Rhetoric and Human Separateness in Aristotle

Bryan Garsten

Polis | 2013

In his account of how each of us deliberates about what to do, Aristotle remarks that we do not always trust ourselves on important matters and so sometimes take counsel from others. Taking counsel from others is, in some ways, merely an expansion of the internal activity of deliberation; the suggestions come from other people rather than from our own minds, but the judgment about them remains our own. In other ways, however, taking counsel is quite different from deliberating with oneself. These differences are the subject matter of the art of rhetoric, as Aristotle understands it. The paper compares the political relationship at work in deliberative rhetoric with slavery, which collapses the separateness of persons, and with friendship, which preserves it. And suggests that the importance of anger in Aristotle’s treatment of rhetoric can be understood as a reflection on the implications of human separateness.

Slaughter of the Suitors by Odysseus and Telemachus, Thomas de George, 1812 

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