Book 3 is often not assigned or not emphasized in rhetorical theory or history of rhetoric courses. As you no doubt read, it’s very much a handbook that offers technical advice on delivering oratory. Although much of the structure of oratory Aristotle presents is still with us today (c.f. the 5-paragraph essay), contemporary public discourse cannot easily be fit into Aristotle’s structure. Doing so would prove to be a rather procrustean endeavor.
There is still much that Book 3 offers the student of rhetoric, and we’ll use his work for rhetorical analysis. After all, he is explaining how to engage audiences to move them to agree with a speaker’s (author’s) position. Where do we hear examples of the various oratory Aristotle describes?
Our friend Kennedy claims Chapters 5, 6, 8, and 9 of Book 3 are unsatisfactory. Hey, he translated it.
Notes to Consider (or not)
We don’t have to address these, but I’m including them in case there’s a lull in the conversation:
- Persuading people absolute: “All people are persuaded either because as judges they themselves are affected in some way or because they suppose the speakers have certain qualities or because something has been logically demonstrated (3.1.1, 1403b, Kennedy p. 194, Online–2nd sentence)
- View of public in regard to politics: “…as actors are more important than poets now in the poetic contests, so it is in political contests because of the sad state of governments.” (3.1.4, Kennedy p. 195, Online–up 4 lines)
- Kennedy notes that this idea “seems to reflect the Platonic view…that political oratory under democracy had become a form of flattery and that it offered entertainment to the mob.” (p. 195, 2nd ed.)
- Ever heard of infotainment?
- Aristotle continues “…[delivery] has great power…because of the corruption of the audience.” (3.1.5, 1404a, Kennedy p. 196, Online–down 5 lines “defects of our hearers”)
- Use words appropriate to your age, class, etc. (3.2.3, 1404b, Kennedy p. 198, Online–11 lines down)
- Etymology from nature (3.2.13, 1405b, Kennedy p. 201, Online–9 lines down “two different lights”)
- Let’s consider…(3.5, 1407b, Kennedy pp. 206-209, Online)
- rhetorical grammar
- “Since there is generally less chance of a mistake, oracles speak of any matter in generalities” (3.5.4, 1407b, Kennedy p. 208, Online)
- Think horoscopes
- Notice, though, that Aristotle (as well as, assuming historical accuracy, the rest of the Greeks) still believes oracles can predict the future.
“…[urbanity is achieved] by means of bringing-before-the-eyes…for things should be seen as being rather than as going to be done”(3.10.6, 1411a, Kennedy p. 219, Online–5 lines up)
- Purpose and context
“…things that are intended for delivery, when delivery is absent, seem simple minded, since they are not fulfilling their purpose” (3.12.2, 1414a, Kennedy p. 227, Online–up 13 lines “strings of unconnected words”)
- Prudent vs. good man (3.16.9, 1417b, Kennedy p. 241, Online–11 lines up)
- Mockery vs. buffoonery (3.18.7, Kennedy p. 248, Online)
What else can we cover in Book 3?