For all men are persuaded by considerations of where their interest
lies... Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric is the earliest systematic
treatment of the subject, and it remains among the most incisive
works on rhetoric that we possess. In it, we are asked: What is a
good speech? What do popular audiences find persuasive? How does
one compose a persuasive speech? Aristotle considers these
questions in the context of the ancient Greek democratic
city-state, in which large audiences of ordinary citizens listened
to speeches pro and con before casting the votes that made the
laws, decided the policies, and settled the cases in court.
Persuasion by means of the spoken word was the vehicle for
conducting politics and administering the law. After stating the
basic principles of persuasive speech, Aristotle places rhetoric in
relation to allied fields such as politics, ethics, psychology, and
logic, and he demonstrates how to construct a persuasive case for
any kind of plea on any subject of communal concern. Aristotle
views persuasion flexibly, examining how speakers should devise
arguments, evoke emotions, and demonstrate their own credibility.
The treatise provides ample evidence of Aristotle's unique and
brilliant manner of thinking, and has had a profound influence on
later attempts to understand what makes speech persuasive. The new
translation of the text is accompanied by an introduction
discussing the political, philosophical, and rhetorical background
to Aristotle's treatise, as well as the composition and
transmission of the original text and an account of Aristotle's
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