So I’m trying to get a better understanding of epideictic rhetoric. My adviser holds the opinion that the way Aristotle presents this type of rhetoric basically dooms it to obscurity, that his example is wrong for what this rhetoric really is and what it’s used for.
My job is to prove him wrong. To construct an argument such that Aristotle’s example, the funeral oration, is the perfect example of how epideictic rhetoric is meant to be used.
Trouble is, I think he’s right. But a good rhetorician can argue either side, and make the weaker argument seem stronger, as the sophists would say. (Though I should note that making the weaker argument seem stronger does not mean that it seems like the stronger argument; just that it is stronger than it was. Basically, I take this particular point of contention in rhetorical history as suggesting that good rhetoric gives the opposition the benefit of the doubt. Ed Schiappa writes a lot of great stuff about the fragment of Protagorus this is all based on.)
Anyway, Aristotle. I’m looking here at On Rhetoric, the Kennedy translation,so all quotes will be from there. (more…)