...share some Cicero. I just got through two class discussions on Cicero today and thought I'd throw up a few quotes. All are from Cicero's On Oratory and Orators. Enjoy.
For it is by this one gift that we are most distinguished from brute animals, that we converse together, and can express our thoughts by speech.
...your retired lucubrations must be exposed to the light of reality.
...for if we bestow the faculty of eloquence upon persons destitute of these virtues [grace, aptitude, congruity], we shall not make them orators, but give arms to madmen.
That last quote makes me think of my favorite passage in Quintilian in which he defends rhetoric against accusations of misuse. Someday I need to print this and put in on my door:
There follows the question as to whether rhetoric is useful. Some are in the habit of denouncing it most violently and of shamelessly employing that powers of oratory to accuse oratory itself. "It is eloquence" they say "that snatches criminals from the penalties of the law, eloquence that from time to time secures the condemnation of the innocent and leads deliberation astray, eloquence that stirs up not merely sedition and popular tulmult, but wars beyond all expiation, and that is most effective when it makes falsehood prevail over the truth."
Doctors have been caught using poisons, and those who falsely assume the name of philosopher have occasionally been detected in the gravest of crimes. Let us give up eating, it often makes us ill; let us never go inside houses, for sometimes they collapse on their occupants; let never a sword be forged for a soldier, since it might be used by a robber. And who does not realize that fire and water, both necessities of life, and, to leave merely earthly things, even the sun and moon, the greatest of the heavenly bodies, are occasionally capable of doing harm. (Instituto Oratoria, I.xii)
Two students today commented that "It was rhetoric that got O.J. off." This is true. I retorted, however, that it was rhetoric that helped forge the law from which O.J. escaped. Can't have one without the risk of the other.
As much as I love that passage, I do have to wonder: by what criteria does one rightly assume the name philosopher? Is it impossible for a "right" philosopher to engage in crime? (Yeah, yeah, I know that Quintilian believed the well-speaking man could not be anything but "good"...)