Home » Art of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments

“…it is strange if it is a shameful thing not to be able to come to one’s own aid with one’s body but not a shameful thing to do so by means of argument, which is to a greater degree a human being’s own than is the use of the body.”

Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, 1355a 40—1355b 3.

The nature and function of rhetoric have both long been matters of controversy, even among classical and like-minded authors. We find the reason for this controversy in the complex relationality of orator and audience: for each is ordered to an object, and the correspondence of such order a matter necessarily complex. That is, persuasion—with which rhetoric is concerned—concerns a myriad of relations. The rhetorician aims to bring these relations into alignment. Rhetoric as a study concerns first the discovery of the means of such alignment and, second, their application.

Discovering the means requires keen awareness of the instruments suitable for this task. In persuasion, we attempt to change another’s beliefs. That is, we attempt to convince another of the truth of some proposition so as to act in accordance with that truth when the occasion occurs. If we are corrupt, we will do so with disregard to that propositions’ truth ourselves. If we are righteous, we will seek the clear exposition of that truth. But before we can affect such exposition, we must be clear-sighted ourselves. Attaining such clarity is the goal of this, the first of two Art of Rhetoric courses offered at the Lyceum Institute.

Overall Course Structure

This course—as but one of eight courses in our Trivium program—is not intended to be taken as a standalone pursuit but integrated with the other arts. There are no prerequisites to our study of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments, although it is encouraged that students begin with Grammar I: Foundations and Logic I: Basics of Argumentation.

The Art of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments is 8 weeks long, with one brief recorded lecture and two recorded discussion sessions each week.  Each discussion session is structured around readings of Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric, Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, and Edward Corbett’s textbook, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, with supplements and examples drawn from elsewhere in the tradition.  Our study within discovery will attend primarily to the works of Aristotle and Corbett.  Participants are expected to have read the assigned reading and listened to the lecture prior to the session, so that they may engage in a semi-structured discussion directed and moderated by the instructor and ask insightful questions about language and its use.  Moreover, continual discussion will foster that participation and engagement throughout the week.  Participants will be expected to partake in these discussions on a regular basis and will be challenged to do so directly.

Weekly Structure

Each week there will also be a 15 to 45-minute audio or video lecture, posted to Teams at the beginning of the week.  This lecture will be based upon the assigned reading, but will also stray into related topics, or may use the reading as a launching point for addressing some related issue (perhaps one more general, or perhaps one more specific). 

Though elements of the study of rhetoric can occur asynchronously—there being countless examples wherein we may encounter it on our own—discussions are nevertheless crucial for rightly directing our attention to the most salient points of expressing ourselves persuasively through language.  Accordingly, two discussion sessions per week (with a midway break) will be held on Mondays from 6:00-6:45pm ET and Thursdays from 12:00-12:45pm ET, beginning on 4 September 2023 and ending on 2 November 2023,

Required Texts

  • Edward P.J. Corbett’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (in first or second editions; PDF provided though purchase strongly recommended).
  • Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric, translated by Robert C. Barlett (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).
  • Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria in the Loeb edition (Latin-English facing; PDFs provided).
  • Some additional readings will also be required (PDFs to be provided).  Readings are subject to change.

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