Home |  Current Issue |  Links |  Conferences/Events |  Archives
About the Journal |  Submit |  Subscribe

Search Janus Head               

Rhetoric and Philosophy*

Ernesto Grassi

[*Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania State University Press.  This reprint is made possible with support from the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.]

The Primacy of Rhetorical Speech

The problem of rhetoric -- as the speech that acts on the emotions -- can be treated from two points of view. It can be considered simply as a doctrine of a type of speech that the traditional rhetors, politicians, and preachers need, i.e., only as an art, as a technique of persuading. In this case the problems of rhetoric will be limited to questions of practical directions for persuading people and will not have a theoretical character.

From another point of view, however, the problems of rhetoric can be seen as involving a relation to philosophy, to theoretical speech. We can formulate this in the following way: If philosophy aims at being a theoretical mode of thought and speech, can it have a rhetorical character and be expressed in rhetorical forms? The answer seems obvious. Theoretical thinking, as a rational process, excludes every rhetorical element because pathetic influences -- the influences of feeling -- disturb the clarity of rational thought.

Locke and Kant, for example, express this view, and their statements are characteristic of the rationalistic attitude toward rhetoric. Locke writes:

I confess, in discourses where we seek rather pleasure and delight than information and improvement, such ornaments as are borrowed from them can scarce pass for faults. But yet if we would speak of things as they are, we must allow that all the art of rhetoric, besides order and clearness; all the artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead judgment; and so are perfect cheats. 1 Kant writes: Rhetoric, so far as this is taken to mean the art of persuasion, i.e., the art of deluding by means of a fair semblance {as ars oratoria }, and not merely excellence of speech (eloquence and style), is a dialectic, which borrows from poetry only as much as is necessary to win over men's minds to the side of the speaker before they have weighed the matter, and to rob their verdict of its freedom . . . Force and elegance of speech (which together constitute rhetoric) belong to fine art; but oratory {ars oratoria }, being the art of playing for one's own purpose upon the weaknesses of men (let this purpose be ever so good in intention or even in fact) merits no respect whatever. 2 It is obvious that the problem of rhetoric as conceived here places philosophy in a position preeminent to rhetoric. Rhetoric is seen only as a technical doctrine of speech. Only the clarification of rhetoric in its relation to theoretical thought can allow us to delimit the function of rhetoric. Only this will allow us to decide whether rhetoric has a purely technical, exterior, and practical aim of persuading, or whether it has an essentially philosophical structure and function.

The solution to this problem can be worked out only if we establish the following fact: We claim that we know something when we are able to prove it. To prove {apo-deiknumi} means to show something to be something, on the basis of something. To have something through which something is shown and explained definitively is the foundation of our knowledge. Apodictic, demonstrative speech is the kind of speech which establishes the definition of a phenomenon by tracing it back to ultimate principles, or archai. It is clear that the first archai of any proof and hence of knowledge cannot be proved themselves because they cannot be the object of apodictic, demonstrative, logical speech; otherwise they would not be the first assertions. Their nonderivable, primary character is evident from the fact that we neither can speak nor comport ourselves without them, for both speech and human activity simply presuppose them. But if the original assertions are not demonstrable, what is the character of the speech in which we express them? Obviously this type of speech cannot have a rational-theoretical character.

In other words it is evident that the rational process and consequently rational speech must move from the formulation of primary assertions. Here we are confronted with the fundamental question of the character necessary to the formulation of basic premises. Evidently by using this kind of expression, which belongs to the original, to the nondeducible, they cannot have an apodictic, demonstrative character and structure but are thoroughly indicative. It is only the indicative character of archai that makes demonstration possible at all.

The indicative or allusive {semeinein} speech provides the framework within which the proof can come into existence. Furthermore if rationality is identified with the process of clarification, we are forced to admit that the primal clarity of the principles is not rational and recognize that the corresponding language in its indicative structure has an "evangelic" character, in the original Greek sense of the word, i.e., "noticing."

