Scholia Reviews ns 5 (1996) 17.

Eugene Garver, Aristotle's Rhetoric. An Art of Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Pp. xii + 325. ISBN 0-226-28425-5. UK15.25.

J.V. Cronje
University of the Orange Free State.

Garver departs from the traditional approach to Aristotle's Rhetoric by taking it as a philosophic work with its own integrity and its own philosophic interest in the hopes of learning something about contemporary philosophic issues -- an approach which he regards as 'the first book-length philosophic treatment of Aristotle's Rhetoric in English in this century' (p. 3). His method of analysis is to regard the Rhetoric as part of the Aristotelian corpus, and not as an isolated work, which is the view of Wisse.[[1]] He hopes to transform the 'future career of discussions of  FRO/NHSIJ, character, and argument' (p. 4).

According to Garver, the central question that makes the Rhetoric of compelling interest is whether there can be a civic art (TE/XNH) of rhetoric, and, if so, how such a civic art can negotiate a place for itself alongside professional arts (like medicine and dialectic), on the one hand, and ethical and political activities that are matters of virtue, not art, on the other. Garver argues that the Rhetoric was not intended to be a theoretical dissertation on rhetoric in general, or a defence of rhetoric against Plato's attacks, but a 'civic art of rhetoric' (p. 20), which deals with 'those aspects of human affairs for which there are no experts and for which everyone is assumed to have an opinion' (p. 21). This means that Aristotle would have to show how it could be possible to combine the natural end of rhetoric, viz. to prove opposites (p. 28), with an orientation toward the good, which is essential to civic activities. Garver attempts to show that the link is made by the role of the character of the speaker, as discussed from chapters five to eight (pp. 139-248).

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is covered by the first two chapters (pp. 18-51), which were designed to create a picture of the Rhetoric as a philosophic work with its own integrity and its own deep philosophical problem, that of rhetoric as a political art (TE/XNH), with complex relations to art on the one hand and politics on the other. The problem of the status of the Rhetoric as a TE/XNH, which I have referred to above, is adressed in chapter one (pp. 18- 51). Aristotle deals with the problem by distinguishing between internal and external ends. All TE/XNAI have an internal end of their own and in the case of rhetoric this consists of 'finding in each case the available means of persuasion' (1355b10-12) on both sides of a question. This internal end consists in the element of arguing, which Garver justifyingly regards as the great innovation of Aristotle in his Rhetoric. Unlike the sophists, Aristotle regarded persuasion itself not as the internal, but as the external end of rhetoric, which is determined by a particular context. The topic of chapter two (pp. 52-75) is the three species of rhetoric, i.e. deliberative, judicial and demostrative. Garver points out that, since the Rhetoric was specifically written for people involved in civic activities, the contexts of rhetoric had (according to Aristotle) to be confined to civic activities as well. The tri-partite division represents the contexts in which rhetoric operated in the institutions of the polis. It does not cover all situations in which rhetoric could be applied, as Aristotle himself points out.

The second part is covered by chapters three to six, dealing with a series of aspects of rhetorical power for proving opposites, such as topics (chapter three, pp. 76-103) and emotions (chapter four, pp. 104-138). Rhetorical argument is essentially ethical (in contrast to argument in general), and rhetorical topics are the means of making argument ethical. In chapter four Garver discusses the difference between Aristotle's evaluation of emotions in rhetoric and the existing works on rhetoric. Instead of creating a bad kind of rhetoric by relying on emotional appeals, emotions should be relevant and connected to argument (LO/GOJ). In chapter five (pp. 139- 171) he deals with the interesting problem 'Why reasoning persuades'; here he discusses the crucial relation between reasoning,  FRO/NHSIJ  and character, concluding that 'reasoning persuades because it is evidence of FRO/NHSIJ and character' (p. 147). In chapter six (pp. 172-205), the author discusses different aspects of character as source of persuasion and why rhetorical argument, in contrast to logical argument, is ethical. A central problem in the Rhetoric concerning character is the seemingly contradictory theses concerning the relation between enthymeme and character: on the one hand, Aristotle maintains that the enthymeme is the strongest of rhetorical proofs (1355a5) and constitutes the body of proof (1354a15), but, on the other hand, he also maintains that character is the most persuasive kind of proof (1356a13). Among other things, Garver also deals with problems such as why this source of persuasion was not treated as a separate section in the Rhetoric in the same way as LO/GOJ and PA/QOJ, and why rhetoric cannot go without this source.

The third part, covered by chapters seven and eight (pp. 206- 248), looks at the overall problems raised by reading the Rhetoric today. Here the subject is not character as one of the sources of proof, but character and ethics in the broader sense. It deals with the question of whether rhetoric is intrinsically capable of preserving moral and political values in the face of its power to prove opposites. 'Character' is used as one of the three sources of proof, but at the same time as an overall term for approaching the relation between craft and virtue. The relation between these two senses lies, according to Garver, at the heart of the rhetorical enterprise.

Garver has succeeded in solving the central question of the ontological nature of a civic art te/xnh of rhetoric; he has also dealt with the problem of the ethical aspect of rhetoric in a thorough and convincing way in highlighting the importance of character both as a source of persuasion and in a broader sense. This book is a must for everyone interested in rhetoric.


[[1]] J. Wisse, Ethos and Pathos from Aristotle to Cicero (Amsterdam 1989) 121.