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April 24, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

The Classics Explain the World: Aristotle, Plato, and all the Jazz

Debaters are typically fed only 2 or 3 connections to these authors….but I think the depth and impact is far greater.

Aristotle’s Categories is both topicality (and some aspects of the critique–ie meaning)

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is mostly critiques (at least the post-modern ones….it also explains the divide between materialists & non-materialists–aka idealists & probably even the post-postivists)

The theory of forms might also be a way to think about the way we assemble successful and unsuccessful arguments. The patterns & schemas.
I’m not sure how reading it informs these–except to say that its constantly improving (assuming a kaizen like approach of debaters to getting better).
* To be fair….argumentation textbooks may be one of the better places to think about this….as well as outlines on the Wiki & camp cases in which arguments are assembled. Also American Rhetoric’s speech database can also be a place to look at political argument (even if simiplified in some sense)–the Congressional Record of course is packed with arguments good, ok, and bad (or at least deficient)

Aristotle’s 13 fallacies are the beginning of logic and argument in some sense (although I’m sure it has a legacy before that–for instance in Socrates and before)
* I think these are limited in their application–but an interesting place to start.

Aristotle’s rhetoric explains persuasion & much of the political communication and advertising landscape that fills our airways.
[argumentative topoi discussed therein is probably an equally important discussion of patterns in argument]
Rhetoric also includes a discussion of “the good” and vice and virtue.

Here’s a version of Rhetoric on the Rhetoric Eserver: http://rhetoric.eser…e/oneindex.html

Plato’s Gorgias & Phaedrus also deal with the issue of rhetoric. (The Republic is also potentially helpful in deducing the role of ethics in public policy–even if it takes a slightly elitist bent–although I think it can be spun today as more just a syncing of natural ability with function. We have a duty to do what we are good at. Smart and thinking people should rule.

Aristotle’s Poetics is about story & drama. Politics very much is about this. (there are probabaly more modern developments of this literature in today’s storytelling literature–so not the best investment of your time).

Certainly reading the classics also gives you a potentially better approach to thinking about the nature of argument–the ways in which argumentative forms fit together….and what counts as “proof” and “argument.”

Even ethics in some ways is returning to Aristotle in terms of virtue ethics.

I’ve pretty much only read summaries of some of the above…….
Any suggestions on the specific books to read with regard to Aristotle or the classics?
(ie the versions or publication houses or editors or compilations or critical essays/articles).
You can also suggest articles by themselves….or authors to explain Aristotle’s approach to any of the above)

The Classics Archieve at MIT:….owse/index.html (although you will probably want to specifically search for the Aristotle and Plato stuff by name & author perhaps via Google or MIT’s search function)

For instance–this looks interesting:
Allen, James. 2007. “Aristotle on the Disciplihnes of Argument: Rhetoric, Dialectic, Analytic” In Rhetorica 25: 87–108.
Madden, Edward H. 1952. “The Enthymeme. Crossroads of Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics.” In Philosophical Review 61: 368–376.

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