Such speech is immediately a "showing" -- and for this reason "figurative" or "imaginative," and thus in the original sense "theoretical" {theorein . i.e., to see}. It is metaphorical, i.e., it shows something which has a sense, and this means that to the figure, to that which is shown, the speech transfers {metapherein} a signification; in this way the speech which realizes this showing "leads before the eyes" {phainesthai} a significance. This speech is and must be in its structure an imaginative language.

If the image, the metaphor, belongs to rhetorical speech (and for this reason it has a pathetic character), we also are obliged to recognize that every original, former, "archaic" speech (archaic in the sense of dominant, arche, archomai, archontes or the dominants) cannot have a rational but only a rhetorical character. Thus the term "rhetoric" assumes a fundamentally new significance; "rhetoric" is not, nor can it be the art, the technique of an exterior persuasion; it is rather the speech which is the basis of the rational thought.

This original speech, because of its "archaic" character, sketches the framework for every rational consideration, and for this reason we are obliged to say that rhetorical speech "comes before" every rational speech, i.e., it has a "prophetic" {prophainesthai} character and never again can be comprehended from a rational, deductive point of view. This is the tragedy of the rationalistic process.

Furthermore knowledge, or the explanation of something through its cause, constitutes a process which is as such of a temporal nature, for as something that has happened it is a historical phenomenon which has passed through different moments in time. The primary speech instead reveals itself instantaneously {exaiphnes}. It does not lie within historical time; it is the origin and criterion of the movement of the rational process of clarification.

If the essence of the speech, which expresses the original, has to be purely semantic, because it is only through this kind of speech that the demonstrative language becomes at all possible, we must distinguish between two kinds of language: the rational language, which is dialectical, mediating, and demonstrative, i.e., apodictic and without any pathetic character, and the semantic language, which is immediate, not deductive or demonstrative, illuminating, purely indicative, and which has a preeminence opposite the rational language. On the basis of its figurative, metaphorical character, this language had an original pathetic essence.

This is the reason why only from a formal point of view the original, immediate, purely semantic word belongs necessarily to the sacred, religious word, while the mediating, step-by-step, demonstrating and proof-giving (apodictic) word is covered by the rational and historical word.

Now we are in a position to understand the meaning of a sentence of Heraclitus who, at the beginning of the Western tradition, expressed what we have taken to develop here: "The lord to whom the oracle of Delphi belongs says nothing and conceals nothing; he indicates, shows {oute legei oute kruptei alla semainei; fr.B 93}."

Cassandra's Tragic Movement from Rhetoric to Rationality

The consciousness of all these problems -- the admission of the structure of original language as not rational but rhetorical; the interpretation of rhetoric primarily not as an expression of an art of conviction but as an expression of the original and, in this sense, of the religious speech with its "evangelic" and "prophetic" character; and finally the admission that through rational language and thought, we never comprehend the primary and original thought and speech -- all these points are expressed in the tragedy of Cassandra in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus.

I wish to develop what I have said previously by interpreting the Greek text that, from this point of view and in this manner, demonstrates the original framework in which the Greeks have treated, in a nonrational manner, the problem of original rhetorical speech and its original philosophical dimension.

The background of Cassandra's personal tragedy is well known. She was chosen as mistress by Apollo and promised to yield to him if he would grant her, in exchange, the gift of prophecy. Having received this gift she denied herself to the god, who thereupon punished her by depriving her of her sight and providing that no one in the future should believe in her prophecies or understand her utterances.

Who is Cassandra? Homer mentions her in the Iliad as the daughter of the king of Troy, but he does not elaborate on her fatal gift of prophecy (Iliad 13. 366, 24. 699). Pindar describes her as a prophet (Pyth. 11. 20). Factually, of the texts that have come down to us, the Agamemnon provides the final comprehensive interpretation of the Cassandra figure; the gravity of her "external" tragedy rests on the myth of Apollo and his beloved. But is Aeschylus merely concerned with this story, or does he have in mind a tragedy that lies deeper and points to a fundamental phenomenon of human existence?

