Ethical Deliberation in Aristotle’S Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics

in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought
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Although some scholars have argued that Aristotle makes deliberation seem independent of virtue, I argue that deliberation, properly understood, is ethical in the Rhetoric and the Nicomachean Ethics. Unlike modern scholars who separate the useful from the good and the prudent from the moral, Aristotle argues that speakers’ deliberative arguments seek what is good and beneficial, much as noble persons in the Ethics pursue the good and the beneficial in their actions. So regarded, the beneficial is not the enemy of the excellent but its partner. I show that rhetorical argument is a flexible resource serving the different ends of deliberative, forensic and epideictic arguments. This article assesses the inventiveness, cogency and ethical implications of various rhetorical arguments, including argument from example and enthymeme.

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