Perfect does not mean Virtuous

When speaking of Quintilian’s assessment that a perfect orator must necessarily be a good man, Ramus uses the comparisons that “the grammarian is…not defined as skilled in speaking, writing, and singing” and “the geometrician is not defined as skilled in mea-surement and medicine” (4-5). Are these perfect syllogisms? Does virtue truly fall into the same category as singing or medicine?

Ramus takes “good man” too literally.  When Quintilian describes “good man” I do not believe he is referring to his virtues but a man who must appear good to win in a debate.  Just like a politician they will say anything to persuade you to believe them, but that does not mean what they say is true that comes out of their mouth.  Politicians want to look clean cut, neat and wholesome to appear an “everyman” that people will like and vote for.  Does that mean that an orator has to be a good man?  No.  They must appear that way to win over an audience.  Quintilian means that the man should look good to help them do their job better as an orator to win over a group by looks alone.  A grammarian or a geometrician does not need to look good to get the job done because it is not part of their job but being in the public eye like an orator you must try to appear like a “good man”

1 comment for “Perfect does not mean Virtuous

  1. Alex Janney
    March 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I like how you touch on this idea of deception. The Politician may look like a good person, but who’s to say he’s not a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I think a lot of rhetoric is based on this idea of saying one thing and doing another, of being a little hypocritical and that being okay. I also like how you emphasize that Ramus may have misinterpreted Quintilian. If only he were around to hear that today, it might take him off of the high horse he seemed to so easily climb onto when bashing Quintilian’s ideas.

    This also relates a lot to the theme of belief that we’ve been touching on in class. A person who sells cars needs to believe that the cars are actually worth the price, worth selling, in order to be successful. A rhetorician needs the audience to believe he’s a good person, of moral standing, in order to be successful. Truth isn’t necessarily the most important thing, belief is. Maybe this idea of appearing to be something has to do with our psychology. If we think someone looks good, then that must be the truth.

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