How is Cassandra's semantic language constructed? At the beginning of the Cassandra tragedy one can see already that the Chorus is trying in vain to enter into a dialogue with the seer. Here its first reaction is the reproach that Cassandra's invocation of the god Apollo as well as the way she invoked him were unseemly; it considers her exclamation senseless and improper. Cassandra does not hear the words of the Chorus; she repeats her invocation (v. 1076), and again the Chorus reacts in a rational manner (v.1078). Once more Cassandra takes no notice of it. Until the passage referred to previously, the Chorus will at no price give up the attempt to enter into a conversation with Cassandra; in the same measure it refuses to alter its own explanatory attitude.

The contrast between Cassandra and the Chorus is obvious; each moves in a space and in a time of its own. The Chorus moves in the realm of expoundable rationality and in a time which makes the future appear simply as a possibility. It speaks, in the text, in the grammatical form used for reporting the past. Its language, therefore, is temporal, in the sense that it attempts to grasp and to reflect the unfolding of events and their relations.

Cassandra's space, on the other hand, is determined by the simultaneous nature of the vision in which the movements of time are fused, and turn into parts of an immovable, necessary, and no longer merely possible instant. In accordance with her "seer's" gifts Cassandra speaks a pictorial language which is distinguished from that of the Chorus by frequently falling back on participial phrases. The contrast between the world of Cassandra and that of the Chorus definitely illustrates the fact that the semantic approach cannot be attained or derived through a logical process.

Never does an explanatory word pass over Cassandra's lips, for she herself knows nothing of cause and effect. She speaks only through images and symbols. Death itself is symbolized by a net in which the animal (bull or cow, as a metaphor for Agamemnon) will be ensnared; the ruse, the snare, "dawns" upon him ("What is it? What appears there? A fishing-net of Hades? A snare to catch the husband, an accomplice for the murder") (v. 1115).

In the second main passage (vv. 1136-1214) the transition takes place from Cassandra's ecstatic, mantic condition to her human sphere; rational elements come into the foreground and thus provide the beginning of a dialogical relation between Cassandra and the Chorus. How does this transition occur? Cassandra begins with a lament about her own death, though here she still addresses the god rather than the Chorus. In this speech she no longer asks the god where she is, as she did at the beginning of her appearance on stage, but why he has led her hither. So for the first time she asks for an explanation, a reason for her being here (v. 1138). By entering the plane of explanation and abandoning the world of allusion with this question, she causes her historical reality to be outlined, and she herself moves into a historical framework of time and space.

The manner in which the poet lures Cassandra from her purely semantic and mantic plane into the rational historical world, and thus makes it possible for the Chorus to enter into a dialogue with her, is characteristic and significant. This conversational passage becomes a sign of her departure from the world of the inexplicable, the original, the purely semantic. The change is brought about through metaphor, as though this were the only possible bridge between the rational and semantic realms. The Chorus compares her complaints with those of Prokne, the nightingale (v. 1140). This image touches Cassandra in her longing for the human world to which she originally belonged, and at the same time touches her in connection with her impending lot. For the first time, stimulated by this image, Cassandra hears the words of the Chorus and reacts to them (v. 1146).

The question which the Chorus now asks Cassandra, and the ensuing conversation (that is, the beginning of a dialogue between the protagonist of the semantic, original world and that of the rational, proving world of the Chorus) is founded on an image, a metaphor. This metaphor has an emotional impact and appeals to a longing -- a human passion -- which lures the human being standing in the semantic realm into the world of explanation, of occurrence, of sequence, in other words, into the realm of time dominated be death. In the purely semantic sphere there was merely the presence of images, of indications; there was a lack of causal explanations. In accordance with this abrupt change Cassandra's language also changes; suddenly she uses the past form indispensably within a perspective involving time (v. 1158).

Lured by images of the past, Cassandra also talks about her relation with Apollo (v. 1202). The text does not justify the assumption that it was love that made Cassandra promise herself to the god, but rather that she did it with an ulterior motive. She wanted to receive the gift warranted by the god's possession of her, by fusion with him, the divine ecstasy of the prophet which eliminates the order of temporal sequence of cause and effect and also rational speech. The divine gift -- to encompass all in an instant -- is something Cassandra desired not for herself alone; she wanted to communicate it to others, to be mediator between the divine and the human. However, her real aim was to obtain the gift through a ruse. Ruse is rational design, and no rational process or attitude can ever lead to the origins of being, to the divine, for the divine conditions the rational process.

