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Early Ionic Natural Philosophers

The Pythagoreans

The Eleatics


Later Natural Philosophers

General Character of the First Period in the History of Greek Philosophy

The Sophist


The Followers of Socrates

The Lesser Socratics

Plato. Life. Works

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The Old Academy

Aristotle: Life and works

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Aristotle: Unity of Plato and Aristotle

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The Epicureans and Epicureanism

The Sceptics

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Philosophy in Rome: Eclecticism

The Later Peripatetics

The Later Academics

The Later Stoics

General Character of the Second Period

Standpoint and Schools of the Third and Latest Period of Greek Philosophy

Jewish-Alexandrian School


The Eclectic Platonist

Neo-Platonism. Plotinus

Neo-Platonism. Porphyry. Jamblichus

Neo-Platonism. Proclus




B. C. BURT (1852-1915) - Table of contents                        




§ 14 - Aristotle


An offshoot of political science and of dialectic is Rhetoric, or the art, or "faculty," not of persuasion, but of discovering the possible means of persuasion (as medicine is the art, not of curing disease, but of finding and applying all possible remedies that cure or tend to cure); for it is the science or quasi-science of that kind of discourse, particularly, whose propositions are drawn from "political science" and whose method is borrowed from, or formed after, that of dialectic.


 It is not a science, because neither in theory nor in practice does it aim at exact truth but only probable truth of matter, or employ perfect rigidity of method. It adapts the truths of political science and the principles of dialectic to the ordinary life and mind. It differs, further, from dialectic in aiming at the production of conviction and not merely at the artistic and effective logical combination of propositions(1). Persuasion may be the result of two classes of "proofs," or means of persuasion, designated as scientific and unscientific.

In the former are comprised arguments, the character of the speaker, the disposition of the audience; in the latter, witnesses, tortures, properly taking advantage of the state of the laws, deeds, and oaths. Arguments truly adapted for persuasion must possess at least a quasi-syllogistic character and must be composed of propositions that are, or seem to be, true or highly probable.  The speaker must appear to be a person having ability, principle, and good-will towards his hearers. The only honorable and otherwise properly rhetorical means of controlling the feelings of an audience are to be found in the honesty and good-will of the speaker himself and the knowledge of the passions and dispositions of men. True rhetorical method does not consist in warping the mind by firing the passions(2). There are three branches of Rhetoric: one treating of the "means of persuasion which address themselves to the understanding," another of style, and another of the arrangement of the parts of the discourse(3). There are three kinds of oratory: that which finds place in the deliberative assembly, has for its end the expedient, and is termed Deliberative Oratory; that which finds place in irregular as well as regular public assemblies has for its object the honorable, is panegyrical or vituperative, and is termed Demonstrative (έπιδεικτική) Oratory; that which finds place in the courts of law, has justice for its object, and is termed Judicial Oratory(4). Rhetoric is a useful and legitimate art, because it is in harmony with the general tendency in human nature towards truth and justice, and is better adapted than science to ordinary intelligence, trains the mind to look at both sides of a question, and is such a means of defence for the mind as gymnastic skill is for the body(5).

Poetical, o Poietical, Philosophy (see Aristotle's works).

Poietical philosophy, or the philosophy of art, is the theory of the "habit of making joined with right reason". Art, together with conduct (or "doing"), has to do, we have seen, with the contingent, whereas wisdom, including intuition and science, is concerned with being. Art, as a form of knowledge, is superior to experience, and stands next in rank to wisdom. Under art as a whole is included house-building and other purely productive arts as well as the "imitative" arts, poetry, music, sculpture, etc. In art there are three processes: production, contrivance, and contemplation. The immediate end of works of art as such is in the works themselves(6) (not in the artist). Art either "imitates," or represents, or it perfects that which nature has left imperfect(7). As "imitative," art makes prominent the universal element in things(8). The "imitative" arts—poetry, music, painting, sculpture—may have for their effects amusement and relaxation, rational enjoyment and the purification of the feelings, and moral discipline. As a source of amusement and relaxation, art "heals" the pain of labor(9). A rational enjoyment arises from the perception of the fact of resemblance between things "imitated" and their "imitations," and the discovery that the imitations are representations or symbols of the objects imitated, a discovery that partakes of the character of an acquisition of new knowledge. ("All men have by nature a desire and impulse towards knowledge". (10) Purification of the feelings takes place when, after an ecstasy of soul produced by works of art, we relapse into our normal state, experiencing "pleasurable feelings of relief"(11). Art affords moral discipline, and influences character by teaching men to "enjoy right pleasures and entertain right feelings of liking or dislike".


This it does by "imitating," or representing, such pleasures and feelings, and producing effects similar to those produced by the original causes of them. In music, as has been stated, an ethical effect is produced by the Dorian melodies and harmonies, an emotional by the Lydian, and a physical by the Phrygian. Poetry consists in the imitation of actions, manners, and sentiments by means of rhythm, melody, and measure,—i.e., by some or all of these—, in narrative or in action.

The characters imitated may be better or worse, or neither better nor worse, than ordinary characters. In tragedy, better, in comedy, worse, than ordinary characters are "imitated".  Tragedy is the representation in pleasing language by means of persons acting and not merely by means of narration, of an action having dignity, completeness, and magnitude; producing, by its effect upon the emotions of fear (or terror) and pity, a purification of the mind of such feelings(12). The fear and pity (which must not be confounded here with horror and compassion) awakened by tragedy arise from the contemplation of a worthy character undergoing misfortune through some short-coming incident to human nature(13). Comedy is the imitation of only such worse than ordinary characters as are ridiculous merely. Epic poetry resembles tragedy in having for its subject an important action having beginning, middle, and end, but differs in requiring a more extended action, in admitting a larger degree of the wonderful, in being narrative and employing neither music nor the spectacle, and in requiring a nobler diction and more stable metre. Tragedy excels epic poetry for the following reason: it possesses every excellence of the latter and, besides, greater perspicuity and a greater degree of simplicity and unity(14). The chief point to be attended to in both kinds of poetry is the fable, or story, of the action. As compared with history, poetry is the more philosophical, because it gives more truthfully the universal element of human life(15).


(1) Rhetoric, Bk. I. chs. 1, 2.

(2) Rhetoric, Bk. I. ch. 3; Bk. II. ch. 1; Bk. I. ch. 2.

(3) Ibid., Bk. II, ch. 26 and Bk. III. ch. 1.

(4) Ibid., Bk. I. ch. 3.

(5) Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. 1. Attention may here be called to the remarkable discussion of the passions and aspirations of men in the first seventeen chapters of Bk. II.

(6) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VI. ch. 4, and Metaphysics, Bk. I. ch. 2.

(7) Physics, Bk. II. ch. 8.

(8) Poetic, ch. 9.

(9) Politics, Bk. V. chs. 5 and 7.

(10) Metaphysics, Bk. I. ch. 1; Poetic, ch. 4; Rhetoric, Bk. I. ch. 4.

(11) Politics, Bk. V. ch. 7.

(12) Poetic, ch. 6.

(13) Poetic, chs. 13 and 14.

(14) Ibid., ch. 26.

(15) Ibid., ch. 9.



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