Tuesday, July 31, 2007

not exactly The Dictionary

Topos . . . accords with Aristotle’s fondness for visual imagery. . . . Neither in Topics nor in Rhetoric does Aristotle give a definition of topos, a sign that he assumed the word would be easily understood; he does, however, give his own special twist to its meaning.
--George A. Kennedy, “The ‘Topics’ of Syllogisms and Enthymemes,” On Rhetoric

In actual fact the word πίστις in Aristotle’s text will not sustain the univocal interpretation (i. e. proof, way of proving) which has been imposed upon it. The assumption of such a univocal meaning has generated some of the difficulties about the coherence and unity of the text. In reality the word pistis has a number of meanings in the text, and it is necessary to discriminate among them for an understanding of the text and the meaning of enthymeme.

--William M. A. Grimaldi, S. J., “The Centrality of the Enthymeme”

In view of the importance he has given the enthymeme, we might reasonably expect to find it carefully defined. However, although there are many hints as to its nature, the reader of Aristotle’s Rhetoric will find no unambiguous statement defining the enthymeme.
--Lloyd F. Bitzer, “Aristotle’s Enthymeme Revisited”

Readers of the Rhetoric soon discover that, despite the forthrightness of Aristotle’s opening statement and the centrality of the concept for his theory of rhetoric, the enthymeme is an elusive term. . . . In all of these [varied] perspectives [on the term], the dimension of gender remains unexplored.
-- Elizabeth Jane DeGroot, “A Reconceptualization of Enthymeme from a Feminist Perspective”

[I]n the Rhetoric . . . Aristotle’s account of pathos implies a rhetoric that is not quite “Aristotelian” in the usual sense and that sits uneasily with Aristotle’s preferences.
-- Jeffrey Walker, “Pathos and Katharsis in ‘Aristotelian’ Rhetoric: Some Implications”

Aristotle . . . makes four definitional statements in Book I of the Rhetoric, three of which depend on metaphors. . . . However, the metaphors defining rhetoric do not function according to Aristotle’s own criteria for heuristic metaphors. . . . [Moreover,] the four metaphors do not fill in the outline to form a precise enough Aristotelian definition. They never clarify how rhetoric and dialectic relate, for example, as antistrophos to stophe, as part to whole, or as species to species. Similarly unclear is rhetoric’s link to ethics and politics. As a result, none of the metaphors can be removed from the definition and leave the term rhetoric clear. Aristotle himself does not supply the appropriate and necessary textual materials to resolve the lack of clarity in his own definition of rhetoric according to his own criteria. The three, equivocal metaphorical definitions are not characteristic of a systematic treatise.
--Sara J. Newman, “Aristotle’s Definition of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric

If you have patiently read through the six epigraphs above, then you are asking a question with me.

If Aristotle is all about precisely defining and clearly cataloging, then what’s up with his Rhetoric?

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