The tragedy of Cassandra, the curse pursuing her, is based upon her rationality, odd though that may sound. Since it is impossible to grasp the divine by rational methods, a failure to recognize this fact becomes a cure. Rationality also prevents the Chorus from having any communication, any dialogue, with Cassandra while she is still on the semantic plane. Her figure is uncanny because it is her rational intention to communicate timelessness to the historical and rational world; men lack the means to understand her pronouncements and illuminations by way of reason. This access can be opened only through images, metaphor, semantic speech. The "seeing" thus gains absolute precedence over the other senses in semantic language.

The Relation of Rhetoric to the Rational Process

Let us consider the rational, logical processes more closely. The fruitfulness of any deductions obviously grows out of the fruitfulness of the premises; the more productive the premises, the more productive the deductions. The validity and framework of the conclusions depend on the validity and framework of the premises.

If we question this conception of the rational process as to the kind of premises from which the syllogism or the deduction set out, we again come up against the archai, "the principles." Here we have to remember the original meaning of arche and of the verb archomai, "to lead, to guide, to rule." To lead or to guide was expressed in Latin as inducere and in Greek as epagein. From this we can derive that "principles" alone can be the only true and original point of departure, the real foundation of induction, of epagoge as the process of reducing the multiplicity to a unity; therefore the real and valid concept of induction cannot be identified with a process that has its point of departure in the multiplicity and arises to a unity through abstraction.

Aristotle, in his meditation about the essence of the logical process and its inevitable premises, gives the term pistis or "faith," "belief" (which is so important in rhetoric), a meaning which was forgotten completely and which no longer coincides with the meaning of doxa, much less with the special form of rational conviction founded on proof. In the Posterior Analytics Aristotle defines knowledge and conviction, that is, the rational belief {pistis} arising from conviction, as "One believes and knows something when a deduction is carried out which we call proof" (Anal. post. 72a25). It is clear that Aristotle here assigns a rational character to the concept of pistis, conviction, understanding, and knowledge {eidenai} from a special perspective; the determining factor is deduction. Proof consists in "giving the reason." The reason becomes evident in connection with the deduction, which necessarily starts from the premises and hence depends on their validity.

Aristotle continues: "Since the conclusion obtains its true validity from the fact that the reason on which it is based is evident, it necessarily follows that with each proof, the first principles in which it has origin must not only be known completely or partially prior to the proof, they must also be known to a higher degree than that which is deduced from them"(Anal. post.72a 27).

So when we know and believe in connection with a proof, we must necessarily believe and know the premises on which the proof is based on more forceful grounds. Aristotle accentuates this fundamental condition: "If we know and believe an object by means of the first principle to a more forceful degree than that which is derived from it, we know and believe the latter on the basis of the first" (Anal. post. 72a 30).

Are we conscious in the change in the meaning of knowledge and belief, as expressed in this passage? Hitherto there has been mention only of a belief, and knowledge and belief, which is more primary than the rational form and of necessity radically different in structure. We must remember, nevertheless, that the nonrational character of the principles is by no means identical with irrationality; the necessity and universal validity in the nonrational character of the archai impose themselves equally or to a higher degree than the universal validity and necessity effective in the deductive process and resting on the foundation of strict logic.

It seems useful to quote another Aristotelian passage: "The principles -- all or some -- must necessarily be lent more belief than what is deduced. He who arrives at a certain knowledge through proof must necessarily . . . know and believe the principles to a higher degree than what is deduced from them" (Anal. post. 72a 37). The task resulting from this consists in a further elucidation of the structure of this knowledge and belief, and this task belongs to the problems resulting from the relation between philosophical and rhetorical speech. Here we must point out the following: The techne of rhetoric, as the art of persuasion, of forming belief, structures the emotive framework which creates the tension within which words, questions that are dealt with, and actions that are discussed, acquire their passionate significance. It creates a tension through which the audience is literally "sucked into" the framework designed by the author.

