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I ETHOS AND CICERONIAN ORATORY On the contrary, moral character, so to speak, constitutes the most effective source of persuasion. (Aristotle Rhetoric 1.2.1356a13) Ethos (defined broadly as "character") is an abiding and essential element in the art of verbal persuasion. Indeed, every verbal undertaking aimed at producing conviction involves, implicitly or explicitly, the presentation of character, an advancement of a persona capable of influencing an audience to no small degree. Even in "pre-conceptualized" or "traditional" oratory, the ethos of the speaker is an important source of persuasion and plays its role accordingly.1 Persuasive techniques based on such presentation of character are found in Greek literature as early as Homer2 and figure prominently in subsequent oratorical and rhetorical writings .3 Nonetheless, it appears that no scientific or analytical examination of ethos and its role in the oratorical art was undertaken until Aristotle produced his Rhetoric in the late fourth century B.C. It was Plato, to be sure, who had laid the foundation upon which his student could construct a system of ethos. Plato had argued that the man who aspires to be a worthy orator must not only possess a good character, but also be informed and alert, able to adapt his argument to his audience, and eager to secure their goodwill.4 The good speaker, moreover, must embrace the study of philosophy; since the function of a speech is to lead souls (psychagogia ), the true rhetor, according to Plato, must examine the nature of the soul and come to know its various forms and characters .5 This philosophical and psychological outline of a "true rhetoric" was given detail, color, and depth by Aristotle, who refused to relegate the "psychological" or "psychagogical" elements of per- 2 Trials of Character suasion to particular parts of the speech as his predecessors had done.6 Instead he constructed a rhetorical system based on three pisteis, sources of rhetorical demonstration and persuasion. The first, ethos, depends "upon the moral character of the speaker"; the second, pathos, "upon putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind"; and the third, logos, "upon the speech itself."7 These sources of persuasion, which Aristotle calls "entechnic" or "artistic " (Rhet. 1.2.1355b35) because the speaker himself invents them, are derived from the three components of the speech act: the speaker, the audience, and the speech.8 Ethos is founded on the moral character of the speaker as presented in the speech; pathos is produced when the orator places his listeners in a particular state of mind and makes them feel emotion; logos, or pragma, the logical explanation or rational presentation of the case, is directed toward the intellect of the auditor.9 As source material for rhetorical demonstration that will induce belief in an audience, all three pisteis are essential elements throughout the speech. Thus Aristotle grants ethos a status equal with that of pathos and logos. A close reading of the Rhetoric reveals three kinds of ethos.10 The first and most important is the moral character of the speaker, the ethos tau legontos, which persuades when his speech is delivered in a manner rendering him worthy of belief (Rhet. 1.2.1356a413 ). In Aristotle's view this confidence in the speaker should be established in and by the speech itself and not through any previous notion the audience may have of the speaker; otherwise this type of ethos could not be considered "entechnic." To win trust, confidence, and conviction, the speaker must exhibit phronesis (intelligence , good sense), arete (virtue), and eunoia (goodwill). Lacking one or more of these qualities will cause him to err or prove ineffectual (2.1.1377b20-24, 1378a6-15). The orator demonstrates his phronesis, arete, and eunoia in the way he exercises his moral choice, or proairesis (1.8.1366a8-16; d. 2.21.1395b13-17; Poet. 6. 1450b8-1O). Since the invention, arrangement, style, and delivery of his speech all reflect his proairesis,11 it is important for the speaker to choose a design that will help to establish his ethos as sensible, virtuous, and trustworthy. Only then will he be able to realize the potential of his ethos to be "the most effective source of persuasion" (Rhet. 1.2.1356a13). The second type of ethos that Aristotle treats is the character of the audience to which the orator must suit his speech. As it is essential to impress the audience favorably with his own character , so it is important for him to adapt his tone...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469616322
Related ISBN
9780807817599
MARC Record
OCLC
868976113
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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