Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric V

Nibley on the honesty of rhetoric:
"We must allow the rhetor to make false, daring, and somewhat misleading and captious statements," Gellius smugly observes. . . .

Such statements as that, meant to be a defense of the profession but actually a rather damaging indictment of rhetoric, proclaim the uneasiness that is never far from the surface of ancient treatises on oratory, the awareness that there is something basically wrong about the thing. No one denied, of course, that rhetoric could be abused --- "cannot any good thing be misused?" asks Anthony, but the question was whether it was bad as such, by nature. That was a disturbing question which could hardly be asked of an honest trade, and the rhetoricians hurt their case by protesting too much, constantly calling attention to the billowing smoke by insisting that the fire was not a serious one. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:250-51.)