The emotive word affects us through its directness. Since emotional life unrolls in the framework of directly indicative signs, a word must evoke these signs in order to relieve or soothe the passions. As a passionate, and not exclusively rational, being, man is in need of the emotive word.

So over the centuries, under the aspect of the relation between content and form, the thesis was again and again developed that images and rhetoric were to be appreciated primarily from the outside, for pedagogical reasons, that is, as aids to "alleviate" the "severity" and "dryness" of rational language. To resort to images and metaphors, to the full set of implements proper to rhetoric and artistic language, in this sense, merely serves to make it "easier" to absorb rational truth.

Therefore rhetoric generally was assigned a formal function, whereas philosophy, as episteme, as rational knowledge, was to supply the true, factual content. This distinction is significant because the essence of man is determined both by logical and emotional elements, and as a result speech can reach the human being as a union of logos and pathos only if it appeals to both these aspects.

A statement of this kind carries important implications: (1) The only true educational method, the only true way of teaching, is rational deduction and demonstration, which can be taught and learned in its rules and proceedings. Education is based on explanation. (2) Attestation loses its significance altogether; the only valid testimony is the logical process. Its structure is conditioned by the rationality of proof. Problems, so-called problems of form and style, which cannot be identified with the structure of rational demonstration, are rhetorical and not theoretical, i.e., they are external. In other words the rational content determines the form; in the realm of theoretical thought there exists no problem of form which can be divorced from the rational content. (3) Knowledge is unhistorical in its essence because logical evidence always is valid when it has been acknowledged on the basis of its necessity and universal validity, which it possesses by definition. The historical character of knowledge at most may be of significance as regards a reconstruction of the process leading to knowledge. (4) Every cognition is necessarily anonymous because the rational grounds, with their necessity and universal validity, are not bound up with individual persons.

But is this conception of pedagogy which involves a determined theory of rhetoric valid? Has it not been shown already that the original, archaic (in the sense which I gave to this term) assertions have in their structure a belief, a figurative, imaginative character, so that every original speech is in its aim illuminating and persuading? In this original speech evidently it is impossible to separate content and form and also, in pedagogical terms, to look for a "posterior" unity of them.

Plato's Union of Knowledge and Passion

Now I wish to clarify the relations between rhetoric and philosophy with reference to classical antiquity; my aim is to find out whether the need was felt, and if so, in what manner, to establish a union between knowledge and passion, a union that can be reached neither through the external emotive disguise of a rational "content" nor through pouring a rational content into an emotive "form." To this end let us consider Plato's dialogues the Gorgias and the Phaedrus. An examination of what I consider a misinterpretation of Plato regarding the dualism between rhetoric and philosophy will be helpful in classifying the problem.

According to the traditional interpretation Plato's attitude against rhetoric is a rejection of the doxa, or opinion, and of the impact of images, upon which the art of rhetoric relies; at the same time his attitude is considered as a defense of the theoretical, rational speech, that is, of episteme . The fundamental argument of Plato's critique of rhetoric usually is exemplified by the thesis, maintained, among other things, in the Gorgias, that only he [sic] who "knows" {epistatai} can speak correctly; for what would be the use of the "beautiful," of the rhetorical speech, if it merely sprang from opinions {doxa }, hence from not knowing? The interpretation of Plato's attitude in his dialogue Gorgias, however, fails to take account of some unmistakable factual difficulties.

His rejection of rhetoric, when understood in this manner, assumes that Plato rejects every emotive element in the realm of knowledge. But in several of his dialogues Plato connects the philosophical process, for example, with eros, which would lead to the conclusion that he attributes a decisive role to the emotive, seen even in philosophy as the absolute science. So we will have to ask ourselves how those apparently contradictory tenets are to be explained and to what extent the essence of philosophy is not exhausted for Plato in the episteme, i.e., in the typical rational process it requires. Will we find here a deeper meaning of rhetoric?

