The role of emotion-arousal in Aristotle’s Rhetoric
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The principal claim defended in this thesis is that for Aristotle arousing the emotions of others can amount to giving them proper grounds for conviction, and hence a skill in doing so is properly part of an expertise in rhetoric. We set out Aristotle’s view of rhetoric as exercised solely in the provision of proper grounds for conviction (pisteis) and show how he defends this controversial view by appeal to a more widely shared and plausible view of rhetoric’s role in the proper functioning of the state. We then explore in more detail what normative standards must be met for something to qualify as “proper grounds for conviction”, applying this to all three of Aristotle’s kinds of “technical proofs” (entechnoi pisteis). In the case of emotion, meeting these standards is a matter of arousing emotions that constitute the reasonable acceptance of premises in arguments that count in favour of the speaker’s conclusion. We then seek to show that Aristotle’s view of the emotions is compatible with this role. This involves opposing the view that in Rhetoric I.1 Aristotle rejects any role for emotion-arousal in rhetoric (a view that famously generates a contradiction with the rest of the treatise). It also requires rejecting the view of Rhetoric II.2-11 on which, for Aristotle, the distinctive outlook involved in emotions is merely how things “appear” to the subject.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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