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Chapter 13 - Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2021

Jed W. Atkins
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
Thomas Bénatouïl
Affiliation:
Université de Lille
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Summary

Cicero conceives of rhetoric, politics, and philosophy as so interconnected that they are, or at least should be, a unity under the rubric “eloquence.” To be sufficiently capacious to include all three, eloquence means something different to Cicero than to us, with its current meaning of fluent or persuasive expression. Rather than simple (or even outstanding) facility in language, eloquence for Cicero is public speech, especially political speech, rooted in wisdom. Cicero, most especially in his rhetorical masterpiece, De oratore, deems the eloquens, the man of (true) eloquence, to be the perfect orator, who is simultaneously the ideal statesman, articulating his ideas in words so powerful that he can move his audience in whichever direction he so desires. Because of the danger inherent in such forceful persuasion, the eloquent orator must apply his rhetorical skills only after having acquired “all-embracing knowledge.” Thus, Cicero’s orator-cum-statesman is also a philosopher of a sort – a philosopher who is a man of action, who uses his wisdom to promote the common welfare, unlike those philosophers who shirk “politics and its responsibilities on deliberate principle,” and who criticize and scorn the orator-statesman’s practice of speaking.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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