Plato's Gorgias comes to terms with the claims of rhetorical art. Gorgias here supports the thesis that rhetoric can rightly claim "to carry out and fulfil everything through speech" (451d). How shall we interpret this "everything?" Gorgias's answer is: The greatest and most important of all things human, that is, health, richness, beauty; to attain all that belongs to the aim of rhetoric. But is rhetoric capable of attaining these gifts of mankind? The physician, for example, will deny that anyone can be cured merely through speech, without special knowledge. What then is the use of the art of convincing, of peithein? So Socrates decides to find out "what kind of persuasion is the kind accomplished by the art of rhetoric" (453c).

He comes to distinguish between true and false belief (454d5) and proves that in contradiction to belief, to doxa, there can be no true or false episteme or rational knowledge because it is rooted in grounds, in reasons. As a result rational knowledge [episteme] and rational speech is superior; it admits no form of opinion besides itself, no form that is not covered by founded knowledge. Since rhetoric does not convince by means of such rational knowledge, it remains always in the realm of pseudoknowledge.

This radically negative judgment of rhetoric traditionally is considered to be Plato's definitive attitude to rhetoric, and that in view of the thesis that rational knowledge, i.e., philosophy, represents the only true and valid rhetorical art. This, however, leaves the problem of the relationship between passion, instinct, and the rational process unsolved. The belief inspired in man on the basis of emotive speeches accordingly would have to yield to rational knowledge, or be canceled by it; but knowledge alone, as a rational process, can neither move the human being nor carry him away to certain actions.

Gorgias answers Socrates with the following objection: Of what use is all the physician's knowledge if the patient does not pluck up courage to do what the physician has prescribed? So one does need rhetoric. A similar objection: A community rarely opts for what the specialist advises, but rather for what a capable orator proposes. The dilemma we perceived earlier seems insurmountable; on one side, there is an ineffectual rational knowledge, on the other speech as pure "seduction." Therefore how can we resolve the problem?

The problem of the pathos (and with it, of rhetoric) in its relationship to theoretical, i.e., epistemic, speech forms the central theme of the Phaedrus, the second dialogue with which I propose to deal. Its first part, as is well known concerns eros. Phaedrus (a disciple of the rhetorician Lycias) holds a speech against eros. The subsequent speech of Socrates is equally directed against eros and so against pathos; suddenly, however, Socrates stops short. Since he is ashamed of having spoken against eros he holds a third speech, which develops into a praise of eros.

These three speeches on eros are followed by the second part of the dialogue, which has as its subject the nature and structure of rhetoric and begins with a solemn reference to the Muses, in connection with a myth, namely, of the cicadas. The cicadas, Socrates explains, originally descended from human beings who lived before the time of the Muses. When the Muses were conceived and began to sing, a few of these human beings were so enthralled by them that they forgot about food and only wanted to sing, so that they almost died unnoticed. These lovers of Muses were turned into cicadas; their task was to report to the Muses, after their death, who among humans was most devoted to which one of the Muses, and Socrates comes to speak about the Muse of philosophy (259d 3). In general, as we have seen, a speech is called "philosophical" when it is based on a knowledge of reasons. Statements based on knowledge possess a rational character; they belong to the field of episteme, of theoretical thought. But rational speech itself, as we know, starts out from premises that are not rational because they are based on first affirmations. The rational process does forbid the insertion of any element connected with the Muses. But if Plato, as for example in Gorgias, identifies the only art of convincing which he accepts, with rational knowledge, i.e., episteme, how are we to understand the fact that here he places philosophy under the sign of the Muses? Is it only a casual reference?

We can answer this question only when we ask: What is the meaning of the condition of man before the birth of the Muses? Why should men have been so fascinated by the Muses and their work that they went so far as to forget about food, and what has this to do with philosophy?

We cannot develop here the different meanings and interpretations of the Muses. The problem is why Plato, in his Phaedrus, refers to the Muses with his myth of the cicadas, speaking of the essence and structure of philosophy and what he meant by the condition of men before the creation of the "Muses" and their "enraptured" condition after the appearance of these goddesses. What relation can there be between the work of Muses and philosophy?

