Abstract: This essay discusses four pivotal moments in the consideration of whether rhetoric is an art. Section I sets the stage by briefly discussing the charge against rhetoric found in the Gorgias. Section II sketches the arguments of Sextus Empiricus and shows how they can be traced back to a single objection implicit in the Socratic charge, namely that the putative subject matter of rhetoric is indeterminate. Section III reviews several arguments presented by Quintilian, most of which can be usefully formulated as responses to Sextus. Section IV shows how Quintilian in fact reflects a line of thought first presented by Isocrates in Against the Sophists. The essay articulates what is common in the “common stock” of arguments about whether rhetoric is an art, and why the argument is one of intrinsic importance.
- Copyright 1994, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric