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Michael J. Sokolowski, Robert. Steele, Edward D. Swain, Louis Hall. Thompson, Wayne N. Thonssen, Lester W. I join Michael C. Only he does it in a subtle way, sprinkling the text with ambiguities leaving the reader speculating as to his true intention. What, then, does the account of the Mytilene debate tell us about legitimate deliberation?
In my answering that, I am primarily going to address Michael C. The situation at the Athenian Assembly B. The oligarchic leaders responsible for the defection have appealed to Sparta for help, but the Athenian fleet has arrived first, and under the siege the democrats at the island have forced the new government to surrender to the Athenians. The next day, however, the Athenians wake up with a moral hangover, and it is decided to reopen the debate on the punishment of the Mytilenians. The two main debaters are Kleon, an influential politician at the time, and Diodotos, an otherwise unknown citizen.
Kleon argues against revoking the punishment, while Diodotos proposes that only the captured prisoners be executed, and that the others be spared. A second ship is sent to Mytilene in pursuit of that dispatched the previous day. It is generally agreed that Thucydides sides with Diodotos against Kleon. Kitto, , , Moreover, the narrative setting suggests a tale of good versus evil with a happy ending where the responsible decision narrowly prevails.
But that Kleon is in the wrong and Diodotos in the right does not necessarily mean that the rhetoric they enact is to be evaluated accordingly.
The appraisal of Kleon, however, is fairly clear and unanimous. Basically, he represents rhetoric at its worst. He is exposed as a thoroughly cynical and depraved politician. His speech is full of extremist views, absurdities and inconsistencies. Is he the positive rhetorical model, according to the deliberative ideal? The tenor of this interpretation is that Diodotos is the victim of a general corruption of the deliberative process.
In other words, Diodotos is forced by external circumstances and by the poisonous atmosphere of the situation into a position where he has no other alternative than to use the same kind of deceptive appeal as his adversary. As witnessed by the amount of literature on the subject, it is unclear what Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca actually meant by the universal audience and, more specifically, how the concept should be applied as a normative tool in the assessment of arguments.
Although some of the misapprehensions were resolved especially in Perelman , many confusing points remain [iii].
Leaving this far-reaching discussion aside, I venture to use the universal audience as I understand the concept, much in line with Crosswhite , and Tindale Since the evaluation of the speech hinges on this, I shall begin the discussion at this point. Diodotos applies the central topos constituting the genre of political speech from Aristotle on Aristotle, 1. Johansen remarks that Diodotos puts forward this highly provocative claim in polemic opposition to Kleon, and leaves it at that Johansen, , It would be a grave error to argue from this that Diodotus, and the Athenians in general, were cold-blooded addicts of statecraft […] We have no right to assume that Diodotus felt no emotion.
The occasion, in his view, called for reason, not for emotion; he will meet Cleon not by displaying finer feelings but by using finer arguments. In this respect this speech is like Greek poetry and Greek art: the intellectual control of feeling increases the total effect. Kitto, , Although Diodotus suppresses the topic of the honorable in order to promote an honorable cause, his rhetoric voices a narrowed, one-dimensional consciousness, its strict appeal to rationality disguising the motives that guide it and the sentiments that fuel its persuasive force.
Diodotus may be a decent man, but he cannot appeal to decency. Leff, , What I am getting at is not that an illegitimate move serving a good cause may be excused because Diodotos is striking back at Kleon or forced into it in the heat of the moment. My point is that he does, indeed, try to de-emphasize the emotional factors, but that he is not categorically eliminating any consideration of honour and justice cf. He emphasizes that the decision is not just a question of feeling sorry for the innocent Mytilenians.
(PDF) Reading and the written style; in Aristotle's rhetoric | Richard Graff - downchibatading.gq
In sparing the innocent and executing only the guilty Mytilenians, he concludes, the Athenians will follow the better course and act wisely. But is this hypothetical argument obviously unethical? After all, it may only be meant to underscore the fact that sometimes it is wise to spare people although they have wronged you. I now turn to Perelman and the contrast between Kleon and Diodotos as representatives of rhetoric addressed to the particular and to the universal audience. This contrast is played out in the meta-debate in the first part of the two speeches.
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To Kleon, rhetoric means empty words, pandering to the audience, flattery and competition, in short everything that works against the ongoing debate at the Assembly and the possibilty of reaching a right decision. This first part of his speech is one big mockery of the deliberative ideal: Democracy stinks! The citizens at the Assembly are chided as a bunch of slaves who are fooled by any novelty in argument; they do not really care about the matter itself and are incapable of understanding the consequences of their own decisions.
The renewal of the debate is a sign of their stupidity since the delay blunts the edge of the anger that motivated the decision of the day before. He criticizes the habit of frightening the opponent, of accusing him of turning debate into rhetorical competition and of having hidden agendas behind every political proposal, and he deplores the ensuing general distrust of politicians.