The meaning of the word "muse" remains unknown. Attempts at an etymological derivation of the term began in classical times, namely, with Plato. In the Cratylus he says: "The Muses, however, and the music in general, were evidently thus named by Apollo from musing [moosthai]" (406a). The word moosthai contains in its implication a process of searching, of "storm and stress." Plutarch, in addition to his derivation of the word from homou ousai "existing at once, simultaneously," whereby he points to their union (De fraterno amore 6), also mentions a second one, which he considers a result of the analogy between mousai and mneiai, those who remember (Quaest. conv. 9.14).

In the activities of the Muses, the concept of order clearly plays a prevalent and unifying part. The order of movements appears in the dance, the order of tones in song, and the order of words in verse. Furthermore order is the starting point of rhythm and harmony. Plato says in the Laws: "The order of movement is named rhythm, the order of voice, of the connection between high and low tones, is called harmony" (665a).

The reference made in the Laws to the "order of movement" seems particularly significant because movement represents a fundamental phenomenon in the realm of existence; whatever is perceived through the senses shows a becoming, that is, a movement in itself (change) or a movement in space. Through the application of a measure, movement proceeds within certain barriers and under certain laws; it is, as one might put it, "arranged." Thus we can understand how numbers, as expressions of measure, of proportions in arts, were originally given a religious significance, and also we can understand the sacred character of dance, song, and music. Plato complains in the Laws about the decadence of the arts insofar as they are no longer a manifestation of the original, objective harmony. This complaint refers to the decadence of the mousike, which is not only music but the union of song, verse, and dance in their original objectiveness (Laws 700 d-e). The Muses, on the contrary, represent the link with the objective, which makes the original order of the human world possible in the face of the arbitrary, the subjective, the relative, and the changeable. The reference to the ground in which knowledge, episteme, is anchored is a remembrance of the original. This explains the connection between Mnemosyne and fame; the man who is surrounded by fame steps into the presence of the eternally valid. This explains also the connection between the Muses and the "view" in which, through the roots of every original science, we put the chaos in order with the aid of our founded knowledge.

Now we can begin to understand what Plato meant when he spoke of the condition of men before the birth of the Muses, in other words, what the Muses brought men and why those who devoted themselves to them forgot everything in favor of musical activities; the chaos was overcome, order was created, a cosmos appeared. We also must consider rhetoric from this aspect. On the basis of what we have just said, Plato cannot possibly identify true rhetoric with episteme which, due to its rational character, excludes all musical elements.

In the second part of the Phaedrus Plato attempts to clarify the nature of "true" rhetoric. He starts out with the demonstration that the process, which has its roots in the nous {dia-noia} as the insight into original "ideas," is the requisite for a true speech. The dianoia is the process which can be realized only on the basis of, or "through" (dia) the nous. Socrates maintains that the orator must possess dianoia with respect to the subject he is talking about. Dia-noia is the faculty which leads us to a discernment through the nous, i.e., on the basis of an insight into the archai. Nous forms the prerequisite of episteme insofar as episteme can only prove or explain something following an insight {noein} into the original indicative, commanding, and showing images {eide}. The corresponding speech is neither purely rational nor purely pathetic.

Also it does not arise from a posterior unity which presupposes the duality of ratio and passio, but illuminates and influences the passions through its original, imaginative characters. Thus philosophy is not a posterior synthesis of pathos and logos but the original unity of the two under the power of the original archai. Plato sees true rhetoric as psychology which can fulfill its truly "moving" function only if it masters original images {eide}. Thus the true philosophy is rhetoric, and the true rhetoric is philosophy, a philosophy which does not need an "external" rhetoric to convince, and a rhetoric that does not need an "external" content of verity.

