Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Scott Crider

Second Advisor

Dr. Gregory Roper

Third Advisor

Dr. Joshua Parens


For Aristotle, the art of rhetoric—an ability to see what is persuasive in any given case—is a matter both of speaking and of listening, of persuading and of judging persuasive speeches. Rhetorical artists may exercise their theoretical powers for the sake of productive activity, discovering persuasive arguments to deploy in the courtroom and the assembly, or they may use those same powers to judge the validity or political utility of other speakers’ arguments, “seeing” the difference between the persuasive and the “apparently persuasive.” This conception of rhetorical artistry is consistent with Aristotle’s teaching about arts generally. In the Physics and the Metaphysics, Aristotle distinguishes between technē, which is a rational and theoretical capacity, and poiēsis, which is a productive activity. In the Politics, he advises free people to study the arts, not so that they may please audiences or clients with their artifacts (which is a vulgar pursuit), but so that they may become better judges of others’ works (a liberal one). Consistent with this conception of receptive and evaluative artistry, the Rhetoric analyzes topics, proofs, enthymeme, and metaphor from both the speaker and the audience’s perspectives, showing how one may be rhetorically artistic both as a speaker and as a judge. The dialectical arrangement of the Rhetoric trains Aristotle’s students and readers in this art of rhetorical listening, teaching them to see not only the available “means” of persuasion, but also persuasion’s material, formal, and final causes.