Ioannis Markos Polakis
Is Aristotle’s Rhetoric Political?
This paper examines the political implications of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, from an epistemological point of view. In short, I argue that the transition from Plato’s concept of rhetoric to Aristotle’s art of rhetoric involves more than a mere change of standpoints. I sketch in broad terms the incommensurability between the two theories, focusing on the three lines of arguments on basis of which Aristotle restores rhetoric as an independent art. I argue, in particular, that this threefold operation involves a scrutiny and reconfiguration of Plato’s methodological premises. Consequently, this operation allows the same pivotal concepts, untouched in name, to rearrange, in the Aristotelian conceptual system. As a result, the epistemological scope of the rhetoric art is broadened and amplified. Thus, the transition can be seen as a grammatically non linear while epistemologically progressive process. To conclude, Aristotle’s theoretical venture turns rhetoric into a rational political instrument, accessible to every citizen of the “polis”. Rhetoric appears no longer as a dangerous tool in the immoral pursuit of success that dialectics should subdue. On the contrary, rhetoric art is featured, as the indispensable prerequisite of the political activity of any citizen. Its independence serves judgment and confirms the freedom of the public space.