29 September 2008

Response to Dissoi Logoi Reading (Rhetorical Theory)

The title Dissoi Logoi means "different words" or “opposing arguments.” The author presents two opposing opinions, but argues for a specifically defined side. The reader assumes that he was a male due to the historical context of the text. It seems that the author was preparing for an open and public debate in the beginning and class instruction toward the end of the text. The author of the text organizes the argument in a methodical way and seemingly is an authority on the issues mentioned, which gives way to ethos. The subject layout is very organized in structure and the arguments appeal to reason, which gives way to logos. Amplification is present, “the act and the means of extending thoughts or statements to increase rhetorical effect, to add importance, or to make the most of a thought or circumstance.” Therefore, pathos is present. The subject matter of the examples, oftentimes, evokes strong emotions. Specifically with the examples of “Massagetes cut[ting} up their parents and then eat[ing] them” and “girls…prostitut[ing] themselves.” Thus, pathos is present. Thus, the text presents all of Aristotle’s “types of proof.” The text is divided into five subjects for argument: (1) On Good and Bad is the first division. The author asserts that despite what others are thinking, he believes “the same thing is good for some but bad for others, or at one time good and at another time bad for the same person.” “Illness is bad for the sick but good for the doctors. And death is bad for those who die, but good for the undertakers and the gravediggers” demonstrates compelling examples. The author does not point out that death can be good for those who die. (I work in healthcare and I would prefer death over suffering and then death. I personally do not believe that death is bad.) The author also declares “that what is good is one thing and what is bad [is another thing]…For I think it not even clear what sort of thing would be good and what sort of thing bad …It is not the same thing which is bad and good, but that each is different from the other.” The argument is well made and poignant. (2) On Seemly and Shameful is the second division. The author affirms that “the same thing is both seemly and shameful.” Examples of the assertion includes: “It is seemly for women to wash indoors, but shameful to [wash in front of men, whereas it is acceptable for men to wash in front of other men] ”and “it is seemly to have sexual intercourse with one’s own husband, but very shameful with someone else’s.” These assertions remain true in today’s society. As seemly and shameful relates to nations and cities, the writer gives an example that “Massagetes” eating their parents as a way to show respect would be unacceptable behavior in other regions. In essence, “not everyone has the same views.” This remains true today. What is acceptable in one culture is disrespectful in another. Who is right? It is all relative. (3) On Just and Unjust is the third division. The author professes that “the same thing is just and unjust.” In certain situations, it may be just to be unjust. For instance, a child who attempts to give an unwilling, senile parent needed medication. (4) On Truth and Falsehood is the fourth division. The author explains how “truth and falsehood” are intermingled with each other. The writer declares that “the demented, the sane, the wise and the ignorant both say and do the same things…And one ought to bring up the question whether it is those who are sane or those who are demented who speak at the right moment.” (5) Finally, On Whether Wisdom and Moral Excellence are Teachable is the fifth division. The author confronts the idea that “wisdom and moral excellence can be neither taught nor learnt.” He implies that like all other things in the world it is a possibility that “wisdom and moral excellence” can be taught, but in the end of the segment he states, “I am not saying that wisdom and moral excellence are teachable.” As the reader, I am still grappling with that one. The next segment is one of “managing up” and implies that he had “knowledge” on every subject, giving way to ethos. He ends the text with a methodical technique in improving one’s memory; he stresses repetition and making connections.

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