To sum up we are forced to distinguish between three kinds of speech: (1) The external, rhetorical speech," in the common meaning of this expression, which only refers to images because they affect the passions. Since these images do not stem from insight, however, they remain an object of opinion. This is the case of the purely emotive, false speech: "rhetoric" in the usual negative sense. (2) The speech which arises exclusively from a rational proceeding. It is true that this is of a demonstrative character, but it cannot have a rhetorical effect because purely rational arguments do not attain to the passions, i.e., "theoretical" speech in the usual sense. (3) The true rhetorical speech. This springs from the archai, nondeductible, moving, and indicative, due to its original images. The original speech is that of the wise man, of the sophos, who is not only epistetai, but who with insight leads, guides, and attracts.

The Metaphorical Basis of Rhetoric and Philosophy

I have attempted here to demonstrate that the problem of rhetoric in every sense cannot be separated from a discussion of its relation to philosophy. One problem, however, seems yet unsolved, namely that an essential moment of rhetorical speech is metaphor. Can we claim that the original, archaic assertions on which rational proofs depend have a metaphorical character? Can we maintain the thesis that the archai have any connection with images as the subject of a "transferred" meaning? Surprisingly enough, perhaps, we can speak about first principles only through metaphors; we speak of them as "premises" {premittere}, as "grounds," as "foundations," as "axioms" {axioo or estimate}. Even logical language must resort to metaphors, involving a transportation from the empirical realm of senses, in which "seeing" and the "pictorial" move to the foreground: to "clarify," to "gain insight," to "found," to "conclude," to "deduce." We also must not forget that the term "metaphor" is itself a metaphor; it is derived from the verb metapherein "to transfer," which originally described a concrete activity (Herodotus 1. 64.2).

Some authors limit the function of the metaphor to the transposition of words, i.e., of a word from its "own" field to another. Yet this transportation cannot be effected without an immediate insight into the similarity which appears in different fields. Aristotle says: "A good transportation is the sight of similar things." Thus this kind of "literary" metaphor already is based on the "discovery" of a similar nature; its function is to make visible a "common" quality between fields. It presupposes a "vision" of something hitherto concealed: it "shows" to the reader or to the spectator a common quality which is not rationally deducible.

But we must go a step deeper than the "literary" plane. The metaphor lies at the root of our human world. Insofar as metaphor has its roots in the analogy between different things and makes this analogy immediately spring into "sight," it makes a fundamental contribution to the structure of our world. Empirical observation itself takes place through the "reduction" of sensory phenomena to types of meanings existing in the living being; and this "reduction" consists in the "transferring" of a meaning to sensory phenomena. It is only through this "transference" that phenomena can be recognized as similar or dissimilar, useful or useless, for our human realization. In order to make "sensory" observations we are forced to "reach back" for a transposition, for a metaphor. Man can manifest himself only through his own "transpositions," and this is the essence of his work in every field of human activity.

On the theoretical level, types, which are based on the analogical process (i.e., reduction of multiplicity to unity on the basis of the "transference" of a meaning to the multiplicity), a process which when carried out culminates in philosophical knowledge, only can be expressed metaphorically in their nature and in their function. The metaphor lies at the root of our knowledge in which rhetoric and philosophy attain their original unity. Therefore we cannot speak of rhetoric and philosophy, but every original philosophy is rhetoric and every true and not exterior rhetoric is philosophy.

The metaphorical, pictorial nature of every original insight links insight with pathos, content with the form of speech. Thus the following words regarding effective instruction acquire a topical meaning:

But if we regard speech with a view to its aim, it serves to express, to teach, and to move {ad exprimendum, ad erudiendum, et ad movendum}. But it always expresses something by means of an image {mediante specie}, it teaches by means of a force of light {mediante lumine}. Now it is true that all this only happens through an inner image, an inner light, and an inner force that are internally connected with the soul {quod non fit nisi per specium et lumen et virtutem intrinsecam, intrinsecas animae unitas}. (Bonaventur, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, 18)
That is why the Middle Ages metaphorically saw nature, the environment of man and animal, as a book, as a transportation of the absolute {conari debemus per speculum videre}. Philosophy itself becomes possible only on the basis of metaphors, on the basis of the ingenuity which supplies the foundation of every rational, derivative process.


1 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 2 vols., ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), vol.2, bk, 3, ch.10, sec, 34.

2 The Critique of Judgement: Part 1, Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952), sec. 53.