Opinions In Context: Reconsidering Endoxa In Aristotle's On Rhetoric
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In On Rhetoric, Aristotle describes rhetoric as an ability of seeing the available means of persuasion. Rather than suggesting that rhetoric is persuasive discourse, Aristotle presents it as a skill one utilizes to assess the situation at hand in order to discover what might prove persuasive. Much of this potentially persuasive material comes from opinions; however, Aristotle's presentation of opinion in On Rhetoric shows a clear departure from those offered by his predecessors such as Plato and Gorgias. Rather than considering general opinion (doxa), as did the earlier Greeks thinkers, Aristotle concentrates primarily on reputable opinions (endoxa) pertaining to the particular circumstances. This thesis explores the highly contextual and systematic approach to the rhetorical process described in On Rhetoric. I suggest that, unlike his predecessors, Aristotle sees opinions not as the main persuasive force, but as an essential component in a method of inquiry, functioning within a network of proven elements and plausible opinions, each pertaining to a specific occasion of speech. Aristotle describes a system of discovering the efficacy of endoxa within a given context, thereby improving the reliability of arguing from opinion.