Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I gave a presentation last week involving Isocrates and his use of persuasion by division. I've been interested in Burkean division since I noticed that Pasteur and other scientists seemed to be using it persuasively, but only recently have I been able to trace its deliberate use back to Isocrates. Before discussing division, however, I commented on how Isocrates uses identification, most notably in the Panegyricus. This work literally "praises the Athenians among the Athenians," to use Aristotle's words. I referred to it as "a clear case of epideictic rhetoric." It's right there on my PowerPoint presentation, so I can't deny having said it.

Later on in that same class period, I was looking through Kennedy's translation of Aristotle's Rhetoric, when I saw this footnote on page 244:
Aristotle regarded the Panegyricus as a deliberative speech since it gave advice on the need of the Greeks to join together under Athenian leadership against Persia; because of its extensive praise of Athens it is often classified as epideictic.

Well, dang. Maybe it's not such a clear case after all.

In fairness to myself, however, I never did see the three genres of rhetoric attributed to Aristotle (deliberative, judicial, and epideictic) as being very clear or useful.