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Jul 8, 2013


Gene Odening comes back to continue the discussion of the trivium, this time focusing on rhetoric.  Gene takes us on a walk through many topics: history, philosophy, psychology, politics, education, Non-violent Communication, and tying all of it back to the trivium.  The show ends with Gene detailing ways you can increase your skill with rhetoric.




Trivium Resources:




Rhetoric Resources:




Also discussed during the show:




Here are the show notes Gene promised during the interview:


“The comprehensive self-study course on Rhetoric is:




Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle, Student Guide - by Martin Cothran (Note: the books Rhetoric by Aristotle & W. Rhys Roberts, as well as How To Read a Book by Adler & Van Doren are also required for this course.)




Thumbnail sketch of Formal Rhetoric




RHETORIC - Systematic Wisdom - persuasively expressing or using Knowledge (general grammar) and Understanding (Aristotelean logic).


> (Definition of Art - Anything produced by the "arm" of man ["arm" is being used metaphorically to reference etymology]. This is, again, a broad definition that includes the concept of "fine art" which is the most popular connotation of "art". It can be either an idea having only mental existence or a physical art-ifact produced by the "arm" of man from an idea. An unwritten poem passed on from one person to another is an example of the former; a novel, an opera, a sculpture, a space shuttle, or the protocols of medicine are examples of the latter.)


Systematic Wisdom is not the art of persuasion and explanation itself, but the art of selecting the best means of persuasion and explanation from a set of known principles. 


As a body of Knowledge has been gathered and arranged, and an Understandable summary or conclusion has been made from that arrangement, the choice of how best to communicate this information to others must be considered and, in the process, the subject being examined usually comes into a still sharper focus to the author of the propositional argument. At this point of clarity, the entire propositional argument can be called a "Statement of Rationale". That is, the conclusion, and - of equal importance - the thought processes behind that conclusion have been stated. In a modern context, what is often overlooked when considering the Wisdom Phase is that it can be more than a form of conceptual expression; i.e., of simply being the Art of Persuasion. In times past, civic matters were the major concerns, and the art of having others come to one's point of view was of paramount importance. Today, due to its product of mental clarity, rhetoric can also be used to provide a physical outcome by deducing a "Statement of Protocols" (a set of instructions) from the Statement of Rationale. A physical result or a man-ufactured artifact can be actualized by proceeding from Knowledge, to Understanding, and on through the Wisdom Phase. Again, this is a broader view of rhetoric than the view proposed by the ancients. 


The elements of Systematic Wisdom are:


1. The five stages (or what are called "canons") of composition:




1] invention, 2] arrangement, 3] style, 4] memory, and 5] delivery.


2. The three types of discourse: deliberative (political), judicial (forensic), and ceremonial (epideictic). They are related to time: future, past, and present tense, respectively. 


The Past and Future belong to men; the eternally present Now belongs to the gods.



3. The three appeals: rational, emotional, and ethical. Stated more succinctly in Classical terms: the rational is the Logos of the proposition or argument being presented, the emotional is the Pathos of the audience, and ethical is the Ethos of the author or orator of the proposition. 


4. Types of proofs: inartificial (which is external, objective evidence), artificial (is subjectively devised or invented by the author of the proof or argument). 


5. The topics --


The common topics: genus or kind, comparison, and consequence.


The special topics: the right and expedient (deliberative), the just and unjust (forensic), praise and blame (epideictic). 


> Oration (Wisdom presented in formal speech)


6. Arrangement: the five parts of classical oration: introduction (exordium), statement of facts, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion (peroration).


7. Style: diction (selection of most appropriate words), sentences (length, type, and variety), rhetorical figures (schemes and figures of speech or tropes).


Skilled Wisdom authors can use the discipline in two senses. In its most fundamental form, Systematic Wisdom is the art of efficiently passing thoughts from one person to others. In its most effective form, it is the art of passing "validated" thoughts from one person to others. 


The internet is a valuable adjunct to the concepts presented above. A simple word search on any of the technical terms listed should suffice to bring the proper clarification needed to implement a useful rhetorical dissertation.




> The work of Wisdom is the cogently expressed communication of Knowledge and Understanding. It leads to a higher levels of knowledge and understanding: the knowing of Knowledge and the understanding of Understanding.


> The effect of Wisdom is to demonstrate the usefulness of Knowledge and Understanding. That is, it is to display the insight - the thought process - in an article of persuasion or in the formulation of an outcome.


>Through the skilled use of rhetoric, all planned human activity can be communicated and directed. This is a two edged sword. Rhetoric / Wisdom can be directed to beneficial or to malevolent goals.


Let us end by reviewing some of the personal benefits which are inherent in the Trivium Method. The following will be most efficiently and effectively realized by using the trivium to train the mind for critical and creative thinking: 1] the path to a challenging, productive livelihood can be intelligently defined; 2] sound physical and psychological health, a judicious ethical standard, a high level of self esteem and the sense of well-being can be optimized; 3] rewarding personal relationships will manifest through the cultivation of beneficial ethics and well being; and 4] the astuteness to best discern the issues (i.e., the quality of information) regarding security will be developed. That is only the beginning. An adherent of the Method can acquire elevated levels of penetrating insight which would otherwise not be available. Through that insight he can also self-teach the contents of a propositional argument or of an entire, formalized subject of knowledge if he chooses to bring his - likewise - heightened focus to doing so. When a culture's government, education systems, and news media are not corrupt, the constant need for "fact checking" is not as critical as it is during the periods of dis-information and propaganda like that which we are currently experiencing. The trivium is the premier method for independent fact checking. The next two benefits of insight are corollaries: 1] a person is truly educated in that he can now thoroughly entertain any idea without necessarily embracing it (this was an observation made by Aristotle); and, 2] traveling somewhat in another direction, he becomes free from the prison of his own prejudicial opinions ... he obtains an open mind. Because the trivium harmonizes subjective thought with objective reality, he could, in fact, develop new and original propositional arguments and entire bodies of knowledge as competently as those respected people who have preceded him. An integral person, one who is fully mindful, is limited only by his or her interests and ambitions.


He is happy, as well as great who needs neither to obey nor to command in order to be something -- 

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ”


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