatitude. In the second place, it considers the energies of man, not only his internal, but also his external energies, so far as they are capable of being good or bad. And in the third place it considers the objects of these energies, so far as they can be worthy or depraved.

Because, likewise, moral philosophy demonstrates many conclusions concerning moral entity, on this account it is a demonstrative science. And because again, it not only considers practical truths about moral entity, that is, those truths which contribute to action, but likewise many speculative truths, the knowledge of which does not contribute to action but to science, hence it is partly practical and partly speculative, though it is more the former than the latter, because moral entity is more principally considered on account of action, than on account of science.

Though moral philosophy, however, is a practical science, yet it is not properly either prudence or art. It is not art, because art is a habit effective in conjunction with true reason, about those things which contribute to particular ends. Thus, statuary is a habit producing a statue in conjunction with true reason, that is, with infallible precepts. And poetry is a habit producing a poem with true reason; while at the same time neither a poem nor a statue is the ultimate end of man, but each is only a particular end. But moral philosophy is a habit practical is conjunction with true reason, about those things which contribute to the ultimate end of man. It likewise delivers the true method, and infallible precepts of regulating the whole of our life, and all our actions, so as that we may obtain beatitude. Again, moral philosophy differs from prudence, because prudence is a habit determining what this man should do, and what is now to be done, in order to the attainment of the ultimate end; but moral philosophy alone determines universally, what is to be done in order to obtain this end, and not what this man should do, and what should now be done.

Hence, we infer that moral philosophy is the science of living worthily, or that it is a science defining the ultimate end of man, and teaching universally the mode by which a man ought to regulate the whole of his life, and all his actions, in order to the attainment of such an end.

Of moral philosophy, likewise, there are three parts, one which considers man with reference to himself, another which considers him as connected with a family, and a third which considers him as a member of the community. For man is naturally not a solitary, but a social animal; because since one man is not sufficient to himself for the purposes of living, and of living well, but requires the assistance of other men, every man is naturally a part of a certain multitude, and ought to live in the society of other men. But the society to which all other associations may be reduced is twofold, the one imperfect and insufficient, which is the society of those who live in one house and family; the other perfect, and sufficient to itself, which is the society of those who live in a city or kingdom. To a perfect city, however, it is necessary that it should contain every thing requisite to the purposes of living and of living well. And as the end of every man is the felicity of that man, so the end of a family, is the felicity of the family, and of a city, the felicity of the city. Hence, because moral philosophy is a science disposing a man to the ultimate end, it ought not only to dispose every individual of the human species to the attainment of this end but likewise a family, and a city or kingdom. That part of moral philosophy, therefore, which teaches how the actions of every man considered with reference to himself, are to be regulated in order to his attainment of beatitude, is delivered by Aristotle in the ten books of the Nicomachean Ethics; and also in the two books entitled the Great Ethics; and in the seven books of Ethics to Eudemus. That part which teaches how the actions of a whole family are to be regulated, in order to the attainment of the ultimate end, is called economic, and is delivered by Aristotle in his two books of Economics. And that part which teaches how the actions of a whole city and kingdom are to be regulated in order to obtain felicity, is called politic, and is delivered by Aristotle in the eight books of his Politics. Because, likewise, it is more divine to procure the good of a whole city or nation, than of a man, or one family; hence, the political part of moral philosophy is more excellent and divine than the economical part, or than the part which relates to man considered with reference to himself.

I shall only observe farther, that the Nicomachean Ethics are so inscribed, because they were written by Aristotle to his son Nicomachus; that the reader will derive great advantage by occasionally consulting the translation of the Paraphrase of an anonymous Greek writer on these ethics, by MR. BRIDGMAN, as this translation is at once perspicuous, accurate, and elegant; and that Aristotle, in his moral treatises, has delivered a system of ethics in all its parts scientific and perfect.

Book I

Chapter I

Rhetoric reciprocates with dialectic [or logic]; for both are conversant with such particulars, as being common may after a manner be known by all men, and pertain to no definite science. Hence, all men in a certain respect participate of both these; for all men to a certain extent endeavour to examine and sustain an argument to defend and accuse. With respect to the multitude, therefore, some of them do these things casually; but others through custom from habit. Because, however, this is possible in both ways, it is evident that these particulars may also be reduced to a certain method. For it is possible to survey the cause why some men render what they assert probable, from custom, and others from chance. But all men now will acknowledge that a thing of this kind is the work of art.

At present, therefore, those who compose the arts of orations [i. e. who unfold the art of rhetoric,] explain only a small part of rhetoric. For credibility is the only artificial part of the art; but the other parts are additions. The rhetoricians, however, of the present day, say nothing about enthymemes, which are the substantial part of credibility; but their attention is for the most part directed to things foreign to the purpose. For accusation, pity, anger, and such like passions of the soul, do not pertain to the thing itself [which is to be proved,] but to the judge.

Hence, if all judicial processes were conducted in the same manner as they are at present in some cities, and especially in those that are governed by good laws, these rhetoricians would not have any thing to say. For with respect to all cities, some think it necessary that the laws should thus ordain; but this method is adopted by others, and they forbid rhetoricians to say any thing foreign to the purpose, in the same manner as in the Areopagus. And in this respect they think rightly. For it is not proper to pervert the judge, by exciting him to anger, or envy, or pity; since this is just as if some one should make the rule distorted which he intends to use.

Again, it is likewise manifest that the only business of the litigant is to show that a thing either is, or is not, or that it has, or has not been done. But with respect to such things as the legislator has not defined whether they are great or small, just or unjust, these ought to be known by the judge himself, and he is not to learn them from the litigants. It is especially requisite, therefore, that laws which are rightly framed should define all such particulars as can be defined, and leave very little to be defined by the judge. And, in the first place, indeed; this is requisite, because it is more easy to obtain one person, or a few, than many that are intelligent and wise, and who are able to act the part of a legislator and a judge. In the next place, the establishment of laws, is the effect of a survey from a long series of past time; but judgments are the result of a survey from recent times; so that it is difficult for those who judge to attribute what is just and advantageous in a becoming manner.

That, however, which is the greatest [reason] of all is, that the judgment of the legislator is not conversant with particulars, but with future events, and universals; but the judgment of the barrister and the judge is directed to present and definite circumstances; with which love and hatred and private advantage are frequently conjoined; so that they are no longer sufficiently able to survey the truth, but their own peculiar pleasure or pain darkens their judgment. With respect to other particulars, therefore, it is necessary, as we have said, that very little should be left in the power of the judge. But with respect to the enquiry whether a thing has been done or not, or whether it will or will not take place, or is or is not, it is necessary that this should be left to the judges; for it is not possible that these things should be foreseen by the legislator.

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